Find Outdoor Adventure in Wild and Scenic West Tennessee
When it comes to outdoor adventure, West Tennessee is a can’t-miss destination. The region is home to some of the best parks, trails, and lakes that the state has to offer, with some surprisingly remote and beautiful places for visitors to discover. Better still, compared to some other parts of the state, those outdoor settings are less crowded and are easily accessible from the city of Memphis—a place steeped in history and culture.
If you’re looking for new places to hike, paddle, camp, and explore, West Tennessee needs to be on your bucket list. When you go, there are just a few places to visit.
Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park
Despite being located just 13 miles north of Memphis, Merman-Shelby Forest State Park feels like a remote wilderness setting. Spread out across more than 12,500 acres of hardwood bottomland—and surrounded by towering bluffs—the park is home to thick stands of oaks, beech, hickory, and sweet gum trees. But the heart of the park is Poplar Tree Lake, a body of water that is perfect for boating, paddling, and fishing.
Canoes and kayaks are available to rent at very reasonable rates, and the park has 49 campsites available. Each of those sites includes electrical and water hookups, along with a table and grill. An onsite bathhouse provides hot showers, and a dump station is found on the premises too.
Fort Pillow State Park
Step back in time at Fort Pillow State Park—a Civil War-era fortress located 40 miles north of Memphis. The park features 20 miles of hiking trails along the Chickasaw Bluffs, offering stunning views of the Mississippi River below. Visitors can also wander along Confederate battlements and into the remarkably well-preserved old fort itself. Other activities include fishing and paddling on Fort Pillow Lake.
The park’s Family Campground has six campsites large enough to accommodate RVs up to 60 feet in length. Each of those locations provides 20-, 30-, and 50-amp shorepower outlets and water hookups. An additional 15 sites include 20-amp power poles and water stations just a short walk away. Get your reservations in early, as the campground fills up quickly.
Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge
At the confluence of the Hatchie and Mississippi River sits an amazing outdoor setting that is home to a dizzying array of creatures. It is there that you’ll find the Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge, a pristine watershed ecosystem that stretches for more than 17 miles through hardwood bottomlands. Not only does this place offer good hiking and paddling, but it also serves as a stopover point for dozens of species of migratory birds—including ducks, geese, and warblers. That makes it an exceptional destination for birders and kayakers looking to escape modern life for a while.
The Wolf River
Another excellent destination for paddlers, the Wolf River, is a great way to explore West Tennessee by kayak or canoe. Alternatively, the Wolf River Greenway is a corridor of protected space that runs for 26 miles right through the heart of Memphis. This paved trail is designated for non-motorized use only, making it the perfect place for visitors to stretch their legs—either on foot or bike—without wandering far from the city. The trail also serves as host to many special events and organized activities, which can be truly fun and enlightening.
Shelby Farms Park
Another can’t-miss destination found in Memphis, Shelby Farms Park has a lot to offer active outdoor enthusiasts. Visitors can explore the park’s 40+ miles of paved and unpaved trails by bike or wander the premises on horseback instead. Shelby Farms is home to more than 20 lakes, so kayaking and pedal boats are fun options as well. And if you’re in the mood to get your adrenaline going, the park has a zipline course, a treetop canopy tour, and a paintball battlefield. There is even a herd of buffalo and several playgrounds for the younger members of the family to enjoy too.
Other Area Attractions
If you’re still looking for things to do in West Tennessee, the Memphis Zoo is one of the best in the entire South, and a cruise on a Memphis Riverboat is a memorable experience. History buffs will enjoy visiting the Shiloh National Military Park, while music fans will love the Memphis Rock’ n Soul Museum. And after a long day of exploration and adventure, head to the Cozy Corner for some local BBQ or the Arcade Restaurant for some classic Americana.
This is just a taste of the many things that Memphis and West Tennessee have to offer. Start planning your visit today.
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