Tennessee Treetops: The 9 Best Lake Getaways in Tennessee

Tennessee is perfect for a getaway amongst the mountains, but Tennessee lakes are what call travelers time and time again. Let’s find out which one suits you best. 

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What are the best lakes to visit in Tennessee?

Tennessee has its own flavor of mountainous, fresh-air nature, but it’s the lakes that set it apart from the rest. These are the best lake getaways in Tennessee. 

  • Cherokee Lake 
  • Chickamauga Lake 
  • Old Hickory Lake
  • Kentucky Lake
  • Watauga Lake 
  • Watts Bar Lake
  • Percy Priest Lake 
  • Nickajack Lake 
  • Center Hill Lake

Tennessee lake vacations should be a bucket list item for all travelers. From the lush forests of the Smoky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains to the lakes that dot the landscape, Tennessee is a nature lovers’ paradise.

Tennessee lakes are flush with potential for cabin rentals, lake houses, or a log cabin getaway. This is your guide to a lakeside vacation in the Volunteer State. 

About Tennessee’s Lakes

With countless lakes offering gorgeous views and shorelines for fishing, swimming, or simply relaxing with a book, it’s no wonder why Tennesseans love their lake getaways. 

Lucky for them (and anyone else wanting to enjoy all that Tennessee has to offer), these ultimate lake escapes are not exactly hidden gems; there are plenty of amazing spots to visit this summer in what is often called “the best-kept secret of the South.” 

Whether you just want to escape the hustle of Downtown Nashville with a lakeside vacation rental, or lakes in Tennessee are just on your traveling to do list, we promise these options won’t disappoint. 

Great Lakes in Tennessee for a Getaway

Cherokee Lake

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Surrounded by rolling hills, this lake is known for its abundance of fishing potential, namely largemouth bass, and attracts many people to its various lake house rentals.

 The area is also popular for bird watching, with ospreys and eagles often making appearances. 

Abutting the Cherokee Lake (Cherokee Reservoir), the Panther Creek State Park is a beloved gem in the state. Located in east Tennessee, just west of Knoxville, the reservoir may not technically be a lake, but they certainly offer the same relaxing shorelines and many of the same activities. 

The Panther Creek Disc Golf Course is a unique and fun way to pass the time in nature with the whole family. 

This is one of the best lakes for a family reunion. There are also plenty of picnic areas, and the Cherokee Dam is located just across the lake for a fun excursion. 

Chickamauga Lake 

Chickamauga Lake offers a wealth of vacation rentals that border its shores. There are plenty of recreational activities hosted around the lake in its various parks and green spaces. 

Specifically, Harrison Bay State Park is home to 40 miles of lakefront that is perfect for water sports. It also has boat rentals, a private dock, and for those who want to stay on land, a Jack Nicklaus golf course.

There are also plenty of great hiking trails around this lake, with the Bay Point Loop Trail being one of the favorites. 

Old Hickory Lake

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Located off the Cumberland river in middle Tennessee, Old Hickory Lake is a favorite escape for locals in Nashville. It is a popular water sports area and often hosts water skiing and slalom competitive events. 

If renting a cabin and hanging on the horse trails is your version of heaven, Old Hickory Lake has you covered. 

Horseback riding is also popular here, with nearby stables and horse trails being a big draw for equine lovers. 

Vacation rentals are popular here as they make you feel at home in nature while not being too far from the amenities of the nearby city. 

Kentucky Lake

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The Kentucky Dam is responsible for the largest man made lake in the eastern United States, the Kentucky Lake. 

It is responsible for baking up 184 miles of the Tennessee River into what could be considered the ideal lake getaway! 

Kentucky and Tennessee split the 2300 miles of shoreline that host resorts, state parks, and recreation areas, making it the ideal place for a lakeside getaway anywhere on its vast shores. It is especially known for its prime fishing that yields crappie, catfish, and several varieties of bass. 

Watauga Lake

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Located in the Cherokee National Forest, Watauga Lake hosts part of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail as well as an extensive backcountry that is perfect for fishing, hiking, or doing none of the above and just relaxing along its shores. 

When we say this is a pristine lake, we mean it has been rated as the cleanest lake in the country. This, of course, also lends itself to great fishing opportunities, swimming, and boating. 

As one of the most eastern Tennessee Lakes (located outside of Elizabethton, Tennessee) on our list, this is also the perfect jump off spot to explore South Carolina. 

Watts Bar Lake

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As one of south Tennessee’s largest lakes, Watts Bar Lake extends a curvy 39000 acres just outside of Knoxville.

With almost 800 miles of shoreline, there is a lot to explore a few vacations over. Water temperatures are usually in the chilly 40s and 50s but people do swim, boat, and fish here regularly. 

There are plenty of great cabin rentals to be found along its shorelines and some even have boat docks for prime convenience. 

Percy Priest Lake

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For those not willing to give up proximity to some good music and modern amenities, Percy Priest Lake might be your perfect lakeside destination! Located in the heart of Nashville, this lake is a stunning break from the city’s urban skyline, and if you squint, you may feel like you’re miles away from the bustling streets of Music Row. 

Rockhaven Cabin Rentals and the Percy Priest Lodge are both great options for a lakeside reset without having to venture too far from civilization. 

Nickajack Lake 

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This lake is connected by the Nickajack Dam and Chickamauga Dam, and we’ll be damned if Tennessee doesn’t know how to make their own lakes happen with or without nature’s help! 

Close to Chattanooga, this lake is famous for hosting Johnny Cash in one of his pinnacle life moments. 

If you like to jet ski, this is your spot. There are plenty of vacation rentals dotting its shores where visitors come to take advantage of the fishing, water skiing, camping, and picnicking around the lake.

Center Hill Lake

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This is a man-made lake located near Smithville, just east of Nashville. Center Hill Lake is over 30 miles of shoreline surrounded by lush green forests, which provides plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation like fishing, boating, swimming, and hiking. There are also several vacation homes near the Lake open for rentals; these include cabins, chalets, and camping grounds.

There are several marinas in Center Hill Lake that offer boat rentals or parking docks for your boat and other amenities such as fuel docks and convenience stores. 

Key Takeaways

  • Tennessee hosts an abundance of crystal clear lakes across the state. 
  • For a full immersion in nature experience, Kentucky Lake is the best spot. 
  • To stay within the convenience of the city but still enjoy a lakeside getaway, try Percy Priest Lake in Nashville.