Are you that parent that is always racking your brain to figure out what to do with your children? We have the perfect answer to your dilemma, an adventurous fall get-a-way. Don't worry, you will enjoy it too.
Go Off-Roading at Windrock Park
Windrock Park is the largest privately owned off-road recreation area in the country with over 72,000 acres. Trails are open seven days a week, 365 days of the year. Riding ATVs and Side-by-sides on the 300 plus miles of trails is the most popular activity to do at Windrock Park but there is also hiking and downhill and cross country biking trails. Special points of interest that you don’t want to miss are the windmill farm on Buffalo Mountain, the waterfall on trail 16 and rattle rock, the rock crawl course.
If you don’t already have an off-road vehicle, you can rent two seater, three seater and four seater side-by-sides from Windrock. Go to windrockpark.com for SXS rental information and to purchase your permit.
Paddling Away the Rest of the Day
You could finish off the day with paddling. Because of the moderate fall weather in East Tennessee, it is not too cold or too hot for kayaking or paddle boarding and the fall colors reflected off the water are breathtaking.
You have several options in Anderson County for paddling adventures. For beginners or families with small children, we recommend Norris Lake because of its still waters. If you don’t have a kayak or paddle board yet, you can rent one at Norris Lake Paddling Adventures. Melton Hill Lake is another great place for paddling. The water is not as still as Norris Lake but a beginner will have little problems navigating it. Melton Hill also has a rental company, Adventures Outdoors.
The Clinch River is probably the most challenging area to paddle especially if water is being generated through Norris Dam. You can check the schedule on the Tennessee Valley Authority Lakes App. Most people paddle the river in groups and paddle down river having a car available to shuttle them back to their starting point. We suggest starting at the River Road ramp and paddling down to the Peach Orchard ramp. You can see a map here. Along the way, there will be some places to veer off (by water) and explore. We recommend doing this. You will get to see some interesting rock formations and many picture perfect spots. This trip will take a couple of hours depending on the current.
Hiking can be a great family fun activity and Anderson County has moderate trails for families with smaller children and more challenging trails where your teenagers can test their endurance. There are three areas in Anderson County that have multi-level trails based on difficulty.
Norris Dam State Park-Located on the shorelines of Norris Lake and laying to the east and west of Norris Dam, the park offers 17 different trails with a total of 20 miles ranging from moderate to difficult. Most of the trails are for foot traffic only, but there are some multi use trails for bikers too. Be sure to check out the Storybook Trail located near the east side of Norris Dam.
Melton Hill Greenway-Adjacent to Melton Hill Lake, this paved greenway is ideal for smaller children. The family can enjoy walking, running or even biking on the greenway. The children will love the playground area too. Haw Ridge is also accessible through the greenway and is situated on a scenic peninsula along the shores of the Clinch River. Haw Ridge offers 30 plus miles of trails perfect for hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers. The first section of the trail is flat and stroller accessible. Be sure to get over to the back side of the property where you can enjoy five miles of shoreline. The Park closes one weekend in October, November and December for TWRA hunts. Check https://www.tn.gov/twra/hunting.html for dates.
Norris Watershed-Adjacent to the east side of Norris Dam State Park, the watershed has just under 30 miles of moderate to strenuous trails of singletrack and old road trails for biking and foot traffic. If you enter the watershed near the Lenoir Museum and Grist Mill, the children can enjoy playing in the creek and seeing what creatures they can find. The trails are on public land that is open to hunting, check https://www.tn.gov/twra/hunting.html for dates.
If you are sticking around for longer than a weekend, you might want to consider adding a day of fishing. Anderson County has three major bodies of water that offer a variety of fishing adventures. Norris Lake is ideal for bass, crappie and striper fishing. The Clinch River is nationally known for trout fishing and Melton Hill Lake is the place to go for musky. We suggest going out with a guide if it is your first time visiting so that you will be sure to have a great day on the water.
If you prefer to fish along the shoreline, there are several great places with shore access and piers. You can find all of that information here.
You might also want to check out the Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge or the Little Ponderosa Zoo and Rescue. The Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge has hands-on exhibits the whole family will love from a life size doll house to a rainforest to a model train room. At the Little Ponderosa Zoo and Rescue you can get up close and personal with exotic and farmyard animals. Approximately 98% of the animals at the zoo have been rescued from abandonment, neglect or abuse and been given a safe, loving, forever home at the zoo. Visit meet the animals and find out their stories.
Know Before You Go:
There are a couple of things you should know ahead of time so that you can plan.
Places to Eat
Speaking of places to eat. There are many locally owned and chain restaurants in Anderson County, but for this trip we recommend a couple of places that you don’t want to miss.
Where to Stay
The obvious place to stay is at Windrock Park. They have a large variety of cabins that can accommodate families as large as 18 people. They also have a campground with primitive sites and sites with electric and water hookups. They even have yurts.
Norris Dam State Park is another great family friendly place to stay with deluxe cabins, primitive cabins and two campgrounds.
There are several short-term rentals on Norris Lake that can be found at https://www.adventureanderson.com/where-to-stay/.
Also check out the hotels located at the Clinton/Norris exit off Interstate 75. Their central location will provide easy access to all the above listed activities.