Best Free Camping in Tennessee

Free camping in Tennessee

The Volunteer State has an abundance of hiking, sightseeing, and plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. Below are the top places for free camping in Tennessee.

See the free camping in Tennessee map.

Meriwether Lewis Campground

The Natchez Trace Parkway winds through parts of Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. Outdoor enthusiasts looking for a unique camping experience can enjoy free primitive camping at the Meriwether Lewis Campground, located in Tennessee at Mile Post 385.9.

The Meriwether Lewis Campground offers 32 sites that are pull-through and back-in sites. There are restrooms and drinking water available, however, there are no additional amenities. These free camping sites can accommodate RVs or tents. Before traveling, contact the National Park Service to ensure the campground is open, as the campgrounds may close due to weather or other conditions.

Activities on the Natchez Trace Parkway

Travelers can enjoy other recreational activities like exploring hiking trails, bicycling, and horse-back riding on the Natchez Trace Parkway. The section that winds through Tennessee is known for its waterfalls and hiking trails. Cultural enthusiasts will enjoy the Parkway’s rich history and landmarks.

The National Park Service has designated five campgrounds available to cyclists only. These bicycle-only free park campgrounds are “first come, first serve” and are spaced out to allow for a typical days’ ride between sites (30-60 miles).

National Parks and Forests

While there is no free camping available within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Cherokee National Forest (the only national forest in Tennessee) shares a boundary with the national park and offers up some amazing places for free wilderness camping.

The areas with designated sites for dispersed camping are Citico Creek Area and the French Broad Creek Area. These areas also provide recreational opportunities for hiking, bicycling, and creek-play.

Citico Creek Area is known for its ample fishing opportunities (trout, bass, and catfish). If staying at the French Broad Creek Area, you’ll need to look for signs directing you to the Paint Creek Corridor, as this is where the designated dispersed campsites are located. The Paint Creek Corridor is known for its scenic drive and picturesque picnic opportunities.

All of the dispersed camping sites within the Cherokee National Forest are primitive, without running water or electricity. Be sure to check out the Cherokee National Forest website for any restrictions or warnings before heading out.

Additional National Parks in Tennessee

While the state is beautiful during all seasons, autumn may be the ideal time to enjoy free camping in Tennessee because of the picturesque fall foliage. That being said, each season offers a unique opportunity to explore the natural beauty of the state. Whichever time of year you decide to take your adventure, enjoy your time in Tennessee!

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Recent Tennessee Free Campsite Reviews

Knoxville, TN

Cracker Barrel

Sep 14, 2021

"Free with good dinner."

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Called the manager to confirm they would allow overnight. We stayed on a Sunday night and they close at 9 pm. Dinner service was great, food was predictable. Lots of road noise from I-75. There was another rig in the parking spots across the back and a catering truck in the other parking spot section. By disconnecting our toad, our 39’ rig...
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Joe Mills
8 reviews

"Decent sites"

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We stayed one night. The road between sites can be pretty rough in some areas. The police were also rolling through trying to move out the massive amount of people that had made permanent residency in the camp sites. These people made it difficult to find a good spot. Not ideal for campers.

Zachary Arnett
1 review
Reliance, TN

Lost Creek Campground

Sep 01, 2021

"Great for tents, rooftop tents, pop ups"

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It’s located pretty far off the beaten path and is no longer a paid site campground. It receives minimal upkeep mainly due to its distance. Maybe why they let it go as a paid site with full maintenance. It has a dry restroom with separate men’s and women’s sides. It has several walking trails that intercept nearby. The creek there is crystal...
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James Allen
4 reviews
Cleveland, TN

Cracker Barrel

Aug 24, 2021

"Nice quiet spot for an overnight. "

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The staff at the CB are very nice and said there was no problem with me camping over night. The lot is mostly level and well lit for camping. There was enough light to feel safe but not so much that it came through the windows making it hard to sleep. The area was quiet at night, until 0600 when the trash truck emptied the dumpster. I had a good...
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6 reviews
Aug 23, 2021

"Still closed"

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Still closed as of 8/23/21.

Tom Grimes
20 reviews