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12 of the Best Lakes for Family Fun in Tennessee

young boys playing in a lake

There’s no need to travel all the way to the beach for family fun on the water. If you’re looking for a unique getaway, check out these lakes in Tennessee.

Norris Lake

With over 33,000 acres of turquoise water surrounded by Chuck Swan State Forest, Norris Lake is perfect for a summer getaway. Take a boat across the pristine waters and enjoy the rolling hills at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains. Make a splash in one of the various swimming areas or find a peaceful spot along the shoreline to set up camp for the weekend.

Location: Maynardville

Drive an hour and a half north of Knoxville to visit Norris Lake.

Tent camping: Yes
RV camping: Yes
Cabin rentals: Yes
Boat rentals: Yes
Canoe rentals: Yes
Fishing: Yes, especially fly fishing
Swim beach: Yes
Hiking trails: Yes

Click here for more information.

Douglas Lake

If you’re planning to venture to the Smoky Mountains this summer, make sure to stop by Douglas Lake. Located just a few miles outside of the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area, Douglas Lake is a fisherman’s paradise, rated as one of the top ten areas to catch largemouth bass in the United States.

Location: Dandridge

Tent camping: Yes
RV camping: Yes
Cabin rentals: Yes
Boat rentals: Yes
Canoe rentals: Yes
Fishing: Yes
Swim beach: Yes
Hiking trails: Limited, but available

Click here for more information.

Old Hickory Lake

Take a quick 30-minute drive northeast of Nashville to spend a day at Old Hickory Lake. You can explore more than 22,000 acres of fresh water and 440 miles of shoreline. Old Hickory Lake is also a great vacation spot for kids with multiple sandy beaches and playgrounds.

Location: Hendersonville

Tent camping: Yes
RV camping: Yes
Cabin rentals: Yes
Boat rentals: Yes
Canoe rentals: Yes
Fishing: Yes
Swim beach: Yes
Hiking trails: Limited, but available

Click here for more information.

J. Percy Priest Lake

J. Percy Priest Lake blends the beauty of the outdoors with the convenience of a location within 15 miles of downtown Nashville. With various outdoor activities including fishing, camping, hiking and more, J. Percy Priest Lake is a great place to get away from it all without going far.

Location: Nashville

Tent camping: Yes
RV camping: Yes
Cabin rentals: Yes
Boat rentals: Yes
Canoe rentals: Yes
Fishing: Yes
Swim beach: Yes
Hiking trails: Yes

Click here for more information.

Looking for a way to beat the summer heat? Discover more water recreation opportunities in Tennessee.

Watts Bar Lake

Located halfway between Chattanooga and Knoxville, Watts Bar Lake is one of the largest lakes in the South. This lake offers beautiful scenery year round and is packed with countless activities for the whole family. Take advantage of the more 700 miles of shoreline for swimming during the day and stay in a cabin on the lake to enjoy the sunset.

Location: Kingston

Tent camping: Yes
RV camping: Yes
Cabin rentals: Yes
Boat rentals: Yes
Canoe rentals: Yes
Fishing: Yes
Swim beach: Yes
Hiking trails: Yes

Click here for more information.

Watauga Lake

Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, Watauga Lake is located less than 20 minutes from Johnson City. Watauga Lake offers more than a 100 miles of shoreline and several nearby national parks. Must-do activities include swimming, camping and hiking in the surrounding Cherokee National Forest.

Location: Elizabethton

Tent camping: Yes
RV camping: Yes
Cabin rentals: Yes
Boat rentals: Yes
Canoe rentals: Yes
Fishing: Yes
Swim beach: Yes
Hiking trails: Yes

Click here for more information.

Tellico Reservoir

Flowing through East Tennessee at the foot of the Smoky Mountains is the Tellico Reservoir. Located just outside Knoxville in Loudon County, this 16,000-acre lake is the perfect spot relax and unwind. If getting in a few rounds of golf is on the top of your to-do list, check out one of the many beautiful courses dotting the 373 miles of shoreline.

Location: Loudon County

Tent camping: Yes
RV camping: Yes
Cabin rentals: Yes
Boat rentals: Yes
Canoe rentals: Yes
Fishing: Yes
Swim beach: Yes
Hiking trails: Yes

Click here for more information.

