By Mike Steely

I don’t know which day was more pleasant: an afternoon of camping at a busy campground with children playing all around us or time spent relaxing without all that activity and noise the next day. Both days were pleasant, just different. My wife and I have visited every Tennessee State Park but one and we recently returned to one we’ve visited but not camped at.

It’s only a bit over an hour west of Knoxville to a getaway in one of Tennessee’s nicest state parks. The 1,548-acre park atop the mountain has just about everything that a family would want in retreat including 37 cabins, 14 miles of hiking trails, a group lodge, rec hall, restaurant, lake, and lots of campsites in its five campgrounds.

Cumberland Mountain State Park is a surprise to first-time visitors. Located just south of Crossville on Highway 127, the park was originally built as a recreation area for people settling in the 1930s as part of President Roosevelt’s Homestead Act.

The area of what was to become the state park was finished in 1940 and now includes just about everything you’d expect in a premier state park. In addition to the aforementioned lodgings and the popular Homestead Harvest Restaurant, Cumberland offers fishing, hiking, swimming, a gift shop, amphitheatre, boating, picnic pavilions and shelters.

Oh, yeah, there’s also the Bear Trace Golf Course designed by Jack Nicklaus. The 18-hole course also has a snack bar.

The huge campgrounds, some with sewer hookups and most with water and electric, can accommodate just about any size camper or tent. Children enjoy riding bikes, skateboards, scooters and just about anything that rolls without power on the paved roads in the campgrounds.

There is also a ball field, swimming pool, tennis courts, playgrounds and a visitor’s center.

There’s so much to do at Cumberland Mountain State Park and even more to do in nearby Crossville. We took in a play at Cumberland County Playhouse and had a good laugh. The famous playhouse is only a few miles from the park. This September and October the playhouse will present “The Drowsy Chaperone,” a musical comedy, and “Lying in State,” a madcap comedy about a funeral and politics. The playhouse gets more than 165,000 visitors each year.

Crossville is an interesting mountaintop town at about 2,000 feet above sea level. It has most of the popular restaurants and big box stores and small mom and pop businesses as well. The downtown has a museum in the former railroad depot and a visitor’s center.   It also has the historic Palace Theatre and the town is now headquarters for two national companies: the Merrimack Canoe Company and the U.S. Chess Federation.

The town, like Halls Crossroads, gets its name because when settled it was at the intersection of two pioneer roads, The Great State Road and the Kentucky Stock Road.

You can get more information about Crossville and Cumberland Mountain State Park on Google or Yahoo you can contact the park by calling (931)484-6138. Rates are reasonable and you might get a senior or veteran discount if you ask.