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Five Best State Parks to Enjoy in Tennessee

1. Bledsoe Creek State Park. Located in north-central Tennessee, about 39 miles northeast of Nashville, this 169-acre park is on the backwaters of Old Hickory Lake and surrounded on three sides by water and forest. Once a prime hunting ground for Native Americans (including Cherokee, Creek, Shawnee, and Chickamauga Indians), this park now offers a serene experience to view wildlife and nature, camp, hike, boat, and fish. Visitors will find 57 camp sites (with electric and water), six miles of hiking trails (around the lake and through the forest), two boat launches, picnic facilities, and visitors center/gift shop. While in the area, consider Bledsoe's Fort, Wynnewood Historic Area, and Cragfont Historic Mansion. Additional camping is available at the nearby Cedars of Lebanon State Park (named for the Eastern Red Cedar trees, which are actually junipers, found in the area; 900 acres; nature center; 117 RV campsites; 30 tenting sites; horse stables and riding trails; Olympic-size swimming pool). Also nearby: Long Hunter State Park (2,667 acres along shoreline of the 14,000-acre J. Percy Priest Lake; 25 miles of hiking trails; two boat launches; 110-acre Couchville Lake contains handicap-accessible fishing piers; Jones Mill Mountain Bike Trail). Learn more at: Bledsoe Creek State Park.

2. Cumberland Mountain State Park. Located in east-central Tennessee, about 70 miles west of Knoxville, this 1,720-acre park had an interesting beginning as a recreational area for some 250 families who were selected to homestead on the Cumberland Plateau, part of a New Deal-era initiative (the Farm Security Administration) to help relocate poverty-stricken families to small farms. The CCC, WPA, and American Friends Service Committee helped construct the park, which opened in 1940. This park offers just about something for everyone, from the 50-acre Byrd Lake recreational activities (fishing; boat dock; boats of all types for rent), to an Olympic-size swimming pool (with two diving boards), popular restaurant (Homestead Harvest, with three meeting rooms and separate recreation hall), a Jack Nicklaus designed 18-hole golf course (72 par; centered around natural features), numerous picnic pavilions and shelters, 37 fully-furnished cabins, and more than 145 campsites for tens and RVs. Hikers will find 14 miles of trails around the lake, creek, and through the woods. Be sure to get a picture of the iconic bridge: The Crab Orchard stone dam/bridge, the largest masonry structure ever built by the CCC. While in the area, check out the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, 82,000 acres of wild land for recreational use, including the famous Cumberland Trail; and Frozen Head State Park and Natural Area, encompassing more than 23,000 acres of wilderness that includes an observation deck on the summit of Frozen Head. Learn more at: Cumberland Mountain State Park.

3. David Crockett State Park. Located in south-central Tennessee, about 90 miles southwest of Nashville, this 1,100-acre park has a museum dedicated to Davy Crocket, a native Tennessean who was a pioneer, solider, politician, statesman, and industrialist. (He died in 1836 at the Alamo.) You'll find the 40-acre Lindsey Lake, Crockett Falls, Shoal Creek, and limestone bluffs, along with abundant wildlife and serene woodlands. The park features a visitor center and museum (built to resemble a gristmill, which Crocket once had along the banks of Shoal Creek), a large restaurant with a view of the lake, seven LEED-certified cabins, two meeting rooms, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, seven picnic pavilions, and a 1,000-seat amphitheater, as well as two campgrounds with a total of 107 sites (with water and electric hookups). Paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes are available for rent during summer months. Hikers will find 9 miles of natural and paved trails and bikers have access to one 2.3 mile paved trail. While in the area, check out nearby Laurel Hill Lake. Learn more at: David Crockett State Park.

4. Fall Creek Falls State Park. Located in southeast Tennessee, about 60 miles north of Chattanooga, this 26,000-acre park sprawled across the eastern top of the Cumberland Plateau is both the largest and most-visited state park -- and for obvious reasons. Visitors will find lush forests, rushing streams, cascading waterfalls, river gorges, a manmade lake, and the pure beauty of nature. The namesake falls is one of the highest in the eastern U.S. at 256 feet; other waterfalls in the park include Rockhouse Falls, Piney Falls, Coon Creek Falls, Cane Creek Falls, and Cane Creek Cascades. Hikers will find more than 56 miles of trail, but should consider Falls Creek Falls and Cane Creek Falls (2.2 miles; moderate), Cable Trail (short, but difficult), Lost Creek Falls Trail (short; moderate), and the Gorge Overlook Trail (1.2 miles; moderate). Adventurers can get up in the trees for a 2.5-hour ropes and zip line-riding course; multiple options/routes are available. You'll also find an Olympic-size swimming pool, 18-hole golf course, and 145-room inn, 30 cabins, and 222 camping sites. Paddleboats, kayaks, and canoes are available for rent. A nature center provides hands-on educational programs. People also fish, bird-watch, and mountain bike. What started as a WPA and CCC project, with National Park Service ownership, turned into this amazing state park in 1944. Don't forget to also visit nearby Rock Island State Park (883 acres, with river gorge, waterfalls), Virgin Falls State Natural Area (1,157 acres, waterfalls and cave), and Savage Gulf Natural Area State Park (15,590 acres with sandstone cliffs, waterfalls). Learn more at: Fall Creek Falls State Park.

5. Natchez Trace State Park. Located in western Tennessee, about 93 miles southwest of Nashville, this 9,629-acre park is situated within a 48,000-acre state forest and wildlife management area, and found along an alternate route of the famous Old Natchez Trace -- on the opposite side of the Tennessee River from the Natchez Trace Parkway Scenic Byway (which follows an old animal, Native American, and early settler trade route from Nashville area to new Orleans). If you love water or fishing this is the park for you -- with four lakes to choose from, including the 690-acre Pin Oak Lake, 167-acre Brown's Creek Lake, 90-acre Maple Creek Lake, and 58-acre Cub Lake. An inn and conference center with 47 rooms, 17 cabins and 10 villas, along with a southern-style restaurant are also within the park. You'll find three campgrounds, with a total of 148 campsites (many with electric and water hookups) and five camping cabins. Horse-lovers will enjoy the Wrangler Camp, with 62 camping sites and miles of trails, as well as horse stables, if needed. More than 23 miles of hiking trails are also available, from easy 1-mile hikes to a 14-mile backcountry trail. Check out Parker's Crossroads, a Civil War battlefield, as well as Mousetail Landing State Park (1,247 acres on east banks of Tennessee river; fishing; picnicking) and Nathan Bedford Forest State Park (2,650 acres on Kentucky Lake and the Tennessee river, with cabins, camping, picnicking, fishing, and hiking). Learn more at: Natchez Trace State Park.

EmpoweringSites.com CEO Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is an educator, author, and blogger, as well as founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including EmpoweringAdvice.com. Dr. Hansen has been helping empower people to achieving success his entire adult life. He is also founder of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, and EmpoweringRetreat.com. He is a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. Dr. Hansen is also an educator, teaching business and marketing at the college level for more than 25 years. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com. You can also check out Dr. Hansen on Google+, as well as Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.

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