Center Hill Lake may be less well known than other outdoor escapes in Tennessee, but this gorgeous lake on the state’s Highland Rim is our recommendation for a mid-week break or weekend getaway. Center Hill, which is roughly an hour from Nashville and two hours from both Chattanooga and Knoxville, is a sublime summer spot delivering the best of both worlds with fun on the lake and miles of forested shoreline for hiking, outdoor recreation, and camping. Boating, waterskiing, canoeing, and fishing are all popular activities at Center Hill Lake. Anglers have the chance of landing bream, walleye, smallmouth bass, crappie, catfish, and white bass. The area also offers over nine miles of hiking trails, numerous camping options at Floating Mill Park, Long Branch Campground, and Ragland Bottom Campground, and easy access to other nearby attractions like Burgess Falls State Park with breathtaking waterfalls and a large Native Butterfly Garden.
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Floating Mill Park has over 100 campsites with options for everyone from a first-time camper to a seasoned outdoorsperson. Many of the sites have convenient amenities including electric and water hookups, while several tent-only lakefront sites are available for those looking to rough it. The campground also has flush toilets, showers, and drinking water, offering a comfortable camping experience for visitors. Floating Mill Park is surrounded by the lake on three sides, providing sweeping waterfront views and easy access to boating and other activities along with a fish cleaning station, playground, and hiking trails.
For visitors looking for waterfront camping right on the lake, Ragland Bottom Campground has 40 campsites with water and electric hookups as well as 16 primitive tent-only sites. Amenities like flush toilets, showers, and drinking water are also available at Ragland Bottom. The campground puts visitors right on the lake, limiting the time it takes to get to the water and delivers other fun shoreline activities including a volleyball court, basketball hoop, playground, and plenty of hiking trails. The Red Post Trail is a short but steep, two-mile loop above the campground. Hikers who tackle this moderately difficult climb are rewarded with beautiful overlooks of the lake in a perfect place to bring home a story of the trip!
Another top camping choice at the lake, Long Branch Campground is located below Center Hill Dam on the scenic Caney Fork River. Long Branch is an ideal spot for tranquility and trophy trout fishing on the river, which is stocked with rainbow and brown trout. The popular Buffalo Valley Nature Trail, which provides access to the Caney Fork and offers great wildlife viewing opportunities, is also located just across the river from the campground. It is important to know that due to high releases at Center Hill Dam this spring, erosion has occurred along the riverfront and campsites 2, 4, 8, 10, 12, and 18 at Long Branch Campground are currently closed. Visitors can check the Recreation.gov page for Long Branch and the Center Hill Lake Facebook page for updates on campsite changes throughout the season.
Your summer escape to the lake is calling! Learn more about Center Hill Lake, check availability at Long Branch Campground, Floating Mill Park, and Ragland Bottom Campground, and plan your trip today!