Location: Pickett County, Tenn.
Acreage: 19,200 acres.
Activities: Hiking, swimming, paddling, camping, picnicking, exploring.
Pickett State Park adjoins the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area, protecting 19,200 acres of wilderness that includes caves, natural bridges and other unique rock formations. Most of the 19,000 acres are a state forest, while the developed state park consists of about 1,000 acres.
During the rough economic times of the Great Depression, Stearns Coal & Lumber Co. donated 12,000 acres of land it had depleted of natural resources to the State of Tennessee. In 1934, the Civil Conservation Corps began developing a state park on the Stearns property.
The CCC crews built hiking trails, a recreation lodge, a ranger station, five cabins and a 12-acre lake on the property, much of it by quarrying local sandstone.
Today, those same structures remain at Pickett State Park. They have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and more land and facilities have been added. Arch Lake — named for the natural earth bridge that stretches over the north end of the lake — still remains and is stocked with trout annually.
In 2015, Pickett State Park was designated a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-sky Association, meaning that it is an optimal location for stargazing.
A scenic state park
Today, Pickett State Park and Forest consists of more than 58 miles of hiking trails that access sandstone bluffs, caves, natural bridges, waterfalls and more. The trails range from short and easy day hikes to longer trails that are suitable for backpacking.
There are also extensive picnicking facilities within the state park, along with playgrounds, a swimming area, and basketball courts.
There is a campground featuring 31 campsites, many of them including electric and water hookup. There are also 20 rental cabins.
In addition to swimming, fishing and canoeing are popular activities on Arch Lake.