Downtown Knoxville


We have been knocking around Knoxville for almost three weeks and have a pretty good feel for spring in Knoxville. We really like it. Since tax day is around the corner, (we just filed yesterday) I am in a numbers mood — so in three weeks we have traveled 155 miles and been to five locations. As explained in our last two posts this wasn’t the plan. We did a last-minute emergency replan and added two unexpected campgrounds because of a very difficult site we had reserved at Melton Hill Dam. It was just too hard to camp there.

Overall we really like the Knoxville area. I expect that we would also like nearly everywhere in east Tennessee because it is spring. It is just so pretty and so very green at this time of year. The green does come at a cost of frequent rain that I didn’t expect.

Triple Falls Trail on Bruce Creek
Triple Falls on Bruce Creek

Tami took the picture at the top of this post during our walk through downtown Knoxville. Tami took most of the pictures in this post.

Our Route

In our last post, I didn’t describe our route because it wasn’t really the point. Where we have been around Knoxville is the point of this article. So I will get a little more descriptive about where we have been and what we have been doing.

So we were a little west of Knoxville when we had to do our emergency replan due to our difficult campsite. Melton Hill Dam Recreation Area really is a wonderful place and very popular. Our campsite was too just hard to get out of so we didn’t go in. Here is a link to that story. Can’t Leave, what now?

The campground at Melton Hill Dam, west of Knoxville had beautiful views for the two days we were able to stay there.
The campground at Melton Hill Dam, west of Knoxville had beautiful views for the two days we were able to stay there.

So we replanned and spent the weekend east of Knoxville at Lick Skillet Farm. Here is a link to that story. Greetings from Appalachia


From Lick Skillet we went back to the west side of Knoxville and spent three nights at the Yarberry Campground. Both Melton Hill Dam Recreation Area and Yarberry Campgrounds were created by the Tennessee Valley Authority. So that was federal money. Now both of them are operated by the county government as part of their recreation department. The county subcontracted the operation of the campground to a commercial campground operator. I don’t know how this could be more convoluted. Owned by the Federal Department of the Interior… all the way to a nationwide company that operates campgrounds for a profit. As you can tell by my language I am not thrilled by all of the layers. Each layer adds unnecessary complexity, extra rules, and higher prices. Given the profit motive, the prices have risen above the amenities.

Scott & Tami at the top of Devil's Racetrack near Cove Lake State Park north of Knoxville.
Scott & Tami at the top of Devil’s Racetrack

Right on the water

The biggest difference between the campgrounds is that even though both are right on the water, the Melton Hill Dam Recreation Area was carved into a steep hillside and Yarberry is on a peninsula.

We still had a good time at Yarberry and would have had an even better time at Melton Hill had we not had to leave. While at Yarberry it rained which dampened our fun. We even drove to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (in the rain) while we were at Yarberry. This national park is very nice. We are going to love our stay in the park in about two weeks from now, assuming we don’t have difficulties with the campgrounds. We will cover the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in a future post after our stay.

Cove Lake State Park
Knoxville 15

Difficult Roads and poor GPS routing.

After departing Yarberry we went back to our previously planned route and drove 60 miles to Norris Lake, another place created by the Tennessee Valley Authority. We were at Loyston Point Campground. Loyston also has the same ownership, management, and problems I have previously outlined. Our campsite for the next three nights was with a very nice view of the lake and our kayaks again were put in for some nice paddling time. Norris Lake is very popular for fishing but since it was huge it was very quiet.

View of Norris Lake across from our campsite at Loyston Point north of Knoxville.
View of Norris Lake across from our campsite.

The problem at Loyston is the roads leading to the lake are suspect. Really there is only one extremely difficult turn. The turn is at the corner of Ridge Circle Road and Mill Creek Road. The GPS (Google Map) routing would be to make a right turn off of Mill Creek Road onto Ridge Circle Road. This turn would have been impossible in our RV. It is a climbing short radius right hairpin turn. Scars on the road are witness to several RVs who have attempted the turn and failed.

Our campsite at Loyston Point Campground
Our campsite at Loyston Campground

We don’t depend however on Google Maps for our GPS and have a dedicated RV GPS that routed around this turn. Our RV GPS takes the height and length of our RV into account and correctly decided that we couldn’t make that turn so we followed a different route. Wait for the rest of the story. It is not a good one.

Not complaining

I guess it is complaining, but complaining for a reason. We have been to many places where I have forgotten the details. In this case, I am mentioning them partially because my memory is failing and my blog serves as a backup memory that substitutes for my grey matter failure. I really want to go back to Loyston and if I remember to read my own blog then I might be able to avoid the problems. Anyway, the hairpin turn can be easily avoided by going past the turn for about a quarter of a mile and then turning around.

