In 2020, our family was looking for a place to vacation where we wouldn’t have to leave the house, but wouldn’t get bored of staying stuck in one place. We decided a lake-front rental would be the ideal retreat from the craziness of the 2020 world.
After a bit of research, we found Norris Lake in Tennessee – and it was everything we were looking for!
The Natural Beauty of Norris Lake in Tennessee
Norris Lake, also known as Norris Reservoir, is a reservoir located in the Cumberland Mountains of East Tennessee. The lake was created by the Norris Dam by the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1936.
Norris Lake is known for its great fishing, availability of recreational activities, and it’s deep, clean, and crystal-clear water. It’s one of the most beautiful lakes we have seen, next to Crater Lake in Oregon, which is well-known as the cleanest and clearest lake in the U.S.
The picturesque waters of Norris Lake in Tennessee stretch across 34,000 acres, with beautiful shorelines dotted with trees, and views of the Cumberland Mountains.
Norris Lake is also home to a diverse range of wildlife, making it a haven for nature enthusiasts. From ospreys soaring overhead to white-tailed deer grazing in the distance, the lake’s ecosystem is teeming with life.
Birdwatchers will delight in spotting various species, including bald eagles, herons, and kingfishers. The lake’s clear waters are also home to an abundance of fish, making it a popular destination for fishing enthusiasts.
Recreational Activities at Norris Lake
Norris Lake is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a wide range of recreational activities to suit every taste.
Boating and Water Sports
One of the most popular activities at the lake is boating. With over 800 miles of shoreline, there is plenty of room to explore.
We rented a pontoon boat from the Shanghai Resort marina and spent a couple of days cruising the lake, tubing, and anchoring in coves to swim. For a more thrilling adventure, rent a jet ski and zip across the water, feeling the wind in your hair and the spray on your face. Whether you prefer a leisurely boat ride or an adrenaline-pumping water sport, Norris Lake has that.
We brought our kayaks along as well, and we spent plenty of time paddling out into the water in front of the house we rented. If you don’t have your own, kayaks and paddleboards can be rented at one of the many marinas as well.
Hiking & Biking around Norris Lake
If you prefer to stay on land, Norris Lake is surrounded by a network of hiking trails that wind through the forests and offer stunning views of the lake and mountains.
Several of the trails can be found in Norris Dam State Park. They range from “easy” to “moderate” and anywhere from less than a mile to over 14 miles, so there is something for almost everyone!
There are several other areas with hiking trails, as well as mountain biking trails and you can find a map of the trail systems here.
You can also access a section of the Cumberland Trail in Lafollette, TN.
Fishing on Norris Lake
Norris Lake is known for its smallmouth bass fishing, particularly from November to April. The lake is stocked annually with striped bass and walleye, the former of which regularly reach 25 pounds and more.
Other fish that can be found in Norris Lake are largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish, several species of catfish, brown and rainbow trout, lake sturgeon, and paddlefish.
Our kids love to fish off the shore but don’t have a lot of patience, and the bluegill here were relatively easy to catch.
Norris Lake Accommodations
When it comes to accommodations, Norris Lake in Tennessee offers a wide range of options to suit every budget and preference. From cozy cabins nestled in the woods to luxurious lakefront homes, to RV campgrounds and primitive campsites, there is something for everyone.
Vacation Rentals on Norris Lake
Renting a vacation home or cabin allows you to experience the beauty of Norris Lake up close and personal, with all the comforts of home. Wake up to stunning lake views, enjoy meals on your private deck, and unwind in the evening with a soak in a hot tub or a cozy fire in the fireplace.
We love to rent VRBO properties, and the lakefront home we rented for the week in Lafollette, Tennessee was perfect for us. We would choose it again every time! Our favorite perk of this rental was the private dock with a diving board!
With a variety of rental options available, you can find the perfect home away from home for your Norris Lake vacation.
If you prefer a more traditional hotel experience, there are also several popular chain hotels located near Norris Lake. These accommodations offer a range of amenities, including swimming pools, fitness centers, and on-site dining options.
There are also resorts right on the lake, such as the Shanghai Resort, where we rented our boat. A couple of others are Deerfield Resort and Twin Cove Resort and Marina, which also offers a swimming pool.
Camping and RV Options
There are so many camping options around Norris Lake. Mountain Lake Campground is right on the lake and offers 165 full hook-up sites and a full-service marina. Several other marinas across Norris Lake also offer camping and RV sites.
State parks are usually a budget-friendly camping option, and Norris Dam State Park offers 2 different campgrounds. Cove Lake State Park and Big Ridge State Park are also good options.
Know that Norris Lake is a popular destination, so book your accommodations well in advance!
Whatever your budget, there are plenty of options to choose from. Whichever accommodation you choose, you can rest assured that you’ll be surrounded by the natural beauty of Norris Lake and all it has to offer.
Exploring the Surrounding Areas of Norris Lake
Being that it was just months into the pandemic when we visited, we didn’t get to explore anything around our VRBO rental property.
However, there are several areas to explore!
The Museum of Applachia in Norris, TN is a living history museum and is open 7 days a week. The pioneer mountain village has artifacts from Southern Appalachia and stories of the people there.
Visit the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area and go to the free Hatfield Knob Elk Viewing Tower to see “the first wild elk herd to roam Tennessee since the 1860s.”
If you’re looking for a taste of city life, head to Knoxville, located just a short drive from Norris Lake. This vibrant city offers a range of attractions, including museums, the Knoxville Zoo, and a lively downtown area with shops and restaurants. Knoxville is a perfect blend of urban amenities and southern charm, making it a great day trip from Norris Lake.
For those seeking a more laid-back experience, explore the charming small towns that surround Norris Lake. From the quaint streets of Dandridge – Tennessee’s second-oldest town, to the historic district of Clinton, there is plenty to discover.
Another day trip option from Norris Lake is to visit Dollywood in Pigeon Forge. We went to Dollywood during Christmastime and would highly recommend it regardless of the time of year!
Norris Lake is more than just a beautiful destination – it is also a perfect vacation spot. Whether you’re looking for a family vacation, a couples getaway, or a solo adventure, Norris Lake has something for everyone.
The natural beauty and tranquility of the area make it an ideal place to relax and unwind, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Imagine waking up to the sound of birds singing, enjoying your coffee on the deck of your lakeside cabin, and spending the day exploring all that Norris Lake has to offer.
From sunrise to sunset, Norris Lake will captivate your heart, leaving you with memories that will last a lifetime.
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