When you think of camping in Tennessee, do you think of hiking, biking, and horseback riding? Or maybe you are more interested in water activities like boating, swimming, and fishing. Whatever you are in to, you can probably find it at Panther Creek State Park in Morristown, Tennessee.
Located in the historic Holston River Valley, the park is on the shores of Cherokee Lake, where you can enjoy fishing for largemouth bass, catfish, and other species or take your boat out onto the water for the day. Panther Springs is one of the oldest settlements in the county and was once the very first stop on the stagecoach route to Virginia from Knoxville. Before that, the Cherokee Indians were prominent in the area, which is where the lake got its name.
This park offers a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities with more than 17 hiking trails, over 15 miles of mountain biking trails, and two equestrian trails. With over 1,400 acres, this park and the Cherokee Reservoir has so much to offer you will have to stay for a week or two in order to enjoy it all. Luckily, the park also has an awesome campground with 50 sites to choose from. You are only allowed to stay up to 14 days at a time, but you can come back again anytime.
You will not have any trouble finding Panther Creek State Park in northeastern Tennessee on TN-342 between US-11E, TN-92, US-11W, and TN-32. The park is less than 40 miles northwest of Knoxville, where you can visit the Museum of East Tennessee History and a log cabin made in 1786. And just about 51 miles southwest of the park, you will find Gatlinburg, which is also the home of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just 42 miles to the south and has over 500,000 acres to explore. In fact, the park is spread out over two states, Tennessee and North Carolina. Some of the activities here include hiking, camping, fishing, swimming, boating, and much more. If you like birds, take some time to check out the Seven Islands State Birding Park about 38 miles to the southwest. You can also enjoy hiking, fishing, and boating here, among other activities.
The roads that take you to the park are fairly easy to travel since they are mostly highways and interstates. Once you get closer to the park, some of the streets can be narrow and curvy. It is best to go slow, especially if you are pulling a trailer or driving a large motorhome. The park itself is well-maintained and easy to maneuver since it caters to RVers often. However, it is still best to have another mode of transportation like bikes or another vehicle so you can leave the rig at the campsite while you enjoy the park.
Tucked into the middle of the park at the curve of the Cherokee Lake Embayment, the park has 50 nice-sized campsites. With water and 20/30/50-amp electric hookups, you can cook indoors or out on the campfire or BBQ pit provided by the park. You’ll be able to gather around the large picnic table, which is also provided. Eight of the campsites have sewer hookups as well. The park provides hot showers and modern restrooms with running water with one at each end of the camping loop. RV and trailer length limits vary greatly, with some being as short as 21 feet while others are up to 66 feet. About a third of them are 60 feet or longer, and there are only six that are less than 30 feet long. Be sure to check the length limit when making your reservations. You can also find a laundromat and RV dump station at the campground. If you need any basic supplies like ice or firewood, there is a camp store at the bottom of the hill. Go ahead and pack up your furbabies and bring them along because they are welcome here too.
Are you a fan of disc golf? If you are, you have probably noticed that there are not a whole lot of courses to play in Tennessee, or anywhere else for that matter. While disc golf has been around for many years, it is just now catching on in the United States and is becoming more popular. Panther Creek State Park has an 18-hole disc golf course approved by the Professional Disc Golf Association with a perfect rating of five out of five stars. The course has dense woods and high elevation, with some of the holes being four and five par. The total length of the course is 9,600 feet and has many long hills, so be prepared to walk. Pack some extra water in your golf bag and take it slow if the weather is hot.
Speaking of hot weather, Tennessee is notorious for hot and humid summers, so pack those bathing suits and sunscreen in the camper before heading to Panther Creek State Park. You’ll find plenty of places to take a dip in the water here with several options along the banks of Panther Creek and Cherokee Lake. The park also has a pool open from May until September on Wednesdays through Sundays. This is an outdoor pool, so don’t expect it to be open if the weather is bad, but they do have lifeguards and the option to reserve the pool for private parties.
Put that bike rack on the rig and bring along your bikes so you can enjoy some of the seven mountain biking trails. The Pioneer Trail is one of the longest at 2.4 miles and is a moderately difficult path through the forest. For a short and easy ride, take the 0.9-mile Panther Path through hardwoods and open fields. The Trout Lily Trail is two miles long and a bit of a challenge as it winds along the shoreline of Cherokee Lake and into the rocky and root-filled terrain. Some of the other trails include the one-mile Old Farm Trail, 0.8-mile Deer Run Trail, 0.6-mile Piney Cove Trail, and the one-mile Old Wagon Trail.
Guests will find a wide variety of hiking options in this stunning park. You can choose from one of the many hiking trails or the multi-use trails where you can share the path with bikers and equestrians. Some of the hiking-only trails include the 1.9-mile Point Lookout Trail that takes you up to 1,460 feet above the lake, the more challenging 0.7-mile Ridge Crest Trail where you’ll venture down Hunt Knob, and the easy 0.6-mile Seven Sinkholes Trail, which leads you around seven different sinkholes. Some of the others include the 1.9-mile Lost Road, the 1.3-mile Ore Mine Trail, the 1.2-mile Road to Recycling, and the 0.45-mile Norris Blackburn Trail.
All year long, Panther Creek State Park offers fun and educational programs to teach you about the park’s flora, fauna, and a bit about the park’s history as well. Enjoy a guided tour of the lake or a hike in the woods, searching for clues to the park’s fantastic wildlife habits. You and the kids will love the canoeing explorations and hands-on animal exhibits with the park rangers. The Norris Blackburn Wildlife Observatory is also a fun place to learn about the wonders of the park and surrounding areas.
You and your equestrian friend can enjoy the trails at Panther Creek State Park, too. There are two horseback riding trails. Starting out at the Horse and Bike Trail parking lot off Panther Creek Road, you can follow the Horse Connector Trail 2.6 miles along the road and then into the deeper areas of the park, meandering along the banks of Cherokee Lake. This trail winds around the embayment and up alongside the park road until you reach Hunt Knob Trail. You can continue to follow Hunt Knob Loop about 3.8 miles to the end of the peninsula and back or just turn around and follow the path back to the parking lot.