Parks, campsites around Chattanooga offer a chance to get away, but not too far away

Parks, campsites around Chattanooga offer a chance to get away, but not too far away

August 9th, 2013 by Tyler Jett in Life Entertainment

The sunset is reflected in Lake Chickamauga near Harrison Bay.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Brothers Matthew and James Mullican of Summerville, Ga., from left, fish on a Sloppy Floyd State Park lake. Staff photo by Shawn Paik

Brothers Matthew and James Mullican of Summerville, Ga.,...


For more tips to help you find the best things to do in the Chattanooga region, pick up a copy of Glimpse, a travel guide that will be inserted into your newspaper on Aug. 30. Glimpse covers the hottest activities and best-kept secrets in nearly 100 cities across Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina and will be accessible online from

A camping trip isn't just about sleeping outdoors.

It also gives you a chance to hike.

Or bike.

Or fish.

Or swim.

If you want to do something and that something requires wide open spaces, you can do it on a camping trip to a number of places around the region. Whether you go for a weekend or longer, you won't be stuck with nothing to do - unless that's the way you want it.

Perhaps more than any other attraction, these parks and campsites offer the outdoors and little else. Sure, you can do all those activities (and more), but that's only if you want to. You can also just sit back and listen to the sounds of nature.

So unplug and unwind and have a great time.

Frozen Head State Park

The state park in Wartburg, Tenn., is filled with special sights and natural beauty.

• Located on about 23,000 acres of relatively undisturbed forest, Frozen Head State Park (964 Flat Fork Road, Wartburg, Tenn.) has 16 mountain peaks. At an elevation of 3,324 feet, Frozen Head is one of the highest in the state and on a clear day provides views of the Cumberland Plateau, the Tennessee Ridge and Valley, and the Great Smoky Mountains.

• Enjoy your afternoon on one of 20 hiking paths - some easy, some difficult. Or, if you prefer, pull your mountain bike onto the 6.9-mile Lookout Tower Trail. But regardless of what you do, you should make sure to stop and take in the natural beauty, the abundant wildflowers and waterfalls and streams.

• For those looking to fish, the Flat Fork Creek will give you a chance to catch some rainbow trout, especially in the springtime.

• Frozen Head features 20 campsites in the Big Cove Camping area, 11 back-country campsites and eight primitive sites found along Flat Fork Creek. The Big Cove Camping area also offers two group sites, each large enough to hold 15 or 20 people. The base rent for a campsite is $13.

Source: Tennessee State Parks

Red Top Mountain

Located in Cartersville, Ga. (50 Lodge Road SE), this park attracts visitors hoping to take advantage of Lake Allatoona.

• The 12,000-acre lake is a great place to swim, fish or water ski - you can bring your own boat or rent one from the nearby marina. And when you get a chance, check out the swimming sand beach hidden in a cove and surrounded by trees.

• If you get bored by the water, or if you just want to do something different, the park offers plenty of hiking trails. In all, it contains 15 miles worth of paths that wind through the forest.

• Those with children may be interested in the park's Mountain Cove Discovery Room. It provides nature exhibits and ranger programs. And for those coming with a large group, you can spend your afternoon at a sheltered picnic pavilion, which will cost you $45.

• If you want to stay overnight, you can reserve one of the park's 20 cozy cottages. The park also provides 92 sites to set up your tent or RV. Cottages cost $90 to $160 per night while the traditional campsites cost $19 to $28.

Source: Georgia State Parks

Harrison Bay State Park

Tennessee's oldest state park features 162 campsites and 24 cabins.

• Located at 8411 Harrison Bay Road, in Harrison, Tenn., along 40 miles of Chickamauga Lake, visitors can stay the night for $25. There is plenty of action, whether it's bike riding along the water as part of the 4-1/2 mile Bay Pointe Loop or taking to the water, as the marina offers 198 boat slips.

• Or you can head to the lake for the fishing. Visitors have pulled in bass, bluegill and catfish, among others, at the lake.

• For those interested in hiking, the park contains eight miles of trails. Some are easy. Some are moderate. Nothing too tough.

• You may also want to head over to The Bear Trace Golf Course, a par-72 course designed by 18-time major championship winner Jack Nicklaus.

Source: Harrison Bay Park Brochure

DeSoto State Park

Waterfalls and wildflowers are in abundance for those seeking natural beauty.

• Located at 7104 DeSoto Parkway NE, in Fort Payne, Ala., this 3,500-acre state park offers a variety of lodging options, including mountain chalets ($122 a night), cabins ($87 for rustic, $130 for higher end) and motel rooms ($76). There are also full-hook-up campgrounds ($28.50) and more primitive places to pitch a tent.

• The park also provides 25 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. And there is an ADA-accessible boardwalk trail for those in wheelchairs or with other disabilities.

• In addition to hikes and bikes, the park offers fishing or kayaking or rappelling.

• You can also find plenty of other amenities, including a restaurant, a picnic area, a playground, a nature center and an Olympic-size swimming pool

Source: Alabama State Parks

James H. 'Sloppy' Floyd State Park

James H. "Sloppy" Floyd State Park has plenty to offer. Whether it's through activity or taking in Georgia's natural beauty, visitors won't want for much.

• The state park is at 2800 Sloppy Floyd Lake Road, Summerville, Ga. - squeezed between rural countryside and the Chattahoochee National Forest

• Sitting on 561 acres, the park features two types of places to stay. There are four cottages ($135-$145) and 25 campsites ($25-$28).

• You can visit one of the two lakes in the park to try your hand at fishing. Or, if you prefer, you can walk around the water on the park's three miles of hiking trails.

• Other common activities at the park include boating, canoeing and kayaking

Source: Georgia State Parks

Smokemount Campground

The Smokemount Campground puts you right inside America's most visited national park.

• Open all year, this campground holds 138 sites ($17-$20) near 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, Tenn., where you can stay right inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

• Surrounded by mountains, streams and rivers, you can start your day with some trout fishing or a hike on one of the 800 miles of trails inside the park.

• Visitors can also spend time looking at the wildlife, which includes about 1,500 bears in the park.

• You can also examine the 90 historic log buildings that were once homes and offices and schools. Then, you visit nearby attractions like the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Oconaluftee Indian Village and the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual in Cherokee, N.C.

Source: Great Smoky Mountains National Parks Trip Planner

- Compiled by staff writer Tyler Jett, or 423-757-6476