Big Ridge State Park is a sprawling 3,687-acre park located in the Appalachian Ridge and Valley range of Union City, Tennessee, roughly 30-minutes, or 25 miles, north of Knoxville.
Home to narrow ridges, fertile valleys, dense forestry, a beautiful lake, and flourishing wildlife, this Tennessee state park is the perfect destination for sweeping views of natural scenery, immersive nature experiences, and exciting recreational activities that include hiking, camping, fishing, cycling, and more.
Here’s what you expect during your trip to Big Ridge State Park in Tennessee.
Big Ridge State Park is a haven for fun outdoor activities in nature. Visitors to the park can participate in fishing, paddling, boating, and swimming at Big Ridge Lake, as well as camping, cycling, and hiking on any one of 11 trails that, together, span over 15 miles.
Looking to play sports? You’ll find that the park offers a variety of spaces to enjoy recreational activities, including tennis courts, a basketball court, sand volleyball courts, and a softball field.
Furthermore, Big Ridge Park serves as an engaging learning environment and resource center for youth. The park provides interactive educational programming for students, including biology, early settler history, CCC history, and regional history courses, taught by expert park rangers.
Aside from serving as a fun opportunity to get students enthusiastic about nature and history, these programs satisfy Tennessee’s academic standards and can help contribute towards teacher’s scholastic goals.
As an added bonus, each year since 1981, Big Ridge has hosted the Bluegrass Festival, a gathering of talented artists, vendors, food, and live music, on the 3rd week of August.
Boating at Big Ridge State Park
Spanning 49-acres, Big Ridge Lake is a prominent destination for exciting boating adventures on the water. Boat docks are open Memorial Day through Labor Day, and canoes, rowboats, and paddleboats are available for rent for a small fee depending on length of use.
Visitors may also bring their own privately owned rowboats, however, any other private boat type, such as fishing boats, jet skis, kayaks, and wave runners, and are not allowed on Big Ridge Lake, but can be launched from the boat docks at Norris Lake.
Swimming at Big Ridge State Park
Big Ridge State Park is equipped with a small beach area located along Big Ridge Lake. Swimming at the enclosed beachfront is free of charge, and you’ll find a grassy picnic area with tables and BBQ grills surrounding the beach.
Please take note, there are no lifeguards on duty at the beach.
Hours: 8am to 8pm daily, Memorial Day through Labor Day
Hiking at Big Ridge State Park
Feel free to explore any one of the 11 scenic hiking trails at Big Ridge State Park. Open year round, the park’s hiking trails vary in length and difficulty, but their unparalleled views of the park’s natural beauty remains the same.
Here’s what you can expect from each trail:
Big Valley Trail: 1.90 miles – Very Difficult
This trail is one of the more strenuous hikes at Big Ridge State Park, passing over ridges and by several historical landmarks. Big Valley is the perfect starting point for avid hikers.
Chestnut Ridge Trail: 0.75 miles- Moderate
Chestnut Ridge Trail begins at Big Ridge’s cabin area and passes by sinkholes, erosive landscapes, and the remains of numerous American chestnut trees. It leads toward the park’s rear entrance.
Dark Hollow Trail: East/1.3 miles – West/1.7 miles – Both Moderate
The eastern trail portion of Dark Hollow starts at Big Valley Trail and leads to Norris Lake. The western trail portion begins at Big Ridge Dam and finishes at Big Valley Trail.
Fisherman’s Trail: 0.35 miles – Easy
This short trail is perfect for those looking to find secluded fishing spots near the rear entry point of the park.
Ghost House Trail: 1.25 miles – Moderate
This eerie loop trail leads from the group campgrounds and swings by several ‘haunted’ attractions that include Norton Cemetery, Matson Hutchinson’s sunken grave, and Ghost House.
Sharp Station’s Trail: 0.2 miles – Difficult
This trail is perfect for a short hike along the edge of Norris Lake, and it leads to Sharp Station Fort.
Indian Rock Trail: 2.65 miles – Very Difficult
As the longest and most difficult trail at Big Ridge State Park, this hike passes over rocky terrain and is only recommended for the most experienced hikers.
Lake Trail: 1.80 miles – Moderate
This fantastic trail crosses over Big Ridge Dam and follows along one side of Big Ridge Lake. It’s also great for exploration of the park’s wildlife.
Loyston Point Trail: 0.30 miles – Difficult
This short and difficult hike, named after the town once located in the area, leads hikers to a scenic area where they can view one of the best shots of Norris Lake.
Meditation Point Trail: 0.10 miles – Moderate
As Big Ridge State Park’s shortest hike, this trail does its job of offering a simple yet soothing and restorative path to a bench shelter.
Ole Mill Trail: 0.25 miles – Easy
The short and easy hike starts at the cabins near Big Ridge Lake and ends at Norton Gristmill, a historic attraction built in 1825.
Trail maps are available online and at the park office/visitor’s center, free of charge.
Biking at Big Ridge State Park
Cycling is allowed at Big Ridge State Park, but only on park roads. Riding a bike on the trails is prohibited, and anyone 16 or under is required to wear a helmet for safety.
Fishing at Big Ridge State Park
Year-round fishing is available at Big Ridge Lake, and an active state fishing permit is required for anyone ages 13-65. There are opportunities to catch a variety of fish, including small and largemouth bass, black bass, flathead catfish, crappie, trout, and bluegill.
Due to regulations, private watercraft and gas motors are prohibited on Big Ridge Lake, but the park provides suitable boat rentals for fishing any time of year outside of winter months.
Nature & Wildlife at Big Ridge State Park
Experience Big Ridge State Park’s thick forestry and thriving wildlife along its trails and across Big Ridge Lake.
Most the park is dominated by species of oak, tuliptree, hickory, and basswood trees, while various types of pine trees and cedars make up areas along the ridges.
Additionally, visitor sightings of beavers, white-tail deer, ducks, frogs, geese, woodpeckers, and Canadian geese are very common, especially in autumn months.
Migratory birds find shelter at the park in every season, but it’s highly recommended to observe the presence of elusive bald and golden eagles during winter.
Pets at Big Ridge State Park
It is permissible to bring pets to Big Ridge State Park. Dogs are required to be leashed at all times, and up to two pets are allowed in Big Ridge’s designated pet-friendly rustic cabins, at a rate of $20 per night.
Camping at Big Ridge State Park
Big Ridge State Park is a popular destination for outdoor camping in Tennessee. With over 50 campsites available, the park is fully equipped to host adventurous tent campers and nomadic RVers for single and multi-day experiences in a thriving natural habitat.
Every campsite is outfitted with electrical hookups, water fountains, picnic tables, BBQ grills, and fire pits, making Big Ridge a convenient outdoor escape for friendly gatherings and family outings any day of the week.
Group camp options are also available at Big Ridge Park. You’ll find 19 bunkhouses that can accommodate up to 120 people, and group residents will have access to the communal recreation and dining hall, kitchen, and 3 bathhouses.
Furthermore, if you’re looking to enjoy more of a premium lodging experience at Big Ridge Park, there are 21 rustic studio cabins fittingly located along the ridges and shores of the park’s Norris Lake.
Each cabin is furnished with hardwood floors, a full kitchen, bathroom, an air conditioner, fireplace, beds, a sleeper sofa, and screened porch—everything you’ll need to spend your days and nights comfortably in the Tennessee backwoods.
Big Ridge State Park
1015 Big Ridge Park Road
Maynardville, TN 37807
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Big Ridge State Park:
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