Our campsite at Loyston Point Campground.
Our campsite at Loyston Point Campground.

Many of the campsites at Loyston were too small, some were rented out for the season with RVs that never move and are only occupied on weekends. We did see a few campsites that were too small and a few that were very nice. The other issue is that Loyston is also built on a hill and many of the campsites are seriously sloped. Other campsites are silly small. This a place to be careful when picking a campsite.

Back to the GPS

Our RV GPS avoided the problem turn by routing us around the hairpin turn. You would think I would be happy about this. The reroute however was horrible. The GPS took us down a single-lane, two-way road for about two miles. While on the road we first had to get a construction truck to pull into the mud to let us by. Then we came nose to nose with a truck towing a boat.

Thankfully you can back up a boat, (not true with an RV towing a car). For us, to back up we have to take the car off the RV. Also, I am thankful that the boat owner was lost and looking for the campground. So we let them back up to let us past and then we led them to the campground.

The great part of Loyston was our campsite and Norris Lake. We were right on the water and we had a good time with the kayaks.
The great part of Loyston was our campsite and Norris Lake. We were right on the water and we had a good time with the kayaks.

I forgot to mention that the other route the GPS proposed was even worse. The best route for any RV is to overshoot on Mill Creek, turn around and come back to the hairpin turn from the opposite direction. Stay off of Ridge Circle Road anywhere south of Loyston Point Road.

Cove Lake State Park

One of our objectives while spending time around Knoxville was to see what recreation opportunities were available so moved again; this time 26 miles to Cove Lake State Park. Cove Lake State Park is just a little northwest of Loyston and really we didn’t need to go to both Loyston and Cove Lake. But if you don’t do such things you really don’t know as much about the neighborhood. Next time we come through we will pick one and stay for at least a week. Both are really nice.

Cove Lake at Cove Lake State Park north of Knoxville.
Cove Lake

I already mentioned our campsite at Loyston had a nice view of the lake. Cove Lake was just as nice. But again I selected the wrong campsite. Both Loyston and Cove Lake the campsites were too steep. This was two campsites in a row that were too steep. Tami was ready to give up and move, (right after she saw the front wheels off the ground). This time we almost needed a small ladder just to get to our stairs.

While at Cove Lake, we went for a hike past some beautiful waterfalls and up to the ridge top to overlook the valley and Jacksboro. Cove Lake is just a couple of miles from town. The only thing we didn’t find in Jacksboro was real good restaurants. Fast Food joints were abundant, but we didn’t see anyplace that matches the burger place in Lenior City. I have been quite impressed with the food offerings here in the east to the point I have considered doing a section of the blog dedicated to that subject.

Triple Falls Trail on Bruce Creek
Triple Falls on Bruce Creek

Tennessee State Parks

Tennessee State Parks seem to be very deficient in the site layout department. We have had two acceptable and two that were too steep. In every Tennesse State Park we have visited, most of the sites were too steep, even in the parks that we were lucky, most were very bad. This poor design seems to carry over to nearly every campground that we have been to in Tennessee. We still love them, but we are going to have to be more careful in our site selection.

View of Jacksboro from Devil's Racetrack.
View of Jacksboro from Devil’s Racetrack

All this is included here because

All this is included here because many of you might want to come here and use these parks. I won’t be getting back to posting campsite reviews quickly enough to help. I have also not written one “Bad Roads for RVs” post since leaving Arizona. The one hairpin turn doesn’t make a bad road but the RV GPS reroute to avoid that one turn would qualify, perhaps I will get to that one in the future. After I write those posts I will link them back to this post.

Back to civilization

After leaving Cove Lake we had been off-grid for long enough we needed a stop for laundry. We have found that sometimes that we can sneak a load of laundry when we depart one campground and go to the next one. But at least every two weeks we need to stop traveling for a few days and get a campground (usually a commercial campground) to take care of everyday things. So we stopped in Racoon Valley.

Cove Lake at Cove Lake State Park.
Cove Lake

Racoon Valley

Given that lead-up, you might have thought we went to the big city. We drove to Knoxville Friday, does that count? Knoxville was less than an hour away. Tomorrow we will be back to our regular locations, back at a lake surrounded by more nature. This new campground is right on the lake, although the water view is obstructed by the bushes and trees. We are just to the north of Pigeon Forge, Dollywood, and Gatlinburg.

Please subscribe and join us on our journey

We will add you to our email list and send you updates about once a week. Here is a link. Subscribe

Links to places mentioned in this article.

1 thought on “Knoxville”

  1. John and Vicky

    Thank you for including all these details. We will be traveling through the Knoxville area and will hopefully be staying at the places that you mentioned.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *