By Alli Hill
Tennessee has long been synonymous with “natural paradise” for many, so it’s no surprise the state also hosts several festivals each year dedicated to all things outdoors. From hiking the beautiful Smoky Mountains to rafting in one the state’s many whitewater rivers, there’s no shortage of adventures and thrills here. Festivals make the experience even more fun, and you can find the best outdoor fests in Tennessee right here.
In August, before the leaves start turning for the season, thousands of hikers, campers, paddlers, fishermen, and riders gather in one of the biggest mountain festivals of the year. This epic mountain adventure features activities for the water, air, and earth, including kayaking, hiking, a ropes course, paddleboard yoga, mountain biking, rafting, and more. There are tons of on-site and off-site events, clinics, and demos from outdoor brands you love and trust. The festival is presented by Trek Bicycles of Johnson City, Appalachian Community Federal Credit Union, and USA Raft, among other sponsors.
This free event is dedicated to a full day of ATV riding through the beautiful October foliage through the Appalachian Mountains. Live music, food, and vendors will be on site as you enjoy the day’s adventures, along with children’s activities and a fireworks show. These trails are perfect for viewing elk and other wildlife, natural waterfalls, and the majestic mountains. Rides are divided into three categories to suit your skill level and desired travel time, but you can also hit the trails on your own. The City of LaFollette, Pyro Shows, and Ride Royal Blue are a huge part of this event’s success.
Professional balloon pilots light up the sky in a way you’ve likely never seen at this epic hot air balloon festival. Hot air balloons are a way to experience the great outdoors from a whole new perspective, and you can enjoy a tethered ride to see the sights from on high. Vendors, food trucks, a craft beer tent, and live music will also be on site, along with wine tastings provided by Nine Lake Wine Country. There’s something for every age and every interest, and it’s truly one of Tennessee’s most unique events.
No, you won’t be racing on real dragons, but these masterfully created dragon boats are certainly the next best thing. Grab your friends and enter as a team to compete in one of the most exciting boat races in the state. You’ll be rowing your heart out down the Cumberland River in this ancient Chinese celebration while also raising awareness of the river’s importance to the city. This event is hosted by the Cumberland River Compact and free for onlookers.