The best route for an Atlanta to Memphis RV road trip is along I-22 West. The Interstate takes you through parts of four states in the South — Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. You will pass through cities large and small. Many of those towns hold historical significance as well as intriguing points of interest.
There are three National Historical Parks, and one National Park, that are accessible during an Atlanta to Memphis road trip.
Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park
Before starting your Atlanta to Memphis RV road trip, take a detour to the Ocmulgee National Historical Park near Macon, GA. The journey takes about 30 minutes along I-75 and is well worth the extra time. The mounds were left by Native Americans who built them around 900 CE. Trails let you walk among these mounds, and if you're really interested in the history of this area, be sure to stay for one of the educational programs or Native American demonstrations.
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park
Before commencing your road trip itinerary from Atlanta to Memphis, don’t forget to visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park. Situated in the “Sweet Auburn” section of Atlanta, this park commemorates the life and times of Martin Luther King, Jr. The historical area includes several buildings in an eight-block radius, including the famous Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King delivered many of his sermons and the King residence along with several other museum buildings.
Manhattan Project National Historical Park—Oak Ridge, TN
After completing your road trip from Atlanta to Memphis, consider a return trip through the Oak Ridge section of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. The detour takes you through Nashville on a 362-mile journey that takes between five and six hours. The park is an essential reminder of the development of the atomic bomb during WWII. Tours and documentary films are available for visitors during daylight hours.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
After visiting Oak Ridge and the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, travel another 50 miles to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is in Townsend, TN. Covering an area of over 522,000 acres, the park is the largest in the United States. Its abundant wildlife, hilly terrain, and dynamic forests have won the park international fame. More people visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park than any other national park in the country. Returning to Atlanta is only another three to four hours away, or 216 miles, to close the trip and return your RV.
Fort Mountain State Park
Just 85 miles north of Atlanta is Fort Mountain State Park. This destination adds 90 minutes to your road trip from Atlanta to Memphis. To get there, take the Georgia Highway 52 exit off I-22. The road will take you directly to and through the park. The most distinguishable part of the 3,712-acre park is the 885-foot granite wall that sits atop the mountain, shaped like a fort. Plenty of RV campsites are available for those coming to Fort Mountain. Visitors can swim, fish, or paddle in the many small lakes in the park.
Cheaha State Park
While traveling through Northeast Alabama on your road trip from Atlanta to Memphis, take a small detour off I-20 at the AL-77 exit. Cheaha State Park is only 12 miles south of I-22 making it a convenient spot to stop and rest for the evening. The park covers 2,799 acres that include Cheaha Mountain, the highest point in Alabama. There are 73 modern campsites available. Cheaha Lake is manmade — created by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. Fishing and paddling are allowed on the lake, and hikers are welcome to walk the extensive trails.
T.O. Fuller State Park
T.O. Filler State Park sits in the southwest corner of Memphis. The park consists of 1,138 acres of diverse terrain. The most prominent aspect of the park is the Chucalissa Indian Village operated by the University of Memphis. The prehistoric excavation site includes a modern museum and preserved archeological digs. Hiking trails weave throughout the area, providing excellent views of the Village.
Every visitor taking a road trip from Atlanta to Memphis finds unique adventures along the way. There are so many exciting sites that it is impossible to list them all. Here are a few of the most interesting.
The Atlanta Cyclorama is a part of the Atlanta History Center. The principal feature of the Cyclorama is a cylindrical panoramic oil painting of the Battle of Atlanta. The vast painting is a 42-foot high and 358-foot long depiction of the famous Civil War action. The painting is accompanied by a 12-minute film describing the creation and history of the display.
William B. Bankhead National Forest
Midway through your road trip from Atlanta to Memphis is the William B. Bankhead National Forest. The forest covers over 180,000 acres filled with waterfalls, canyons, bluffs, springs, lakes, and trees. It is home to Alabama’s only National Wild and Scenic River — Sipsey Fork. There are six recreational areas scattered throughout the area, each offering a different experience for visitors. All of the recreational sites in the William B. Bankhead National Forest provide facilities to enhance biking, hiking, swimming, and fishing experiences.
The Crystal Shrine Grotto
The Crystal Shrine Grotto has no match throughout the United States. The sculpted interior of this hole dug in the hill of the Memphis’ Memorial Park Cemetery is the product of artist Dionicio Rodriguez. He was contracted to beautify the cemetery in the 1930s. The grotto depicts Christian scenes sculpted in cement and quartz crystals, which glow when the sun hits. Some two-dimensional items were added later by other artists to contrast with the three-dimensional sculptures, adding an unusual effect. A visit to this artificial cave will be one you remember for a long time.
There are several large cities you will encounter on your road trip from Atlanta to Memphis. While some of the following are not on I-85, they are important enough to visit with a slight detour.
Close to 100 miles into your road trip from Atlanta to Memphis lies the city of Birmingham, AL. The city, which straddles I-22, is the major economic center in the North Alabama area. Birmingham boasts a population of 210,000, which makes it the most populated city in the state. It's one of the important higher education centers in Alabama, with several public and private universities finding their home within the city’s limits. During the 1960s, Birmingham was a center of the Civil Rights movement. Today, the city is full of restaurants of every description, theaters, art festivals, and museums commemorating the past. There are several dump stations in and around Birmingham where you can pause to empty your waste tanks. If you're looking for a campground in the city, try Hoover RV Park.
Just a few miles south of Birmingham lies the city of Tuscaloosa, AL. The city is home to the University of Alabama, which is known for its dedicated college football fans. Tuscaloosa hosts festivals throughout the year and has one of the largest art programs in the country. Once named “the most livable city in the country,” Tuscaloosa shows a delightful side to visitors. RV travelers find easy access to dump stations almost anywhere in Tuscaloosa. With an abundance of campgrounds ringing the city, RV enthusiasts have no trouble finding a place to stop and enjoy what Tuscaloosa has to offer.
Tupelo, MS, is quickly becoming one of the coolest cities in the country. With a population of 39,000, the town depends a lot on visitors for its economic success. Of course, being the birthplace of Elvis Presley is no small factor in bringing visitors to the area. The city is fast-paced when compared to other Mississippi towns. Tupelo hosts many festivals throughout the year, including those celebrating Native Americans, Civil War battles, the United States, and the town’s deep musical roots. Numerous dump stations are available to empty your waste tanks. Camping sites are abundant in the area too.
A road trip from Atlanta to Memphis reveals the culture of the South. Traveling from Georgia through northern Alabama and Mississippi to reach the music mecca of Memphis will certainly be a memorable trip. Use RVshare to rent a recreational vehicle in Atlanta. To make the opposite journey, find your transportation on RVshare’s Memphis rental page. No matter which direction you are moving during your family vacation, enjoy it.