I am not a camper.
Anytime that I have ever camped, I have wondered why on earth I had chosen to sleep on the ground when I had access to a perfectly good bed.
I know that camping is the cheapest option for an overnight stay. And I know that some folks thrive on the rough and tumble camping experience that most of our state parks offer.
Nothing wrong with that, but some of us require more amenities, especially at bedtime.
Don’t get me wrong: I love being outdoors, I could hike all day, and I love spending time on (or in) a lake. It is just that after a busy nature-filled day, a hot shower and a nice clean bedroom with heat and air and a comfy bed are what I crave.
So thank goodness there are state parks like Montgomery Bell, where you can find camping and a whole lot more — including well-appointed guest rooms in a newly remodeled lodge (rooms are similar to what you would find at a Hampton Inn), an award-winning 18-hole golf course (very affordable) and a full-service three-meal-a- day restaurant where you can enjoy a lovely lakefront view with your meal.
So if you are looking for a day trip to the park to check out the trails and lakes, you have a free destination. And if you want to stay overnight (with a real bed), you will be happy to know that all of our state parks are offering a 10% accommodation discount to Tennessee residents.
Twenty-one of the 56 Tennessee parks have cabins, and several have lodges similar to the one at Montgomery Bell.
And yes, if camping is your thing, Montgomery Bell and lots other Tennessee parks offer many camping options, too. And the discount applies there, too.
Residents can take advantage of the 10% discount at reserve.tnstateparks.com or by calling individual parks. Reservations can be made as far as a year in advance. All Tennessee residents 18 and older with a valid state-issued photo ID qualify.
12 things to know about Montgomery Bell State Park
• The park is almost 4,000 acres and is in Dickson County, just 40 minutes from Nashville.
• Montgomery Bell has three lakes, including Lake Acorn, with a swim beach that is free and open to the public Memorial Day through Labor Day. All three lakes allow nonmotorized boats, and there are rental options for kayaks and paddleboats on Lake Acorn.
• Fishing is good on all three lakes, with crappie, bass, catfish and bluegill being popular catches. Last year a 13- pound, 8-ounce largemouth bass was caught in Lake Woodhaven, and there are recent reports of a 30-pound and a 50-pound catfish being caught in the Creek Hollow Lake.
• The 10% Tennessee resident discount applies to lodge rooms, cabins and campsites. The 117-room lodge has just been remodeled from top to bottom — the rooms, bathrooms, lobby and restaurant. Room rates range from $100 to $150, depending on dates and availability.
The park also has eight modern cabins that can sleep up to eight guests each (rates start at $170 a night, and there is a two-night minimum on most cabins) and 116 campsites for all sort of campers. Some rooms and cabins are pet friendly with a $20 nightly pet fee. Visit https://tnstateparks.com/about/discounts.
• The lodge’s restaurant, which serves three meals a day, has indoor and outdoor seating overlooking Lake Acorn. Almost everything on the menu is $10 to $12 or less. Catfish is king, but there is an extensive menu. Plus there is a full-service lounge next to the restaurant in the lodge.
• An outdoor pool at the lodge is open to lodge and cabin guests.
• Montgomery Bell’s Frank G. Clement 18-hole golf course is very affordable ($46-$52 for 18 holes and includes a cart) and gets great reviews, including being included in a recent Golf Digest listing of “Top 100 Public Courses to Play.” The golf complex includes a driving range and pro shop and offers lessons. It also has a snack bar/grill (with $5 hamburgers) and an attractive veranda for a casual lunch, even if you don’t play golf. Course prices are even less expensive for senior players. Visit https://tnstateparks.com/golf/course/montgomery-bell.
• The park has 16 miles of hiking/walking trails, including the most popular one (the overnight 10.5-mile Montgomery Bell Trail hike around the park’s perimeter) and the beautiful quarter-mile Spillway Trail, which follows the creek to Lake Woodhaven.
There are also 20 miles of bring-your-own-bike mountain biking trails. Visit https://tnstateparks.com/about/park-trail-maps#montgomery-bell.
• The park was created in 1942 and named for Montgomery Bell, who formed one of the largest iron industries in Tennessee.
• The site of the first Cumberland Presbyterian Church is in the park. The church was founded in 1810 in the log cabin home of the Rev. Samuel McAdow. A replica of the cabin and a church are within the park.
• The most photographed site in the park is the beautiful rock spillway, which was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration using limestone that was hand quarried in the park.
• The summer season offers free and affordable nature programs for all ages, including birds of prey programs, reptile programs, creek walks, owl prowls and canoe floats.
To learn more, go to https://tnstateparks.com/parks/info/montgomery-bell.