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The Best Lakes in Tennessee You Need to See

By Alex Moretti


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Tennessee is one of the most jaw-dropping places you could visit, especially if you are a fan of lakes, reservoirs, and the everlasting beauty that mother nature has in store for us.

Regardless of whether you’re here to relax or if you just want to take in the view alone, Tennessee is surely going to make your experience here worthwhile, as there is something for everyone right around the corner in The Volunteer State.

In order to get to the bottom of what the best sites in Tennessee are though, we have decided to compile a list of what we would say are the top 20 best lakes that you could see in Tennessee.

But hey, we’ve wasted enough of your time on trivial stuff, let’s just jump right into our first pick of the day, aka:

20. Old Hickory Lake

Old Hickory Lake
Old Hickory Lake / visitmusiccity.com

You will be able to find the Old Hickory Lake simply by taking a walk a little to the north of Nashville, and once you’re here you will immediately see why so many people travel thousands of miles just to get there.

This is a very beautiful and serene spot, especially for couples that want to get away from everything, and instead just enjoy life at its fullest while fishing, picnicking, and of course, sunbathing to their heart’s content.

Every day, you can ask to be one of the lucky 100 visitors that gets access to the special picnic shelter areas, where you can take full advantage of every grill and picnic table there.

19. Reelfoot Lake

Reelfoot Lake
Reelfoot Lake / tn.gov

While there are definitely more than a handful of human-made lakes in Tennessee, this one is special in that it is one of the few naturally occurring ones out there.

This lake is famous for its absolute stunning beauty, and if you love the look of cypress tree forests, you’ll be happy to hear that this is all that you’ll be able to keep your eyes on right here.

Birdwatching is a very popular pastime here, but it is not the only option for you, as you can also take part in water-skiing events, camping trips, and even paddle boating and kayaking matches, against your significant other or other random travelers.

18. Lake Barkley

Lake Barkley
Lake Barkley / lakehomesusa.com

Covering a total area of almost 58,000 acres, this lake is absolutely incredible to even picture, considering just how utterly massive it is.

The interesting part about it is that it wasn’t even meant to be created in the first place, since it was a biproduct of the Barkley Dam, which was built in honor of Alben Barkley way back in the day. This lake more than earned its paycheck though, by offering you a whole slew of different activities for you to take part in.

By far the most popular one to choose though is fishing, simply because the lake has the largest population of yellow bass in the US, and while there are plenty species for you to catch this is definitely the highlight right here.

17. Dale Hollow Reservoir

Dale Hollow Reservoir
Dale Hollow Reservoir / kentuckytourism.com

You can find the Dale Hollow Lake next to the border over of Overton, Clay and Picket and while you’re here you definitely need to get yourself a new fishing gear, because that is by far the fan favorite pastime that the lake has to offer.

The Geiger Island is also worth exploring, as it is considered to be a must-visit camping destination, that no one should ever even consider skipping out on. Smallmouth bass is by far the most common fish you’ll come across here, but besides that you can also get your fair share of walleyes, crappies and catfish.

16. Kentucky Lake

Kentucky Lake
Kentucky Lake / roadtripsandcoffee.com

By far the largest human-made lake from the eastern side of the United States, the Kentucky Lake spans over five counties in both Tennessee and Kentucky, and as far as spectacles go this one’s definitely up there as one of the best. Fishing will always be a very enjoyable pastime here as you will be able to catch yellow perch, buffalo carps, and of course, the elusive bluegills.

While you’re at this lake though don’t forget to also take full advantage of the picnic areas, the camping spots and the many different hiking trails that are sure to make your day.

Bird seeing is always a nice treat and on top of that, if you’re a fan of hunting, you’ll never want to leave this lake once you’ve got a rifle in your hands.

15. Pickwick Lake

Pickwick Lake / tnvacation.com

The Pickwick Lake was actually a TVA project that was made by accident during the original creation of the Pickwick Landing Dam from Hardin County.

While it is not as popular as some of the other picks on our list, our experience here will forever remain in the back of our minds, simply because of the beauty of the Sandy Beach near it and of course, the sereneness of the Circle Beach as well.

Are you a fan of hiking down nefarious trails? Pickwick Lake has got you covered and on top of that you can also go golfing around with your friends or family, to make the most out of your vacation.