Dale Hollow Reservoir

Enjoy the best of Tennessee and Kentucky when you visit Dale Hollow Lake. Located less than an hour’s drive north of Cookeville, Dale Hollow is known for its highly ranked golf courses, large campgrounds and horseback riding trails. Fishing is also popular with the lake currently holding a record number for both smallmouth bass and trout.

Location: Celina

Tent camping: Yes
RV camping: Yes
Cabin rentals: Yes
Boat rentals: Yes
Canoe rentals: Yes
Fishing: Yes
Swim beach: Yes
Hiking trails: Yes

Click here for more information.

Chickamauga Lake

In less than an hour’s drive north from Chattanooga, Chickamauga Lake in Daytonattracts millions of visitors each year. Boating, water-skiing and swimming are popular outdoor activities. The lake is also well known for its excellent fishing with an abundance of large mouth bass and catfish.

Location: Dayton

Tent camping: Yes
RV camping: Yes
Cabin rentals: Yes
Boat rentals: Yes
Canoe rentals: Yes
Fishing: Yes
Swim beach: Yes
Hiking trails: Yes

Click here for more information.

Cherokee Lake

Named after the Native American tribe, Cherokee Lake is a reservoir located near Jefferson City, a 40-minute drive from Knoxville. This popular destination includes a shoreline full of boat docks, resorts, parks, and picnic areas.

Location: Jefferson City

Tent camping: Yes
RV camping: Yes
Cabin rentals: Yes
Boat rentals: Yes
Canoe rentals: Yes
Fishing: Yes
Swim beach: Yes
Hiking trails: Yes

Click here for more information.

Center Hill Lake

Take a one-hour drive northeast from Murfreesboro to visit Lancaster, the home to Center Hill Lake. Covering nearly 18,200 acres, the number of available outdoor activities is endless. Spend a long weekend swimming, hiking, camping and bird watching.

Location: Lancaster

Tent camping: Yes
RV camping: Yes
Cabin rentals: Yes
Boat rentals: Yes
Canoe rentals: Yes
Fishing: Yes
Swim beach: Yes
Hiking trails: Yes

Click here for more information.

Nickajack Lake

Enjoy the beauty of Nickajack Lake or as some call it, “the Grand Canyon of Tennessee.”  Located about 30 miles from Chattanooga in the city of Guild, the nearby Tennessee River Gorge provides breathtaking scenery. This area is a boater’s paradise with 215 miles of winding shorelines.

Location: Guild
Tent camping: Yes
RV camping: Yes
Cabin rentals: Yes, including floating cabins
Boat rentals: Yes
Canoe rentals: Yes
Fishing: Yes
Swim beach: Yes
Hiking trails: Yes

Click here for more information.

Reelfoot Lake

Located near Tiptonville in the northwestern corner of Tennessee, Reelfoot Lake was created by a series of earthquakes in the early 1800s. This 15,000-acre reservoir is home to bald eagles, pelicans and blue herons. Take a scenic tour on a pontoon boat to catch a glimpse at the variety of flowers and wildlife on the shoreline.

Location: Tiptonville

Tent camping: Yes
RV camping: Yes
Cabin rentals: Yes
Boat rentals: Yes
Canoe rentals: Yes
Fishing: Yes
Swim beach: No swimming permitted
Hiking trails: Limited, but available

Click here for more information.

For additional waterfront camping options, check out other campsites on Tennessee Valley Authority land. Many lakes in Tennessee offer on-site swim beaches, power and water hookups for RVs, warm showers and other amenities.

Most outdoor activities have some level of risk, and you may need to consult an expert before engaging in the activity. Always
check the current weather conditions before embarking on any outdoor activity.

Leah Newman

Leah Newman is a freelance writer with particular interest in health and wellness, law, and personal finance. Her background is in journalism, and includes several years as a staff writer and editor at a daily newspaper. She has previously worked at the YMCA of Middle Tennessee, YMCA Camp Widjiwagan and Atlanta Motor Speedway. Leah lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Leah Newman is a freelance writer with particular interest in health and wellness, law, and personal finance. Her background is in journalism, and includes several years as a staff writer and editor at a daily newspaper. She has previously worked at the YMCA of Middle Tennessee, YMCA Camp Widjiwagan and Atlanta Motor Speedway. Leah lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

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