The road from St. Louis to Pigeon Forge is paved with exciting cities and breathtaking national parks to explore. You'll have a grand time at Mammoth Cave National Park touring the largest cave system on the planet and experiencing the spooky vibes of lost explorers said to be felt throughout the caves. Stops in Nashville and Knoxville treat you to some good old-fashioned Southern hospitality, savory food, and lively music at the Grand Ole Opry and Market Square.
Every road trip should include a few adventures to some of America's most fascinating and historically significant national parks.
Gateway Arch National Park
Before you leave St. Louis, check out Gateway Arch National Park for a journey that takes you back to the beginning of America's westward expansion. Start your exploration of this park at the Museum at Gateway Arch. Inside, you'll have access to six themed exhibit areas where you can learn about the history of the people who contributed to the evolution of the U.S. Not to be missed is the "Tram Ride to the Top" of the country's tallest monument in a retro elevator that keeps you upright as you ascend. More experiences you'll want to have at this park include setting sail on a riverboat down the mighty Mississippi, walking the historical halls of the Old Courthouse, and biking or walking the pathway that connects the park with downtown St. Louis.
Mammoth Cave National Park
On your St. Louis to Pigeon Forge road trip, be sure to visit Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, a short one-hour-and-50-minute drive from Clarksville, TN. At this park, you can take a variety of tours that range in times from two to six hours with various levels of exertion at different sites within the cave. The more popular tours include Frozen Niagara, Gothic Avenue, Diamond Caverns, and Fat Man's Misery. Additional sights to see and places to enjoy are Nolin Lake, Sinkhole Trail, River Styx Spring, Bell's Tavern, Dismal Rock, and the Mammoth Cave Wildlife Museum. With so much to explore, you could easily spend three to four fantastic days at this park.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just a 25-minute drive south from Pigeon Forge and has over half a million beautiful acres for you to explore. Put on your hiking boots and head up to the Summit Observation Tower at Clingmans Dome, the highest mountain in the park and the state of Tennessee, for some magnificent panoramic views of the Smoky Mountain range. Popular trails to trek are Laurel Falls, Alum Cave, Ramsey Cascades, and Rainbow Falls. Take a scenic drive on Foothills Parkway; then, enjoy a tasting at Ole Smoky Moonshine. You can also experience a fun variety of nearby Ripley's attractions that include Ripley's Moving Theater, Ripley's Haunted Adventure, Davy Crockett Mini Golf, and, of course, the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum. There's plenty to see and do at this park, so plan on staying for at least two to three days.
State parks are fantastic places to visit and stay awhile as you explore their surrounding areas. Consider including a couple on your road trip itinerary from St. Louis to Pigeon Forge.
Dunbar Cave State Park
Located near Clarksville, TN, Dunbar Cave State Park is a great place to relax and check out some prehistoric and Native American cave art. Tours are available and feature information about the 8.1-mile-long cave's history and unique wildlife population that includes bats, blind cave crawfish, salamanders, and southern cavefish. Topside, the park offers a museum and gift shop as well as 3 miles of hiking trails and wildlife viewing at the park's prairie and wetland.
Mineral Mound State Park
A special outdoor experience awaits at Mineral Mound State Park as you make your way through Kentucky. Perfect for a day of boating, this lush 541-acre park sits on the shores of Lake Barkley and has a year-round launching ramp. On the lake or from the pier, you can wet a hook and catch a variety of fish from black and white crappie to small and largemouth bass. An 18-hole golf course, scenic walking trails, and a wildlife refuge are also located within the park.
Rock Island State Park
At Rock Island State Park in Tennessee, you'll be surrounded by the natural beauty of three converging rivers at Center Hill Lake. The main attraction at this park is Great Falls, a 30-foot waterfall located below a 100-year-old cotton mill that used the waterfall's power for its operation. Enjoy scenic overlooks at the Caney Fork Gorge and hike any one of the park's nine trails. Kayaking, swimming, bird-watching, fishing, and camping are also welcome activities here.
Mark Twain National Forest
Named after Missouri's most famous author, Mark Twain National Forest has over 1.5 million acres for you to explore and is located south of St. Louis along Interstate 55. Start your journey at Cave Vineyard, a popular winery that offers a unique picnicking experience in the Saltpeter cave below the tasting room once you've grabbed a bottle of wine. More tastings are available a little farther down the road at a cluster of fine wineries. While you're in the forest, check out some outdoor sights at Castor River Shut-Ins, Rockpile Mountain Wilderness, Bread Tray Mountain, and Millstream's Garden Conservation Area.
The Grand Ole Opry
A stop in Nashville requires a visit to the Grand Ole Opry, one of Music City's most famous and beloved attractions. Guided backstage tours are available, and some include a ride on the Opryland Resort Delta River Flatboat. You can also walk the grounds outside of the concert hall and visit the gift shop inside for free. Plan ahead to catch a concert on your road trip from St. Louis to Pigeon Forge.
Visit Market Square in Knoxville and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and tastes of the South. This outdoor mall features an eclectic variety of boutique shops and restaurants that serve everything from traditional Southern cuisine to sushi. The district also hosts events and festivals throughout the year, such as the International Biscuit Festival, Shakespeare on the Square, and Sundown in the City. Be sure to grab some fresh produce at the Farmer's Market before you leave the Square.
As you drive through Clarksville, make sure to see the Customs House Museum and Cultural Center's unique architecture and interactive art and history exhibits. Then, head to Downtown Commons for some ice skating and live music. Fun outdoorsy places you'll want to explore are King and Queens Bluffs, Clarksville Greenway, and Liberty Park.
Your St. Louis to Pigeon Forge RV road trip wouldn't be complete without a stop in Nashville. All things country start at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum where you'll enjoy exhibits explaining the history of country music. Every Music City bucket list should also include stops at the Johnny Cash Museum and Cafe, the Bluebird Cafe, and the Patsy Cline Museum. On Broadway, you'll enjoy live music, plenty of honky-tonks, and a variety of shops and restaurants.
Fall Hollow RV Park is a beautiful place to set up camp while you explore Nashville. The park features three beaches, a restaurant, nature trails, and two small forests. A dump station and propane tanks are also available for your convenience.
As the Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, Knoxville is a fantastic city to explore before you head to one of the most majestic national parks in the country. Check out the World's Fair Park and take a ride to the top of the Sunsphere, a 266-foot landmark tower with an observation deck that rewards you with spectacular panoramic views of the city. For a spookier experience, take a ghost walk at Haunted Knoxville Ghost Tours. Then, wander through the Old Gray Cemetery, a local monument from the Civil War days.