15 Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Tennessee

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Tennessee, nicknamed The Volunteer State, sure has a lot of places to see and visit. When browsing through some of the most amazing pictures I was surely amazed with how many awesome sites I still have to visit in this state!

1. Lover’s Leap

Lover's LeapSource: Kenneth Dean / shutterstock
Lover’s Leap

Tennessee is home to some beautiful natural sights, but perhaps the best of the lot can be found at Lover’s Leap, which is where you can spot seven differed states – how many can you see? The rare white Fallow deer can also be seen within the Rock City attraction, but for the best views of the land surrounding Lookout Mountain visitors will have to be brave enough to cross the Swing-A-Long bridge.

From Lover’s Leap you will, on a clear day, be able to see Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. If you squint, you might just make out Kentucky and Virginia too – a great test for the eyes.

2. Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National ParkSource: anthony heflin / shutterstock
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Straddling the border of Tennessee and North Carolina is the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, which is the most visited national park in the States. Biking, hiking, fishing and camping are among the many leisure activities available within the grounds of the park, while Cades Cove – which we will come to later in this list – is the single most frequented destination in the national park.

Horseback Riding and picnicking are among the most popular activities in the park, which has two main visitors’ centers: Sugarlands Visitors’ Center and Oconaluftee Visitor Center.

3. Big South Fork National River

Big South Fork National RiverSource: anthony heflin / shutterstock
Big South Fork National River

Covering a massive 125,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau, the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the whole of Tennessee. There is a huge array of scenic gorges and sandstone bluffs to explore in the park, which has a rich and diverse history dating back for 10,000 years.

With five camping grounds, any happy camper visiting during a trip to Tennessee is well catered for, while taking a dip at Bandy Creek Swimming Pool is also a must during a visit to the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.

4. Rainbow Hall

Rock City Trail near ChattanoogaSource: Bob Pool / shutterstock
Rock City Trail Near Chattanooga

No trip experiencing the nature of Tennessee would be complete without taking in the amazing sight of Rainbow Hall, which can be found at Rock City. For anyone who has ever wondered what Chattanooga would look like with purple or green air, Rainbow Hall provides the unforgettable answer to that question.

Rainbow Hall has been made possible by windows covered in coloured gel, providing a completely unique way to take in the simply stunning scenery of Tennessee.

5. Rock Island State Park

Rock Island State Park, TennesseeSource: Michael Shake / shutterstock
Rock Island State Park

As far as beautiful places to visit in Tennessee go, Rock Island State Park is right up there at the top. The Great Falls Gorge is one of the main natural and historical features of the park, which also boasts Twin Falls, a cascade waterfall spilling down from an underground cavern into the park’s Caney Fork.

The 883-acre park can be found on the headwaters of Center Hill Lake and there is no doubt that the scenery on show is among the finest on the Eastern Highland Rim.

6. Burgess Falls State Park

Burgess Falls State ParkSource: anthony heflin / shutterstock
Burgess Falls State Park

The waterfalls at Burgess Falls State Park are some of the most beautiful sights in Tennessee. Located on the Falling Water River, fishing and picnicking are some of the most popular activities at the park.

To see the most impressive of the waterfalls within the grounds of the park, the best trail to take is the 1.5-mile round-trip River Trail/Service Road Loop, which is of moderate difficulty. The half-mile Ridge Top Trail is also well worth taking on for the stunning views down the Falling Water River.

7. Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg, TennesseeSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock

During winter in Tennessee, there is nowhere more beautiful to visit than the mountain resort of Gatlinburg. From November to February the town is lit up by stunning environmentally-friendly displays, with unique LED lighting displays along Gatlinburg’s famous Downtown Parkway, adjacent River Road, among the most impressive of the sights on offer.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park animals such as deer, foxes, squirrels and rabbits make up a part of the lighting displays, while a shiny rocking horse and dancing fountains can also be spotted.

Ober Gatlinburg is Tennessee’s only ski resort, while Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a popular attraction too.

8. Hurricane Mills

Hurricane MillsSource: Charles Lemar Brown / shutterstock
Hurricane Mills

Hurricane Mills – the home of Loretta Lynn’s ranch – is one of Tennessee’s most popular tourist attractions. Loretta Lynn’s Coal Miner’s Daughter Museum is one of the main things to do, while the area also plays hosts to several concerts and motocross races, the highlight of which is probably the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship.

