Tennessee’s Frozen Head State Park is located in the Crab Orchard Mountains, some of the highest mountains west of Tennessee’s Blue Ridge Mountain Range. The park has six mountain peaks situated in the park. The smallest peak, Chimney Top Mountain, rises to an elevation of over 3,100 feet. The largest peak, the park’s namesake, Frozen Head, stands at 3,324 feet above sea level. The tree-covered mountains provide a majestic backdrop for campers and RVers, and the impressive scenery helps every visitor fall in love with Tennessee.
With more than 24,000 acres, the vast terrain includes some of the most beautiful landscapes in the state. From mountains to waterfalls, you will not be disappointed with the scenery here. The park has two plunge waterfalls, DeBord and Emory Falls, that cascade down Tennessee’s rocky and mountainous terrain. Surrounded by hemlock, maple, hickory, and oak trees, the lush scenery beckons visitors to explore the park by trail. The park is known for its expansive trail system, and hikers come to stay and hike inside of this park year-round.
When you aren’t hiking, visiting waterfalls, or climbing mountains, you can enjoy picnicking at one of the impressive picnic areas, riding your bike on the 6.9-mile Lookout Tower Trail, or throwing your line in the water to try your luck at catching some fish. If you plan on staying the night or the weekend, choose from one of the 20 primitive campsites in the middle of the park.
Frozen Head State Park, in Wartburg, Tennessee, is located approximately one hour northwest of Knoxville and less than three hours east of Nashville. The major roads going into the park include I-40 from the west and south, I-75 from the north or east, and TN-27 from the north or west. The park’s entrance is located approximately six miles from Highway 62.
The drive is tree-lined and hilly and follows Tennessee’s mountainous terrain. You’ll need to drive slowly and carefully if you are pulling a trailer or driving a large RV. If you visit the park during the winter, be sure to contact the park office to check road conditions in and around the park. Sometimes the roads have to be closed because of too much snow.
Pick up a park map at the entrance and follow the signs to the camping area. RVers should look for Big Cove Campground, as there are also tent-only campgrounds in the park. When reserving your campsite, please be aware of the site’s slope and size restrictions. Always allow yourself plenty of room for your slides and awnings, as well as adequate space for maneuvering.
Enjoy the solitude and tranquility underneath the trees in the shaded and partially shaded, rugged campsites at Frozen Head State Park. Your RV or trailer will fit on the gravel spaces ranging in size from 25 to 67 feet, and you’ll enjoy having plenty of room between you and your neighbors. Each space is equipped with a fire ring, picnic table, grill, and lantern hanger. Please note that Big Cove is a pet-friendly, year-round, primitive campground, and there aren’t any electrical or water hookups or dump stations anywhere inside of the park; however, there is a modern restroom with hot showers in the middle of the campground as well as a centrally located potable water spigot.
Hikers will like the proximity of the trails. The Amphitheater Trail is located to the west of the campground, and the Lookout Tower Trail begins at the parking lot to the north of the campground.
If you wish to have a fire, be aware that the park is part of an initiative that hopes to stop the spread of invasive pests. Campers should purchase Certified Heat-Treated Firewood or contact the park about other campfire rules. Generator use is allowed outside of the park’s posted quiet hours of 10 PM and 6 AM. Reservations are required and can be made up to 12 months in advance.
The park also offers eight primitive group campsites in the Flat Fork Primitive Group Campground on Flat Fork Road. These sites are located on the northern side of the road between the Panther Branch Trailhead and the Shelter A Picnic Pavilion. Each of these sites can accommodate up to 15 people and has a picnic table and fire ring. You can hike to the Big Cove Campground, where you will have access to the bathhouse and restrooms that offer hot showers and running water. There is also a large parking lot at the Panther Branch Trailhead, where you can park and walk into the campsites.
Bear in mind that you can't drive to these campsites. These are primitive sites nestled in the woods that you have to hike about a half-mile to get to. There is one parking spot allowed for each campsite. If you need more room, you can use the picnic area or trailhead parking lot. Remember, you have to make a reservation, which can be done one year in advance.
The park encourages people to get outside and enjoy nature. What better way to enjoy the outdoors than with a picnic? Pack your meal and bring the family to one of the large picnic shelters and enjoy your meal with a view. The picnic areas have water fountains, restrooms, and playgrounds, as well as horseshoe pits and volleyball courts. If you are interested in hosting a large group, then you can reserve a group shelter for a more organized picnic event.
The Tennessee State Park system encourages visitors of all ages to learn about nature, ecology, and conservation. The park’s naturalists regularly create varying levels of interpretative programs both in the park and off-site for visitors to enjoy. The programs help educate people of all ages. These events take place all year and change depending on the needs and interests of the public. If you are interested, contact the park to find out what event is happening when you come for a visit.
Hiking is one of the most popular activities in Frozen Head State Park. The trail system inside of the park offers more than 50 miles of well-marked, color-blazed trails for hikers. The trails range from easy to strenuous, so almost any level of hiker can experience the park on foot. Spend the day wandering or plan for a more strenuous overnight backpacking adventure. Visit the park for a hand-held map or download a geo-referenced PDF Map online for a more detailed hiking experience.
The waters of Flat Fork Creek are clear and refreshing, perfect for a summer swim, so go ahead and pack your bathing suits in your rig before heading to Frozen Head State Park. You’ll want to cool off in one of the larger pools of water while you enjoy the peacefulness and beauty of the surrounding forest. Bring the kids along and pack a lunch, and you can spend the whole day next to the water.
In the spring, the park stocks Flat Fork Creek with rainbow trout. People who possess a Tennessee fishing license and a trout stamp can fish along the creek. Bring your own fishing supplies and watch the wildflowers bloom while you quietly dip your pole in the water. Fishing is an activity that people of all ages can enjoy. Check with the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission for more information on licenses or stop by the visitor’s center to find out about the best fishing locations inside of the park.
From early spring to the beginning of summer, Tennessee’s wildflowers paint the landscape with prismatic colors. Pick up a wildflower checklist at the visitor’s center and acquaint yourself with one hundred different flower species spotted inside of the park. The checklist gives visitors the common and the scientific name of the flowers and also provides a space to fill in the wildflowers not listed, just in case you happen to spot something the park rangers haven’t seen. Wildflower viewing is an activity the entire family can enjoy.
Visitors wishing to see Tennessee from an elevated location can take a day trip to the observation deck and witness 360 degrees of vast mountain terrain. The observation deck, once a former Civilian Conservation Corps fire tower, gives visitors an above the tree-line view of the Great Smoky Mountains, Walden Ridge, Tennessee Valley, and the Cumberland Plateau. To get to the observation deck, visitors must hike the scenic seven-mile, round-trip trail. The hike, rated as moderate, begins at the Old Mac Trailhead. For detailed information, stop by the visitor’s center to talk to park rangers.
While you are at Frozen Head State Park, take advantage of the closeness of the Obed Wild and Scenic River. If you are a fan of whitewater rafting, get your adrenaline flowing with the Class II to Class IV rapids in this exciting river. The best time to ride the rapids is during the winter or early spring. If you have not done any whitewater rafting before, you’ll need to get familiar with the river in one of the slower flowing areas. In high water conditions, the rapids can even reach Class V, so check with the local rangers and paddlers in the area before entering the water.