We planned to visit Montgomery Bell State Park in March as a way to extend our Savannah trip by a few days. Our plans changed and we instead book a spring weekend to make a visit.
Montgomery Bell State Park is located west of Nashville. For our travels, that means we can either drive through Clarksville, which is fast but not enjoyable, or take the scenic route that includes a drive up Land Between the Lakes. We took the faster way there and the scenic route home.
Montgomery Bell State Park campground offers 22 tent sites, 47 water and electric sites, and 40 full hookup sites. The sites are an assortment of sizes: short, long, wide, narrow; the website offers a nice description so you can find a site that works for you. The best sites may the sites around the creek: about numbers 80-116. There is a camp store, three bathhouses, and a playground within the campground. Although our site wasn’t on the creek, the kids donned their rubber boots for creek walking.
Montgomery Bell is a popular location. Located on grounds originally used for iron making, the park now offers 19 miles of hiking, three lakes for paddling and fishing, an 18-hole golf course, a swimming beach, and biking. In addition to the campground, there is also a lodge with a restaurant and villas.
We hiked the Wildcat trail, which is a 1.3 mile hike and a great overview of the park, from the campground to the lodge for breakfast at The Forge and back. The trail took us through the hills, over a creek, past a lake, and over a bridge to the lodge.
While at the lodge, we used the Paddle-EZ system for self service kayak rental. The water was still as glass and a perfect day to paddle. This was a super easy and fast way to get a boat. With a one hour rental, we took a perfect leisurely paddle around the entire lake. We spotted several birds and fish along our way.
About seven miles from the state park is Dickson, Tennessee. We discovered that the day of our visit was also Old Timers’ Festival In Dickson. We caught the parade, walked the vendors, explored the Clement Railroad Hotel Museum, and the kids held a rescued barred owl. We also walked the stores downtown and found good coffee and lattes at House Blend. We had a really great lunch of burgers, salads, and chicken at A Little Bite of Everything. We also came back into town and had a special and tasty treat at Zander’s Woodfiree for dinner - gluten free pizza.
About an hour from the state park, and on our way home via the scenic route, is NPS site Fort Donelson National Battlefield. We visited the visitors center and saw a video to understand the importance of the fort in the war. Afterward we went to three historic sites on the 558 acre property: Dover Hotel were Grant accepted a confederate unconditional surrender, a National Cemetery where Union soldiers were buried, and Fort Donelson overlooking the Cumberland River.
We enjoyed another new Tennessee State Park, hiked and paddled, found a city with a charming downtown, discovered great food, and learned more about our history at an NPS site - not a bad way to spend a weekend.
Shane and Jessica
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