14. Percy Priest Lake

Percy Priest Lake / yamahaboats.com

The Percy Priest Lake is by far one of Tennessee’s best attractions, especially considering the adrenaline rush boat games around.

If you’re interested in getting a better glimpse of what they have to offer, just check in with any of the different boating and sailing orgs around, such as the Percy Priest Yacht Club or the Nashville Rowing Club.

Sunfish, crappie and pretty much every striped bass in the state can be found here, so if you’re a fan of fishing you can’t miss out on the Percy Priest Lake and that’s a fact.

13. Nickajack Lake

Nickajack Lake
Nickajack Lake / pinterest.com

The Nickajack Dam project was actually one of the most insane projects that the state of Tennessee had planned on for quite some time by this point, and the weirdest part about it is that after so many years, while it is still a great achievement to boast with, the nearby accidental lake has more than surpassed it.

The Nickajack Lake is just absolutely stunning to look at and check out during your vacation, if you want to see bald eagles, American coots and geese just minding their own business this may very well be the best option for you, and while you’re at it definitely check out the fishing spots around.

We’re talking about pretty much every type of bass that you could think of and even some unique species that you can’t find anywhere else in the state. Overall, this is definitely a great spot to mess around in during your vacation.

12. Cove Lake

Cove Lake
Cove Lake / tnvacation.com

While definitely not the largest lake around, Cove Lake more than makes up for it by being surrounded by the jaw-dropping Cumberland Mountains which are known all across the country for their absolute beauty.

The 210-acre lake though is just as impressive as it sounds, especially considering the fact that it is located smackdab in the middle of the Cove Lake State Park.

If you want to spend your vacation skirting then this may very well be the dream destination for you, and if you want to you can always check out the wildlife around the area as well, as some of the species that you can identify here are unique to the area so you’ll never get the chance again to do so.

11. Chickamauga Lake

Chickamauga Lake
Chickamauga Lake / migrateoutfitters.com

Are you a fan of bass fishing? If so, then look no further than the Chickamauga Lake, as this is pretty much heaven for any fisherman out there that wants to try out his skill, in order to dethrone the champion 15-pound largemouth bass, which was captured way back in 2015 by a local here.

You get access to over 810 miles of shoreline while here also, and on top of that the wildlife around is always waiting for you to check them out, especially if you bring some of the treats that the locals have for you at any of the shops nearby.

The lake is just absolutely stunning though as it is one of the vastest and most unique looking places in Tennessee and that’s a fact.

10. Cordell Hull Lake

Cordell Hull Lake
Cordell Hull Lake / thedyrt.com

The Cordell Hull Lake can be found around 64 kilometers to the east of Nashville and honestly it is well worth the visit simply due to its incredible design alone.

In case you didn’t know by now the lake was actually built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers way back in the day, and this truly shows considering just how absolutely insane it really looks.

The lake is so massive in fact that it stretches across three different counties, spreading as far as 64 square kilometers past its inception. Overall, if the general size of this lake isn’t enough to get you going, we don’t know what will.

9. Watauga Lake

Watauga Lake
Watauga Lake / lakeshore-resort.com

The true beauty of the Watauga Lake stands in its background, as this site is completely surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains and the Cherokee National Forest, which together bring us some of the best landscape shots we’ve ever seen.

On top of that this lake is also famous for being the highest elevation lake in Tennessee. If that’s not enough for you though, you should know that there are also plenty of recreational activities you could take part in while here, including water-skiing, floating, cruising and even kayaking while you’re at it.

8. Radnor Lake

Radnor Lake
Radnor Lake / tnvacation.com

As far as natural beauties go, calling the Radnor Lake pretty is an understatement, as this place shows off one of the most beautiful natural sceneries we’ve ever seen, and that’s no understatement.

If you’re a fan of canoeing or kayaking, this lake is sure to provide you with the thrills you’re seeking, and while you’re at it definitely check out the plethora of different trails, that you can explore on your own or with your loved ones, to make your vacation all the more memorable.,

Just keep in mind the fact that the nearby park is actually considered to be a private property, meaning that you can’t go around picnicking or camping here, unless you’re ready to pay a huge fine for your time.

