It’s no secret that Chattanooga is an outdoorsy city and camping is one of the best ways to connect with nature. With cooler weather and the turning of the leaves, fall is an ideal time to immerse yourself in the natural beauty. All of our favorite camping locations provide easy access to some of the best fall colors in the South.
Here are a few of our favorite campsites that offer great hiking to see fall colors.
Harrison Bay State Park
This picturesque park is home to 40 miles of Chickamauga Lake's shoreline and offers an array of activities like fishing, paddling, picnicking, and golfing on the popular Bear Trace Golf Course. Before Harrison Bay State Park became Tennessee's first state park in 1937, the Harrison Bay area had a long history of Native American presence and was even home to one of the last great Cherokee Chieftains. Today, the park is an excellent spot to pitch a tent in one of the primitive campsites and enjoy a peaceful evening at the lake. Harrison Bay is less than half an hour from downtown Chattanooga, making it easy to explore the city before settling into camp.
Fall Creek Falls State Park
Fall Creek Falls is Tennessee’s flagship state park with a lodge, restaurant, golf course, and even a new zip line attraction. Although the trails can be busy near the popular overlooks, this is a rugged and vast area where it’s not difficult to find solitude just a bit further down the path.
Cloudland Canyon State Park
Named for its spectacularly scenic 1,000-foot-deep canyons, this Georgia state park boasts endless views, more than 60 miles of top-notch hiking trails, and two tremendous waterfalls. Visitors will also find miles of trails for biking and horseback riding, plus disc golf and fishing opportunities. Cloudland Canyon is an easy 40-minute drive from Chattanooga and offers both backcountry and front-country camping, as well as charming little cottages that can sleep up to eight people. For an even more unique stay, spend a weekend in one of the park’s 10 yurts, which make the perfect basecamp for all of your Cloudland adventures.
Raccoon Mountain Caverns and Campground
Just a few minutes outside of Chattanooga, Raccoon Mountain Caverns and Campground is Chattanooga’s premier spot for both RV and tent camping. While its campsites and amenities are excellent, the area’s other attraction steals the show: the caverns. The caverns have been open to the public since they were first discovered in 1931, and their many fascinating rooms and passages have captivated visitors ever since. Raccoon Mountain Caverns is a longtime local favorite, and tours range from an easy 30-minute guided walk to a four-hour Echo Room expedition, which is complete with crawling, squeezing, and lots of mud.
About 45 minutes from Chattanooga, Foster Falls is accessed by the Fiery Gizzard Trail in South Cumberland State Park, and it is considered one of the top 25 hikes in the country. The Foster Falls Small Wild Area includes seasonal camping, and trail access to the bottom of the falls as well as multiple overlooks. The entire area below the falls is beautiful, and a short hike combining the climber’s loop at creekside with the Fiery Gizzard Trail atop the cliffs is a great way to work up a sweat before taking a dip in the pool below the waterfall. The waterfall itself is one of the very best, and the setting is unmatched.
The 30-acre wooded resort near the Ocoee River and Parksville Lake is the perfect place to spend the night and relax while enjoying the great outdoors. Bring your tent or an RV and enjoy our campground, or reserve one of the bungalows or large log cabin for groups. Adventures Unlimited has you covered with affordable accommodations to enjoy an extended adventure stay for Ocoee rafting, hiking, and biking in nearby Cherokee National Forest.
Chattanooga Travel Inspiration Magazine
A version of this story was previously published in the 2023 Fall & Winter edition of our Travel Inspiration Magazine.