5 Best Free Camping Spots in Tennessee
If you are on the hunt for some great free camping in Tennessee, look no further than the 5 camp areas listed below. But keep in mind that “free” usually means there are no frills.
There is, however, a lot of privacy, scenery, solitude!
Just follow these suggestions to make your boondocking experience a great one.
What You Need To Know About Free Camping
Because most free campsites do not provide any amenities, be prepared to provide your own:
- Water (Jugs, RV freshwater tanks, or bottles of water)
- Power (solar power or generator)
- Waste Management (a way to collect and throw away, legally)
It is also good practice to take a close look at the prospective site before you bring your RV or trailer to the location. This confirms that your rig can handle the road access and will fit into the camping area without problems.
You can do this by driving your tow vehicle or toad into the destination first, or by utilizing Google Maps with Street View and Satellite View. Some tech-savvy campers even send a drone over the campsite for real-time images.
Here are 5 terrific locations in the Volunteer State that provide free camping:
#1 Rhea Springs Recreation Area
Located in Spring City, Tennessee on Rhea Springs Road, the GPS coordinates for the campground are 35.6832, -84.8262.
Rhea Springs was created by the Tennessee Valley Authority, when the Piney River was dammed to provide electricity. The recreation area sits on Watts Bar Reservoir, giving campers the opportunity to fish or enjoy boating and swimming in its waters.
Campsites are plentiful and widely spaced, with shady, lakefront sites being the most popular. The campsite provides fire rings, picnic tables, and a bathhouse.
Grateful campers enjoy this beautiful campground, not only for its price ($0), but for the quiet and peaceful location on the reservoir. A swim beach and boat ramp tempt many into the water.
Free Camping in Tennessee Vibes: 7.9/10
#2 Jackson Island Campground
Also located outside of Spring City, Jackson Island can be found at GPS coordinates 35.6613, -84.8454.
Watts Bar Reservoir provides the setting for yet another free camping area. Jackson Island is a bit more rustic than Rhea Springs, with no bathhouse. But campers will find great sites with beaches, and vault restrooms are available.
Large rigs can maneuver easily here, but many campsites are not quite level, so come prepared. Mature forests offer great shade and some privacy between sites, and the use of generators is allowed, so providing your own electricity is a cinch!
Those campers who are looking for a campsite just off the beaten path will enjoy this easily-accessible camping area, with all of the perks of camping at the lake.
Cell signal may be harder to access at this site – you may want to invest in an RV cell booster to stay connected.
Free Camping in Tennessee Vibes: 8.3/10
#3 Meriwether Lewis Campground
One of three campgrounds that lie within the boundaries of the Natchez Trace Parkway, the Meriwether Lewis Campground offers 32 tranquil sites situated within forested landscape.
Entrance off the parkway is far enough off the well-traveled road to provide quiet, somewhat secluded sites that fill up quickly, especially on weekends. Here’s the GPS coordinates 35.5225, -87.456.
Each campsite comes complete with its own picnic table and fire ring, and although the campground does not offer showers, there are flush toilets available and a few sites have water.
Several hiking trails branch off from the campground and a chance to explore more of the Natchez Trace is provided by allowing campers to stay for up to 14 days.
History and nature lovers rave about the Meriwether Lewis Campground, as the opportunity to experience the stories of the Natchez Trace and the legacy of the campground’s namesake in such beautiful surroundings is definitely a win-win!
Free Camping in Tennessee Vibes: 8.7/10
#4 Holleman’s Bend Camping Area
Located just an hour’s drive from Nashville, Holleman’s Bend Horse Camp was created by the Army Corps of Engineers. Its GPS coordinates are 36.3167, -85.7932.
These primitive campsites were designed with horse riders in mind, so hitching posts abound! There is a small boat launch here, and the designated camping areas are within the parking area leading to the launch. Smaller trailers and tent campers will find this a quiet respite along the lakeshore.
If you’re looking for a bit of solitude not far from the bustling life in Music City, Holleman’s Bend may just be the ticket!
Free Camping in Tennessee Vibes: 6.3/10
#5 Big Creek Primitive Campground
This campground is big on nature, but small on campsite sizes. Located within 2 hours’ driving distance to Chattanooga, Big Creek is located right where you’d expect it to be…on Big Creek. The GPS coordinates are 35.046342, -84.543606.
6 sites are scattered in the woods along the water. They are all better suited for tenters and truck campers.
Getting to the campground is a bit of a chore. Narrow gravel roads with plenty of switchbacks make the drive challenging.
Because of its primitive location, there is no cell service, and solar is of no benefit in this forest. But several hiking trails emanate out from the campsites, and world-class kayaking can be found on the nearby Ocoee River.
Anyone who is entranced by the rushing water of mountain creeks and rivers and the tranquility of unpopulated forestland will find Big Creek Campground a gem in the Smoky Mountains. It’s far enough off the beaten path that only the determined will uncover its secrets.
Free Camping in Tennessee Vibes: 6.9/10
Trip Routing to Tennessee Campsites
If you’re traveling with an RV, trip planning to Tennessee is essential. The Volunteer State is known for its switchbacks & mountain passes.
With RV Trip Wizard you can get a much better understanding of what to expect for a travel day. After spending a big amount of money on an RV, you don’t want to run into a low hanging bridge!
We use RV Trip Wizard to route our cross country trips. With tools like budgeting, fuel planning, and avoiding bridges, we can easily travel safely through the USA.
Here’s how to sign up to RV Trip Wizard for free.
Discover the Best Free Camping in America
To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).
You should give it a try!
As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.
Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site!
We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below:
Saturday 22nd of January 2022
Tennessee local here and have camped at Jackson Island a few times as it's just down the road from us. Unfortunately we have heard that Rhea Springs Campground is soon to no longer be free.
M Bruce Parker
Wednesday 12th of January 2022
While the Michelin representative showed and discussed a Michelin 4S tire with remarkable speed capacity, most RV tires have much less speed tolerance. Read your tire sidewalls and obey, or weep.
21 Best Free Campsites in America - Drivin' & Vibin'
Thursday 30th of December 2021
[…] Nearby Camping Attractions: Tennessee a number of awesome boondocking spots. Here’s our guide to camping in Tennessee. […]
Friday 24th of July 2020
I am new at rv and camping. The wife and I are going to visit South Dakota & Wyoming. We just converted a 2017 sprinter van. What tips you may offer as far as visiting and getting prepared for a 2 week road trip. This has been a dream to visit western state. You input is much appreciated. I follow your post and trying to stay on top of van life. Sal Vitale