Top 8 Family Friendly Campgrounds in Tennessee for 2020
If you are planning a family camping trip in Tennessee you are in luck! There are many fantastic kid-friendly campground throughout this beautiful State that will provide the perfect family campsite! There are so many fantastic campgrounds it was difficult to narrow down to the very best for families, but we did come up with the top eight!
As parents ourselves, we know what’s important for a successful family camping trip.
CLEAN BATHROOMS – so important for tent campers who rely on clean, well-maintained bathrooms and showers! Even if you have a bathroom with your RV, its essential to have nice bathrooms when you are out and about exploring the parks.
KIDS’ AREAS & ACTIVITIES. While it isn’t essential to have organized activities for children, they are nice to have as an option. In addition – playgrounds and kid-friendly hiking trails are a must.
CAMPSITE PRIVACY. No one wants to drive a couple hours from home with all their camping gear to just be crammed into a campsite practically on top of their neighbors! We know we aren’t exactly back-packing into the wilderness, but bonus points for those campsites who have a measure of privacy so you can at least pretend you are miles away from society.
With these criteria in mind, here is our suggested list of best campgrounds for families – SORTED GEOGRAPHICALLY WEST TO EAST.
Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park – Millington, TN
Chickasaw State Park – Henderson, TN
Henry Horton State Park – Chapel Hill, TN
Rock Island State Park – Rock Island, TN
Fall Creek Falls – Spencer, TN
Cades Cove – Townsend, TN
Smoky Bear Campground – Gatlinburg, TN
Backbone Rock Campground & Recreation Area – Shady Valley, TN
The Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park is conveniently located just 13 miles north of Memphis, TN and features over 12 thousand acres of forestland bordering the Mississippi River. This is a dense forested area with enormous trees – oaks, American beech, hickory, and sweet gum. Families will enjoy the variety of camping options – from 2-bedroom cabins to standard campsites to a group camp site for large camping groups.
Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park is the ultimate destination for wildlife lovers! Children who enjoy spotting wildlife will be especially pleased here as there are plentiful deer, turkey, otter, beavers, foxes and even bobcats roaming the forests. In addition, there are over 200 species of songbirds, waterfowl, shorebirds and birds of prey. If you are lucky, you may even spot the American Bald Eagle!
Finally, there is a Nature Center (open seasonally) that has exhibits of live snakes, turtles, salamanders, fish, and an indoor live butterfly garden along with a few other interesting hands-on exhibits.
Rental canoes, kayaks, & paddleboards
Disc golf course
20 miles hiking trails
5 mile out-and-back bike trail
Fishing (bass, bluegill, catfish)
8.5 miles of horse trails
6 picnic shelters/pavilions (30-100 people capacity)
Table, grill, electrical & water hookups.
Can sleep up to 6 people
1 bed + 1 full-size pull out couch
Fully equipped kitchen & all linens provided
Firewood is supplied during wintertime
Chickasaw State Park is named for the Chickasaw Indians who once inhabited West Tennessee and North Mississippi. This park is situated on some of the highest terrain in West Tennessee. Families can enjoy miles of easy to moderate hiking trails, bicycle friendly roads, as well as rental rowboats & peddle boats.
If you have horse-lovers in your family, they’ll want to check out the park stables that rent horses for guided trail rides. If you have your own horses, there are miles of horseback trails throughout the park to enjoy (please note that horses are not allowed on paved roads in the park).
Biking on roads and trails
Fishing (bass, bream, catfish)
Horseback riding (BYOH)
Accommodates rigs up to 94 ft
Water & 20/30/50-amp electric hook-ups
26 sites have sewer hook-ups
Picnic table & grill
Picnic table & grill
Modern bathhouse nearby with hot showers & restrooms
Designed for campers traveling with horses
Water & electric hook-ups
Bathhouse and restroom facilities
7 cabins are one-bedroom – can accommodate up to 4 people
5 cabins are two-bedroom – can accommodate up to 6 people
Kitchens have full sized appliances & cooking/serving utensils. Bed and bath linens provided.
TV with satellite and telephones
Picnic table, fire ring and grill on patio
Henry Horton State Park
Location: 4209 Nashville HWY
Chapel Hill, TN 37034
Families looking for an outdoor recreation mecca will love Henry Horton State Park for their next camping trip. The park features the Buford Ellington championship golf course which is heavily treed and containing 37 bunkers. Duck River anglers will be able to catch bass (largemouth, smallmouth, and red-eye) as well as catfish and other species. Skeet shooters can test their skill on the Henry Horton Trap and Skeet Range which includes five skeet fields and two trap fields. There is also a lodge building with concessions along with gun & ammo rentals. (note: must be 18+ years of age or youth sportsman with valid ID)
Firewood for sale
Limit of 6 people & 2 vehicles per site
Max 2 tents or 1 RV & 1 tent per site
Leashed Pets OK
Located on the Adeline Wilhoite River Trail Loop
Hike in only
Primitive outhouse available
Fire pit & seating
Max 6 people per site
No potable water
Leave No Trace Camping
Primitive campsites located behind RV camping
Hike in only
Max 6 people/hammocks per site
Leave No Trace Camping
Standard Cabin features:
Appliances, cooking utensils, linens, and towels. Picnic table & charcoal grill outside. Cribs available upon request.
