The temperature is rising and the sun is shining in southeast Tennessee, which means we are all itching to find new outdoor adventure spots to explore! This past weekend, my parents and my boyfriend Ethan joined me for a stunning visit to the Cherokee National Forest, Chilhowee Recreation Area, located right outside of Cleveland in Polk County! I have grown up in this area, but my boyfriend who grew up in Atlanta had never been to our beautiful backyard! It was cool to see him experience it for the first time!

Chilhowee Campground offers more than 70 campsites, electric hookups, RV sites, tent-only sites and multiple bathhouses. The campground is usually open from early April to late October, with an overflow area and day use area open year-round. Seven-acre McKamy Lake offers a swimming area with a sand beach and fishing from the bank. Boats are allowed, but gasoline motors are prohibited.

Also, within the recreation area are approximately 25 miles of hiking and biking trails, and a scenic waterfall. On the drive up to the campground, one can stop at one of the many observation overlooks to see beautiful mountain settings.

The photos below were taken at one of the scenic overlooks on the drive to Chilhowee.

Chilhowee mountain fun
Mountain Fun

We enjoyed the most highly walked trail at Chilhowee, roughly 1.6 miles one way.  This trail ends at beautiful Benton Falls. The picturesque view of the falls is breathtaking! The trail leads to the top of the falls and then continues with steps that lead to the floor of the falls. Ethan also brought his eno hammock to the falls and put it up between two trees. We sat admiring the beauty swinging from there! I would recommend bringing yours if you have one!

The photos below were taken at Benton Falls.

Mountain Fun
Mountain Fun
Mountain Fun

We were very pleased that the park was open to the public the weekend we visited. Due to the current worldwide Pandemic, COVID-19, the day use area opened on May 22 and the campground reopened on June 1.

This location is fun and exciting for families and friends of all ages to enjoy!

This blog is written by Emily Erin Jackson, a senior at Lee University, in Cleveland, Tennessee.

Emily was born in the area and is rediscovering her hometown and nearby attractions. She is completing an internship in the Tourism Development Division at the Bradley/Cleveland Chamber of Commerce.