Put on some country tunes and get ready for a great road trip as you travel from Nashville to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. While you might be tempted to hop on Interstate 40 and spend your time only in Nashville and Gatlinburg, you'd miss many delightful opportunities in between those two cities. This guide is designed to highlight some historic sites, stunning views, and amazing cultural attractions along the way. Driving an RV or towing a camper allows you to stop in and stay awhile at national and state parks during your Nashville to Gatlinburg road trip.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
Stand in awe of the gap in the mountains where early settlers and animals traveled between mountains at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. Go on the two-hour tour to see the glistening stalagmites and flowstone cascades at the underground cathedral while listening to the park ranger to learn more about the area. Go on the four-hour tour to see the Hensley Settlement where people lived from 1904 to 1951. There are many miles of hiking trails waiting to be explored at this national park.
Manhattan Project National Historical Park
Start your tour of the Oakridge part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park at the American Museum of Science and Energy. During the four-hour bus tour, you'll see the X-10 Graphite Reactor where uranium for the first atomic bomb was produced, the New Bethel Church that was constructed in 1924, the overlook where the K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Building stood and the Y-12 New Hope History Center.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park covers parts of Tennessee and North Carolina. Consider going on a hike through some of the backcountries at this park. You can also go for scenic drives through much of the park or attend ranger-led programming.
Radnor Lake State Park
Go for a hike at Radnor Lake State Park to see the amazing variety of wildlife in this protected Class II Natural Area. This day-use park in Nashville is unique because of its urban setting and the care taken to develop trails for all ability levels.
Henry Horton State Park
Once home to Tennessee Governor Henry Horton, Henry Horton State Park is located on the shores of the Duck River. This park is a great place to go on a guided rafting trip, play disc golf, swim, skeet shoot, hike, fish, and golf. You can also eat in the restaurant and enjoy a drink in the lounge. With so many fantastic things to do at this state park, consider making it an overnight stay on your Nashville to Gatlinburg RV road trip.
Fort Loudon State Historic Park
This 1,200-acre state park was built about 1756, and it is one of the earliest British fortifications on the Western frontier. You can take part in many reenactments at this park, but fun happens at Fort Loudon State Historic Park even when reenactments aren't going on. You can rent a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard to explore Tellico Lake, hike around its shores or go fishing for bass and catfish.
Cumberland Mountain State Park
There are many things to do at Cumberland Mountain State Park, which is located on the Cumberland Plateau. You can launch almost any type of watercraft at this state park to enjoy time on Byrd Lake. Bring your mountain bike along because there are trails, including those with jumps for advanced and beginning riders, waiting to be explored. Take a swim in the pool, play a round of golf, or hike along 14 miles of trails.
Seven Islands State Birding Park
Visitors gasp in awe at the breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains from this park. Over 190 species of birds have been spotted here, so bring your binoculars to watch as you hike along Seven Islands State Birding Park’s paths. You're welcome to launch a kayak or canoe to explore the French Broad River, where over 50 species of fish live.
Belle Meade Plantation
Learn how this site went from a humble log cabin to one of the most prestigious thoroughbred racing farms in the world. During your visit, you can tour the mansion and take a Segway tour of the grounds. This site also hosts events like wine-and-cheese parties and bourbon-tasting parties. This historic landmark is located very near Nashville, Tennessee.
Buford Pusser Home & Museum
See the home that legendary sheriff Buford Pusser lived in at the time of his death. Buford Pusser was a man whose story has been told in the "Walking Tall" movies. He is viewed as a hero for his one-person battle against illegal moonshine and prostitution, which ultimately ended in tragedy. The home is preserved almost exactly as Buford Pusser left it on the day that a one-car accident took his life. This home is located in Adamsville, Tennessee.
McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture
This museum at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville features exhibits about different cultural groups in the state and the state’s natural history. You can also view ancient Egyptian artifacts, learn about life in Knoxville during the Civil War, glimpse fossils collected from around the state, and see art from around the world there.
Knoxville Museum of Art
Many talented artists have lived in Eastern Tennessee. Countless examples of their work are on display at the Knoxville Museum of Art.
Anakeesta is a Cherokee word that means higher ground. You will enjoy all types of mountaintop experiences at this 70-acre theme park that's located just outside of Gatlinburg, so don't get in a hurry to end your road trip itinerary from Nashville to Gatlinburg. Instead, ride the zip lines and the single-mountain coaster or relax with a great meal and shop at unique stores.
This community in Western Tennessee is a great place to spend the night at campgrounds like Country Critters Campground and RV Park. Step into a local diner and relax as you are warmly greeted in this town of 2,000. Head to the nearby farms to get fresh produce or cut your own Christmas tree, depending on the season. You can find nearby RV dump stations at Pickwick Dam Campground near Counce or Pickwick Landing State Park near Savannah.
So much important history took place in the hills around Shiloh that you'll want to spend time learning about it. When visiting this community, try to see the Cherry Mansion and the Tennessee River Museum in addition to the national military park. There are many campgrounds in this area, including ones at Battlefield Campground and Green Acres RV Park. When you are looking for an RV dump station near Shiloh, consider the Love’s Truck Stop in Ramer or the 45 S Truck Stop in Milledgeville.
Chattanooga has been named one of the top cities in the U.S. to visit because of its outdoor adventures, museums, and food. You can visit many attractions in Chattanooga, including Rock City Gardens, Ruby Falls and the Tennessee Aquarium. You can camp in many beautiful campgrounds, including Raccoon Mountain Caverns & Campground that offers wild cave tours to campers and Sweetwater/I-75/Exit 62 KOA, which has a catch-and-release fishing pond. There are many available dump stations in the Chattanooga area, including the ones at Chester Frost Park and Sweetwater KOA.
The city of Knoxville is diverse. It's easy to explore an urban lifestyle, especially in the thriving downtown area, and connect with nature there. Use our RV camping guide to locate campgrounds in the Knoxville area, including Soaring Eagle Campground located near Bristol Motor Speedway and Southlake Campground on the shores of the Tennessee River. You will also find many RV dump stations in the Knoxville area, such as at Escapees Raccoon Valley RV Park and the Flying J Travel Center #722.
While you can quickly travel down the interstate on a road trip from Nashville to Gatlinburg, you would miss so many opportunities to see fantastic scenery, have new adventures, and learn about history. Consider renting an RV in Nashville or Gatlinburg, and explore Southern Tennessee at a slower pace. You will build memories to last a lifetime.