7. Fort Loudoun Lake

Fort Loudoun Lake
Fort Loudoun Lake / Photo by Brian Stansberry / wikipedia.org

Commonly referred to as one of the most gorgeous lakes in Tennessee, Fort Loudoun has really taken our standards for what we expected from an ordinary lake and it lifted them to new highs to say the least.

It was originally named after the 18th century British fort which was able to withstand the constant attacks during both the French and Indian Wars, and even to this day it stands without a care in the world.

Nowadays it is considered to be more of a calming area than anything else, it is one of Tennessee’s most beautiful places and if you don’t believe us, you’re definitely welcome to check it out for yourself and judge it accordingly.

6. Boone Lake

Boone Lake
Boone Lake / outdoorsman.guide

You can find Boone Lake sitting on the northeastern side of Tennessee right next to Johnson City, and once you see it with your own eyes you will immediately be able to tell why it is so high up on our list to begin with.

The 131 miles of shoreline, alongside its 44 feet deepness, is what really made this the perfect location for fishermen, as you can pretty much spend all day long here catching bass, trout and catfish without a care in the world.

5. Cherokee Lake

Cherokee Lake
Cherokee Lake / easttnvacations.com

The original residents here have been around for well over 200 years now and they can all attest to the fact that this is one of the most peaceful places to live in while in America.

The Cherokee Lake is easily one of the most picturesque lakes in the world and that’s a fact, you are literally looking at a vast island-studded lake with every amenity you could ever ask for and more.

Regardless of whether you’re here for the boating or the fishing experience, just know that you will be getting your fill no matter what.

4. Douglas Lake

Douglas Lake
Douglas Lake / airbnb.com

The superb Douglas Lake is one of the largest bodies of water that were ever created from the French Broad River. Considering its massive 513 miles of shoreline, it’s no wonder that this is such a spectacle that you need to see with your own eyes to really take in its sheer beauty.

Commonly referred to as one of the largest lakes in the state, if you’re just a weary tourist looking to spend a couple of days resting here, you will definitely get the best sleep of your life, thanks to the scenic landscapes that are around every corner out there.

3. Center Hill Lake

Center Hill Lake
Center Hill Lake / centerhillchalets.com

The Center Hill Lake is absolutely massive and that’s a fact. You’re looking at around 668km of shoreline, and the best part about it is the fact that they actually took full advantage of this, lining it with upper-middle-class vacation homes where you could spend at least an an unforgettable weekend.

As a result to that, you can pretty much take enjoy living for a couple of days like royalty here, taking in both the scenery and the clean clear mountain air that you just can’t get any of while in the busy city nearby.

2. Norris Lake

Norris Lake
Norris Lake / deerfieldresort.co

The Norris Lake may very well be at the top of the list for many other people out there, and while we do agree that the 800 miles of shoreline are absolutely incredible to say the least, we will say that our number one spot has definitely earned its spot there and we’ll leave it at that.

Getting back to the Norris Lake though you should know that you can do pretty much anything you set your mind to here, including water skiing, wakeboarding, and basically any other aquatic activities you can think of.

1. Watts Bar Lake

Watts Bar Lake
Watts Bar Lake / tnteamtrail.com

Watts Bar Lake is in our honest opinion the peak when it comes to beautiful lakes in Tennessee, simply because of how absolutely idyllic it looks.

Even from random pictures that were taken by drunk people enjoying life there you can see how jaw-dropping this site is, and the best part about it is the fact that the place is also brimming with other activities for you to sink your teeth in including fishing, birdwatching and even boat racing if you feel up for it.

Did we mention that it’s one of the most picturesque lakes we’ve ever seen?


Best Lakes in Tennessee
Photo by David Mark / pixabay.com

With all that being said though we should mention once again the fact that while this may be our list with the best lakes to visit in Tennessee, remember that this is all just a subjective point of view, as there are bound to be better places for you to visit depending on your own preferences and such.

Tennessee is an absolutely stunning place to visit during your next vacation, and if you really want this to last we recommend that you check out at least one or two of the lakes we’ve mentioned above, as they’re sure to make your experience even better as a whole.

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About Alex Moretti

Adventure junkie, content creator and storyteller, Alex left his nine-to-five career lifestyle to become a full time world traveler. He started his journey to the unknown 5 years ago and visited more than 30 countries and 400 cities ever since. Learn more about Placeaholic's Editorial Process.

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