Hidden in the hills outside of Knoxville, Tennessee lies beautiful Norris Lake. This lovely area offers plenty of activities for nature lovers of all kinds, as well as plenty of other fun things to do. The lakeside communities feature Lake Norris vacation rentals, which provide easy access to everything the lake has to offer. If you’re planning a trip to this part of Tennessee, here are some of the best family activities to try.

1. Pick Up a Paddle

Due to its large size and generally calm waters, Lake Norris is a favorite spot to explore by canoe or kayak. The reservoir does allow motorboats, but it’s easy to find quieter areas to paddle through. Stand-up paddleboarding is also gaining in popularity in the area. While many visitors choose to bring their own gear and store it in their vacation rentals between uses, there also plenty of local outfitters that can rent out all the gear you need.

2. Cast a Line

Lake Norris is home to 56 species of freshwater fish, so it’s a great place to try to catch your own dinner. Some of the most common catches include trout, channel catfish, and black crappie. If you bring your own boat or rent one from one of the local marinas, you can easily find a secluded fishing spot to test the waters. If you prefer to keep your feet on dry land, consider heading to the bottom of Norris Dam. The waters there are full of fish, making it a favorite spot for locals.

3. Do Some Bridge-Jumping

One of this area’s best-kept secrets is the Cedar Creek Bridge, which locals affectionately refer to as the jumping bridge. This bridge rises 35 feet above the gentle waters of the Powell River, which connects to Norris Lake. This activity may be better suited for older teens due to the height of the bridge. Some adventurous souls even take the plunge in a kayak, then paddle along the river.

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4. Take a Hike

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The hills around Lake Norris offer plenty of trails to explore. Nearby Big Ridge State Park features four short loop trails that are great for younger kids and inexperienced hikers, while Norris Dam State Park offers some longer, more challenging treks. Cove Lake State Park and Anderson County Park also offer plenty of trails and woods to explore.

5. See Exotic Animals

If you want a break from outdoor adventures, the Norris Lake area offers two local zoos. Knoxville Zoo is the larger of the two with more than 800 resident animals, and it’s located near plenty of dining and shopping in Knoxville. For a slightly more personal experience, head over to the Little Ponderosa Zoo and Rescue in Clinton. This small zoo saves exotic animals that have been brought to the United States. It focuses on education and conservation.

6. Try the Rope Swing

Swinging off a rope into water is a classic pastime, and Norris Lake offers plenty of opportunities for adults and children to give it a try. The easiest to find is in Big Ridge State Park and is located between the boat ramp and the main lake. It’s easy to spot from your boat as you head out onto the open water. To find others, keep your eyes peeled as you kayak around the shore, or simply stop and ask a friendly local resident.

7. Discover Appalachian History

This area is rich in history, and you can learn about it at several museums in the area. The Lenoir Museum Cultural Complex, which is free to the public, is a one-stop place to learn about Native American culture, early settlers, and the Tennessee Valley Authority, among other important cultural influences. The Museum of Appalachia is a popular living history museum where you can step back into pioneer history. Another little-known gem is the Green McAdoo Cultural Center, which tells the story of the integration of Clinton High School, which became the first desegregated high school in the region.

8. Test Your Water Ski Skills

When you’re ready to head back out on the water, considering trying your hand at water skiing. Norris Lake is considered one of the best lakes for water skiing in the eastern United States, and that’s reflected in the two slalom courses and ski jump available for more experienced skiers. If you’re new to the sport, there are plenty of outfitters who are happy to rent out equipment and even provide a few lessons to help you get going, and the smooth water makes it easy to get the hang of skiing.

9. Saddle Up and Hit the Trail

There’s nothing quite like exploring the wilderness from the back of a horse, and there are several options for guided trail rides around the Norris Lake area. CC Acres is a popular option due to their rental horses for riders of all ages and experience levels and easy access to the lovely trails of the Chuck Swan Wildlife Management Area, but there are plenty of other options for any type of ride.

10. Have an ATV Adventure

If you prefer your horsepower to be a little more mechanized, there are plenty of great areas for OHV adventures. The Coal Creek OHV Area has more than 20 miles of trails suitable for various experience levels and vehicle types. The privately owned Windrock Park offers an additional 300 miles of trails for even more adventure.

11. Pedal Around Or Across the Water

Most of the trails surrounding Norris Lake are multi-use, which makes them a great choice for a family bike ride. Many are fairly broad, without too much rockiness or steepness so the whole family can keep up. If you want to put a new spin on pedal power, though, you can try a Hydro-Bike. These bikes rest on two pontoons so you can enjoy the fun of riding a bike while skimming across the water. You can find them for rent at Hydro-Bikes of East Tennessee in nearby Norris.

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