Loretta Lynn’s ranch is arguably even more beautiful in its own way than Graceland, with Hurricane Mills also home to one of the most famous haunted houses in the region – dare you check it out?

9. Signal Mountain

Signal Mountain, TennesseeSource: Melinda Fawver / shutterstock
Signal Mountain

Not only is Signal Mountain one of Tennessee’s most beautiful places to visit, it is certainly one of the state’s most historic locations too. Signal Point was originally used by Native Americans to send messages and today, the views from the top, looking over the Tennessee River Valley and the City of Chattanooga, are among the most unforgettable in the States.

Nearby places of interest include the Tennessee Riverfront and Aquarium, the Hunter Museum of Art and the Chattanooga Choo Choo, as well as all the many attractions of downtown Chattanooga.

10. Dollywood Express Steam Train

Dollywood Express Steam TrainSource: PT Hamilton / shutterstock
Dollywood Express Steam Train

To experience the breathtaking scenery of the Great Smoky Mountains, there are few better journeys than the Dollywood Express Steam Train, a 20-minute mountain excursion providing some of the most beautiful views of anywhere in the United States, let alone in the state of Tennessee.

The theme park the railway is a part of was renamed Dollywood in the 1980s after singer Dolly Parton purchased a part-stake in the park. In a typical season, around three million people visit Dollywood, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Tennessee.

11. Cade’s Cove

Cade's Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TennesseeSource: Jon Bilous / shutterstock
Cade’s Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Among the most popular destinations in the Great Smokies, Cade’s Cove is arguably the most beautiful spot anywhere in the state of Tennessee. The isolated valley attracts more than two million visitors a year, with a trip around Cade’s Cove taking between two to four hours by car at a leisurely pace – it is also permitted to cycle through Cade’s Cove, with bikes available to rent too.

White-tailed deer are among the wildlife that can be spotted at Cade’s Cove, as well as black bears, coyotes, skunks, groundhogs and many, many other types of animals. The Cades Cove Historic District is, quite rightly, included on the National Register of Historic Places.

12. Cumberland Caverns

Cumberland CavernsSource: JRippestudios / shutterstock
Cumberland Caverns

One of the longest caves in the whole world, Cumberland Caverns is a must for anyone seeking a truly unique experience during their visit to Tennessee. Year-round commercial tours of the cave are available through the Cumberland Caverns company, while there is also the chance to go spelunking or even host a wedding party in the cave system. In total, there are well over 30 miles of caves and underground passageways to explore a Cumberland Caverns.

13. Abandoned Tennessee State Penitentiary

Abandoned Tennessee State PenitentiarySource: Small Town Big World / shutterstock
Abandoned Tennessee State Penitentiary

The old Tennessee State Prison is one of the most beautiful buildings in Tennessee, as well as one of the most physically imposing. The prison has been closed since 1992 but in the last two decades it has grown into one of the state’s most popular strange tourist attractions. The Green Mile, Attica, and The Last Castle are among the movies to have had some scenes filmed at the old Tennessee State Prison.

A tour of the abandoned building even provides the chance to experience the eerie site of the prison’s old Death Row. The prison can be found just a few miles to the west of Nashville and is one of the spookiest and most memorable days out in the state.

14. Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National ParkSource: anthony heflin / shutterstock
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Hiking fanatics will find few better places to visit in Tennessee than the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With 850 miles of trails and unpaved roads to cover, there is so much to see and do for walking enthusiasts.

Alum Cave Bluffs and Arch Rock are among the must-see sights within the grounds of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, while experienced hikers can even take on the third highest summit in the park, Mount Le Conte. The mountain is famous for having the highest inn that offers lodging for visitors of anywhere in the Eastern United States.

15 Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Tennessee:

  • Lover's Leap
  • Great Smoky Mountain National Park
  • Big South Fork National River
  • Rainbow Hall
  • Rock Island State Park
  • Burgess Falls State Park
  • Gatlinburg
  • Hurricane Mills
  • Signal Mountain
  • Dollywood Express Steam Train
  • Cade's Cove
  • Cumberland Caverns
  • Abandoned Tennessee State Penitentiary
  • Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park