Follow along with outdoorsman and writer Johnny Molloy as he treks through the mountains of Northeast Tennessee.
You’ll find yourself enjoying the mountain-bordered, island-studded South Holston Lake so much you won’t want to leave. And the answer for that is camping along the shorelines in Bristol. Two favorite camping destinations by South Holston Lake are Little Oak Campground and Jacobs Creek Campground, both part of Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest. At either place, you’ll find ramps, marinas, and water access areas for boating, skiing, fishing, paddling, and swimming.
Little Oak Campground
Lakeside camping is literally a breeze at Little Oak (reservations recommended). This Cherokee National Forest campground is sizable and lies atop what once was Little Oak Mountain, after the South Holston River Valley was flooded to create the lake. Little Oak’s large campsites are widely dispersed on wooded peninsulas jutting into the lake. This arrangement creates many spacious waterside sites, and each loop feels like its own little campground. Short paths slope from each site all the way to the water’s edge.
Campers tie up their boats in front of their campsite, swimming and fishing right from the shore. This campground was designed for a pleasant camping experience, not just a way station for the urban masses to pack themselves into. For water lovers, a boat ramp is conveniently situated between the Hemlock and Poplar camping loops. Use the ramp and fish for bass, bream, crappie or catfish. Or take a scenic ride up the lake, admiring Holston Mountain, where you’ll meet the Appalachian Trail.
Jacobs Creek Campground
Jacobs Creek (first-come first-serve reservations) is set on a mile-long wooded peninsula bordered by water on three sides. The campground includes a large designated swim beach, where you can lounge in or beside the water with the Appalachian Mountains towering above.
Visitors to Bristol Motor Speedway often use both Little Oak and Jacobs Creek Campgrounds as base camps for events.
Hiking Near the Campgrounds
In Northeast Tennessee, the high country is never far away. Little Oak is near the Flint Mill Scenic Area, featuring a broad representation of Southern Appalachian flora and fauna, exceeding 4,000 feet in elevation. You can also drive a few miles to Low Gap and hike the cool wooded highlands atop Holston Mountain on the Appalachian Trail.
Or take on the legendary Flint Mill Trail, climbing 1.4 steep miles to Flint Rock and impressive views of South Holston Lake. You can clearly see the lake islands dotted across the panoramic views, and even Little Oak and Jacobs Creek Campgrounds.
“It’s my favorite vista spot on Holston Mountain.”
Johnny Molloy is the author of many outdoor guides including Best Tent Camping: Tennessee, Paddling Tennessee, and Five Star Trails Tri-Cities: East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.