By Mike Steely
If you’re headed to Nashville or beyond and looking for a cabin or camping area then you will find Cedars of Lebanon State Park welcoming, friendly and different. Located just a few miles south of Interstate 40 off the second Lebanon exit, the park has three large camping areas with good sized RV sites, full electric and water hooks ups, and modern restroom buildings with showers.
Cedars Of Lebanon was named for the eastern red cedar trees found throughout the park as the trees reminded early settlers of the cedar forest that thrived across Mount Lebanon in the Bible.
The park opened in 1855 and is 1,139 acres with picnic shelters and tables, 117 campsites, a group camp, a modern group lodge that can hold 80 people, and eighty miles of hiking trails winding through the trees.
Botanists noticed a special ecosystem there in the 1940s. The natural rock gardens form glades where the ground sits atop the limestone rock. The park has sinkholes and caves, one of which is open to explore or tour. Nineteen rare and endangered plants grow there and no place else in the world.
My wife and I camp in the park now and then, enjoying the large camp sites which come equipped also with a metal fire pit, grill, and large level spaces. Each also has a picnic table and many are located near the bathhouse.
The sites are so large that even the largest RV can park in most sites and there are pull-through sites available along with sites for the handicapped. If you’re not into RV or tent camping there are also cabins available for rent.
Although the swimming pool was closed for repairs when we were there recently there are weekend events including a Birds of Prey demonstrations, games, tours of Jackson Cave, a Butterfly Garden, lectures by naturalists, etc.
There are various hiking trails, a disc golf course, a riding stable, playgrounds, an assembly hall, a gazebo, a nature center, an RV dump station, laundry, snack bar, meeting rooms and a camp store. The park rangers are helpful, informative and friendly.
The campgrounds and park are far enough off the highway and interstate to be quiet and relaxing. The park is about two hours west of Knoxville.
The city of Lebanon is interesting. It is located back north across the interstate and has the national headquarters for Cracker Barrel Restaurants. Many different restaurants are at the Lebanon exit along with lots of standard motel lodging.
The town began in 1801 and is the home of Cumberland University. One of the graduates was Cordell Hull, the noted Secretary of State who was awarded the Noble Peace Prize. Lebanon has a history museum, the Jimmy Floyd Center, the Don Fox Wading Pools, and many music videos and movies have been produced featuring the city.
You can find Cedars of Lebanon State Park on the internet. The park is located at 328 Cedars Forest Road just off Highway 231. You may call the park at 615-443-2769. There’s no charge to enter the park and camping is inexpensive, plus camping offers a senior discount.