2 night minimum
Rustic Cabin features:
Appliances, cooking utensils, linens, towels
Full kitchen, wood-burning fireplace, window AC units, and phones.
Families with older children who enjoy hiking will find Rock Island State Park the perfect camping spot for a long weekend. The park is home to Caney Fork Gorge which sits below Great Falls Dam. Great Falls is a 30 foot horseshoe cascading waterfall and the Gorge contains scenic overlooks, waterfalls, deep pools and limestone paths. Rock Island State Park is a wonderland for hiking, swimming, fishing, kayaking and exploring. (Note: obey all park safety signage as rising water levels can be extremely dangerous)
4 picnic pavilions (30-100 people each)
2 bathhouses with hot showers & accessible restrooms
RVs & Trailers:
20/30/50 amp electrical & water hookups
4 sites have sewer hookups
20 amp electrical, water hookups
Most sites partially shaded and have grass surface.
Tent only campsites are closed from Nov2 – March 15 yearly.
Fall Creek Falls
Location: 2009 Village Camp Road
Spencer, TN 38585
Fall Creek Falls State Park is one of Tennessee’s most popular state parks due to its many natural and man-made attractions. Throughout the park you’ll find cascades, gorges, waterfalls, and streams. The beauty of nature in the park is breathtaking for campers and visitors of all ages.
Families will especially enjoy the hikes around the lake and to the base of Fall Creek Falls. If your campers are up for it, there are even two long-distance overnight hiking trails. The park offers naturalist-led environmental programs especially designed for young children.
For golfers in the family, Fall Creek Falls Golf Course is a challenging 18-hole golf course along with pro shop where you can find golfing supplies, lessons, rental clubs and carts.
For older children, the Canopy Challenge Course is the star attraction. It features 75 wobbly bridges, rope swings, cargo nets, balance beams and zip lines – all with varying difficulty. Participants move through the course attached to a safety line.
Canopy challenge course
56 miles of hiking trails
24 miles of mountain bike trails
Bike rentals, boat rentals
Fishing (on Fall Creek Lake 345 acres)
Golf – 18 hole
Camping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the best ways to experience Tennessee’s abundant wildlife and breathtaking natural features. Cades Cove Campground is designed for car-camping families and RVers alike. There is a camp store for food and supplies as well as clean restrooms and drinking water (although NO showers).
Families will enjoy exploring the famous Cades Cove loop road – a scenic 11 mile drive through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park featuring mountain peaks, lush, rolling greens, and restored buildings like churches, log homes, cantilevered barns, and a working mill. In addition, you may be able to spot wildlife along the road such as white tail deer, coyote, elk, fox and black bears!
Families can also explore the area on bicycles, horseback rides, hayrides, and carriage rides (available for rent thru the camp store seasonally). Bring binoculars to spot wildlife as you explore (but be sure to keep your distance!)
NOTE: Cades Cove Loop Road is closed until 1 March 2020 for maintenance
Campground is open: March 6, 2020 – December 31, 2020
Smokey Bear Campground is a privately owned campground part of the Good Sam RV Park & Resort Network and is located in the Northeast section of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Families will enjoy the heated pool and hot tub (seasonal), playground, and clean bathhouse. Pets are welcome here too. The campground consistently gets rave reviews for upkeep, cleanliness, and staff friendliness.
RV and tent sites aren’t too close together and most have nice tall trees keeping things shady. Nearby attractions include Ramsey Cascades and Hen Wallow Water Falls. There are also several highly-rated family restaurants within a few miles of camp if you don’t feel like campfire cooking!
Bathhouse (wheelchair accessible)
Clubhouse (seats up to 70) with full kitchen, Heat/Air
Heated pool (seasonal)
Hot tub (seasonal)
Book and DVD lending library
RVs & Trailers:
Full hookup with water, sewer, electric, cable & wifi
Pull through and back in sites available
Shady and tidy sites
Heat & A/C
Linens/Towels are NOT provided
Cabins have initial soap, paper towels, TP, garbage bags
Pets upon approval and fee
Backbone Rock Campground & Recreation Area
Location: 10585-10711 TN 133
Shady Valley, TN 37688
If you are looking for a small, inexpensive campground, Backbone Rock Campground is just perfect. It was established in 1960s and rehabbed in the 90s. The campground is peaceful with only has 10 campsites but it has shower facilities and flushing toilets nearby. The campsites are situated along Beaverdam Creek which can be heard flowing and gurgling from your tent. There is swimming, fishing, and plenty of hiking nearby. If you plan ahead, you can reserve all the campsites for your private group camping trip!
While you are here, visit the famous Backbone Rock which sports a tunnel that was drilled through the rock in 1901 to allow railroad access between Shady Valley and Damascus, VA. You can drive through “The Shortest Tunnel in the World” on TN 133.
Note: The Open Season for 2020 is: 4/27/2020 – 10/12/2020
Small campground (a larger group could reserve the whole campground)
No alcoholic beverages allowed
River and stream fishing (rainbow trout)
Pavilion for reservation
Flush toilets for the campground