Sesquicentennial trips in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina
Region is steeped in blue and gray Civil War history
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Remember what fresh air really tastes like in North Carolina's parks
Explore Georgia parks
The state boasts many large, historic parks in close proximity
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Rocks, rivers and woods offer plenty of thrills for four-wheelers
More Bang for Your Buck - Hunting in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina
Ample hunting opportunities make the region a target for hunters tracking down all types of game

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Explore Tennessee Parks

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    Moss cover steps lead visitors to the Spring Castle in Rock Island State Park
    Sean McCombs

A variety of outdoor splendors await those in need of an open-air fix at state parks a short drive from the Scenic City. The following parks are just a sample of what there is to do close to Chattanooga but a world away in fun.

Fall Creek Falls State Park

• An hour from Chattanooga in Pikeville, this 20,000-acre destination holds gorges, waterfalls, streams and stands of hardwood timber.

• "Southern Living" magazine readers ranked this area the best park in Tennessee.

• Among the 228 campsites, there are a variety of accommodations ranging from group camp sites with room for 100, lodges, cabins and the 145-guest room Park Inn.

• Picnic areas dot the site and 34 miles of trails beckon, as do fish in the 345-acre Fall Creek Falls Lake.

• The second weekend in April marks the Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage and Labor Day begins the Mountaineer Folk Festival.

Source: Tennessee State Parks website

Harrison Bay State Park

• A water-lover's oasis holds a 1,200-acre park with 40 miles of the Chickamauga Lake shoreline at this recreation area in Harrison built by the Tennessee Valley Authority in the 1930s.

• A public ramp serves boaters ready to hit the water. The marina holds 161 covered slips, 28 uncovered and can handle watercraft up to 60 feet, including sailboats.

• A 4.5-mile loop trail calls off-road cyclists from beginners to expert riders.

• RV campers have 128 sites to choose from with water and electrical service and bathhouses in each of the four camping areas.

Source: Tennessee State Parks website

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    Park visitors walk across a suspension bridge at Fall Creek Falls State Park
    Sean McCombs

Rock Island State Park

• A limestone gorge with scenic overlooks, fishing pools and the woodlands surrounding the Great Falls of the Caney Fork River in McMinnville invites explorers to poke around.

• Walleye spawn in the Blue Hole on Center Hill Lake adjacent to the lake's shores.

• Bass, muskellunge and bluegill also lurk beneath the lake's surface.

• Most anglers fish the park's waterways in the spring, while boaters and water-ski enthusiasts hit the lake through summer and fall.

Source: Tennessee State Parks website

Cumberland Mountain State Park

• Atop the Cumberland Plateau, this state park near Crossville is one portion of a geographical formation stretching from New York to Alabama.

• The 1,720-acre park was formed as a recreation area for residents in 1938. The nearby Homestead Museum showcases a 1930s-era homestead community.

• Paddleboats, canoes, rowboats and trolling-motor fishing boats are available for rent. The boat dock is open May through October. Boaters can bring their own kayaks and canoes for paddling on Byrd Lake.

• Cabins with fireplaces are available to park-goers from Oct. 1 to April 30.

• The cabins and lodges range from two-person structures to 10-person accommodations.

• Tent and RV campsites with hookups, picnic tables, grills and bathhouses are ready for campers.

• A swimming pool, restaurant, playground, softball field, tennis and volleyball courts offer other opportunities for recreation.

Source: Tennessee State Parks website

Frozen Head State Park

• This Cumberland Mountain area park near Wartburg has some of the area's least-disturbed forests and a wide range of wildflowers.

• The landscape holds 16 different mountain peaks, and at 3,324 feet, Frozen Head is one of the highest in Tennessee west of the Great Smoky Mountains.

• Its name is derived from snow and ice caps on the peaks in winter.

The park is included on the Upper Cumberland Quilt Trail, a preservation project for historic quilting practices in 16 Tennessee and Alabama counties.

• Park visitors can cycle, camp, fish, hike, horseback ride, swim and picnic in this mountainous terrain.

Source: Tennessee State Parks website

-- Compiled by staff writer Todd South