Sure, Northeast Tennessee is full of beautiful mountains but there is none quiet like Bays Mountain! There is truly days’ worth of adventures to have on the mountain and it is an experience you will not soon forget! No matter what your interest is, there is something for everyone on Bays Mountain!
Nature: With 3650 acres, the nature preserve is the largest city owned park in the State of Tennessee. The park, located in Kingsport, Tennessee, has a 44-acre lake and more than 39 miles of hiking trails and 32 more miles just for mountain biking.
Animal Habitats: The animal habitats on Bays Mountain offers close views of a variety of animals that call Northeast Tennessee home. Gray Wolves were once more numerous in North America, than any other mammal. Starting in the mid 1800’s widespread killing of wolves took place across the United States and the last wolves to inhabit East Tennessee were killed in the 1920s. Visitors can watch the feeding process, hear the wolves howling, and living in their natural habitat with their family group. You will be stunned when you realize just how large these animals are! Also in the habitats are the beautiful bobcats, the red fox which can run up to speeds of 30 miles per hour and jump over obstacles that are 6 feet high, white tail deer, and river otters. Additionally, Bays Mountain has a Raptor Center where hawks, owls, and falcons are on display for the public, but you must be quiet to enjoy the spectacular birds. The Herpetarium introduces visitors to the fascinating world of reptiles and amphibians that call his region home. The Herpetarium also has a “snake wall” where eight native species are seen in their natural habitats.
Hiking and Biking: If Hiking and Biking are interests of yours, you will be in absolute Heaven on Bays Mountain. With more than 40 miles of hiking trails, there is a hike for everyone! Some of the most popular and scenic hikes include Water Fall Hikes, Fire Tower Hike, Lily Pad Cove, and Dolan Branch. The visitors center has detailed maps of each of the hikes. The 32 miles of mountain biking trails come in all levels and offer an old JEEP road trail and a single-track trail. Whether you are looking for adventure or fun on the trails, there is a trail for all skill levels.
Adventure Course: If you are interested in ropes and adventure courses, Bays Mountain has 3 options for all levels of adventure! The low ropes are perfect for a guided, team-building activity up to 8 people! This is perfect for any business or family gathering. The High Ropes, or the Hawks Nest is 40 feet high and features four zones that allow participants to work together to get through the obstacles. The Zip Line, also called The Flying Squirrel, is a thrilling 310-foot zip line that races participants through the tree line. Each of these adventure courses offers something for everyone!
Camping and Fishing: Everyone loves a good camping and fishing trip! Overnight camping is allowed for scout groups and recognized organizations in special areas. Fishing from the dam is allowed for people 55 and older and for kids under 16. Check the website for specific times and baits that are allowed! Bass, Bluegill, and Channel Catfish are all found in the lake.
Planetarium: The Bays Mountain Planetarium can accurately reproduce the night sky, or any environment, under the hemispherical dome. It is the only one of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. With a 40’ diameter Astro-Tec dome and 98 seat, over two dozen deep-sky objects can be projected with fiber optics, taking visitors from their seats to the inner depths of the sky.
History: The history of Bays Mountain will take your imagination to the edges as you imagine trying to survive the wildness as one of the first settlers to the mountain. From the early 1800’s through the early-to-mid 1900’s, Bays Mountain provided for those families who settled on the mountain. The mountain provided settlers with land to farm, wood for building houses, a church and even a school. In 1907, one of Kingsport’s founders, J. Fred Johnson, began buying up land on Bays Mountain to create a lake to be used as a water source for fledgling Kingsport. By 1914, Johnson had purchased the roughly 1,200 acres that surrounded the watershed and sold it to Kingsport Waterworks Corporation who promptly began work in 1915 preparing to build the now iconic dam seen as visitors enter the common area atop Bays Mountain Park. From 1944 through 1964, Bays Mountain served locals in different ways: timber was selectively harvested, hikers enjoyed the early trails and views, while fisherman and hunters challenged their skills. As this usage grew, so too did the public’s interest in preserving the mountain for usage. Thus, in 1965, Mayor Hugh Rule appointed a committee to study ways to possibly develop the mountain into a park. Following the committee’s report, which included hiring a naturalist, the City of Kingsport hired the National Audubon Society to help design a park. Among those representing the Audubon Society was the park’s first director, Robert Holmes. As development began in 1968, so did visitation on a very limited basis. Work was still being completed on the service/entrance road and the parking lot remained unfinished, meaning a strict 100 car limit was enforced. In 1969, the park’s first naturalists were hired, one part-time and one full-time, to accommodate visitors and park users.
The Gift Shop: The Gift shop at Bay’s Mountain not only allows you to purchase t-shirts, stickers, and more items, but lets you find the perfect memory from your trip. Memories made on this mountain will follow you the rest of your life and it will be nice to have a souvenir to take with you!
Programs and Events: The mountain park has so many incredible events throughout the year and offers a camp in the summertime that is perfect for that adventurous child of yours.
We invite you to look at the Bays Mountain website, www.baysmountain.com, to answer any further questions you have or to learn how to get in contact with the park. One thing is for sure, it will be the adventure of a lifetime for you!