By Alli Hill
With one of the best outdoor scenes in the country, Tennessee knows no limits when it comes to creating epic experiences in nature. The state parks are filled with plenty to do for every age and every type of adventurer. There are over 50 state parks here, but Rock Island State Park is one that definitely deserves a spot on your must-visit list.
This over 880-acre state park has everything going for it: beautiful river views, waterfalls, trails, and plenty of outdoor sporting opportunities. The park’s unique position at the confluence of three rivers (Caney Fork, Rocky, and Collins) has created myriad scenic areas for visitors to enjoy, including the awe-inspiring Caney Fork River Gorge. Fans flock to the area for fishing and kayaking, as well as year-round camping to get back in touch with nature. If you’re planning on visiting, you might want to spend a couple days here to get the most from your visit.
The gorge is an absolute must-see if you visit, and the Upstream Trail is the easiest way to get there. This moderate-rated trail is just half a mile one-way, starting from the Twin Falls Overlook parking area. This area of the gorge is a popular place for swimming, but it can be risky. You’ll need to leave the same way you came, making your round-trip about a mile.
Inside the park you’ll find the remnants of frontier settlements and old cemeteries. Hop on the two-mile Collins River Connector trail to get there, either by foot or by mountain bike. The trail itself isn’t too difficult, and is a must if you crave a bit of history with your visit.
Rock Island State Park is a camper’s paradise year-round. Take your pick of cabin rentals or traditional campsites for RVs or tents. Both campgrounds within the park offer Wi-Fi and bathhouses with hot water. They also offer treated firewood available for purchase on site.
This natural area is just a few miles away from Rock Island State Park and is named for the discovery of a giant sloth skeleton back in 1811. The bones are on display at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, but visitors can explore the natural area where they were found. The cave itself has plenty of historical significance as a saltpeter mine in the 19th century, and contains several well-preserved artifacts from its heyday. The cave spans nearly 10 miles of passage, making it one of longest mapped caves in the state. If you want to visit the cave, you’ll need to contact Rock Island State Park as access is limited.
Grab some local flavors at Foglight Foodhouse, a Cajun-inspired eatery with Southern roots and plenty to fill every appetite. Inside the rustic exterior you’ll find fresh seafood, jambalaya, and steaks, all served up with a side of Creole soul. It’s warm, cozy, and friendly, and just might become a must-stop anytime you’re in the area.
Just 30 minutes separates Rock Island State Park and Cumberland Caverns, a tourism hotbed that takes visitors deep underground to explore lost secrets. You can tour the caverns by day or book an overnight excursion, giving you an opportunity to traverse its 32 miles of passages. Underground waterfalls, rock formations, and fun events await you.