Tennessee Has a Place for You to Rest Your Head

March 14, 2018

If you’ve ever been turned away from a state or national campground at the end of long day in the saddle, you know the feeling. The joy of arriving at your destination instantly curdles. You know there is room for you between that RV and the restrooms, but you climb reluctantly back into the saddle, filled with the anxiety of trying to find a decent alternative before it gets dark.

Tennessee State Parks feels your pain! With our encouragement, they established a no-turn-away policy so you’ll never get stuck with unexpected miles at the end of a long day.

Our advocacy team works with state and national parks around the country to help them understand the needs of cyclists and why no-turn-away policies are so important. Currently, to our knowledge, only eight states have no-turn-away policies: Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Virginia, Washington State, Wisconsin, and now Tennessee. If you’d like to see more states adopt this policy, you can support our advocacy work with a donation.

But no-turn-away policies aren’t the only work we’re doing in the parks.

With your help, this year we’ll advocate for:

  • More hiker/biker campsites in state park campgrounds — with amenities like secure bike parking, lockers for food and valuables, bike maintenance stations, and covered facilities
  • Car-free days in national parks — imagine more parks dedicating at least one day each year to cyclists (and all non-motorized users) so we can experience them in a way that is healthy for us and the planet
  • Increased safety and respect on park roads — to promote safe, share-the-road practices and well-maintained shoulders, bike lanes, and trails

Donate today to help America’s parks reinvent themselves around bicycle travel! And when you donate $100 or more, we’ll send you a gift to take on your next park adventure.

You can read more about Adventure Cycling’s work with parks, and make sure to check out our new bike camping resource, A Guide to Bicycle Camping

Photo courtesy of Oregon Parks and Recreation Department


The Thomas Stevens Fan Club is brought to you by the development team, Annette, April, and Michelle. They share an office with a classic Parisian Metropole bicycle. Want to know more about how you can support Adventure Cycling and all the amazing work they do? Call them at 406-532-2760 or email them at development@adventurecycling.org


Peter Toomey April 6, 2018, 9:02 AM

Just posted to the Ohio State Parks online "Comments": As a lifelong Buckeye and dedicated bicycle tourist, I strongly encourage you to adopt a "No Turn Away" policy for our State Parks.

Because weather / road resurfacing / mechanical issues can (notoriously frequently) alter our travel "plans", we cannot reliably make reservations. And therefore show up at your door, late in the day, hot and tired.

We don't take up much space. We don't use many resources. We are (in my experience) thoughtful and respectful guests and neighbors. But, even when all your "regular" sites are booked, we still need 20 square feet of grass to pitch our tent and crash. We're almost always moving on the very next day.

Please consider and implement a "No Turn Away" policy for traveling cyclists in our great state?


Help, info, and encouragement is available from Saara Snow at SSnow@AdventureCycling.org

Saara Snow April 6, 2018, 10:08 AM

Thanks Peter - this is great! Feel free to also share the Guide to Bicycle Camping which is downloadable from www.adventurecycling.org/parks.

Martin Cooperman April 4, 2018, 8:19 PM

Florida has a 'no turn away' policy too. I have a letter from the director of parks saying that if it is late in the day and there are no reasonable alternatives nearby, the state park campground must find some place for cyclists to camp. You pay the full rate and must leave the next day if there is no site available. We have had to show a copy of that letter to various campground officials and all have honored it without argument. Quite fair and reasonable, we thought.

Saara Snow April 6, 2018, 10:03 AM

Hi Martin - I'm interested to see the letter you have as well - can you email it to me at ssnow@adventurecycling.org? Great to hear you've put it to the test and it's worked at multiple campgrounds. However, if there is a new state parks director and this letter isn't official policy, then I'm concerned that it wouldn't hold up.

Kenneth Weaver April 6, 2018, 8:09 AM

Martin: As a Florida resident, FL State Park member, FBA and ACA Route Advisor and local Warm Shower counselor, this is news to me. Can you share this letter? During snow-bird season I've had reports of many cycle tourists being turned away from Florida State Parks. In Central and Southern Florida there are relatively few "primitive" and "tent only" camping sites are Florida State Parks. They make too much money on the Full-Hook Up campsites from tourists that stay for weeks on end in their RV. I've be told to my face they can't be making special accommodation for "tourist who didn't adequately plan or make reservations through the national online system."

Fred Su April 4, 2018, 6:24 PM

Many years ago, when my wife and I toured the Oregon coast, there were hiker/biker camps. Those were wonderful! We live in Washington state and, until I read it here, I did not realize that Washington is a no-turn-away state. Great to know!

Saara Snow April 6, 2018, 10:05 AM

Oregon just keeps improving their hiker/biker sites, and I've heard that some WA State Parks campgrounds have them as well (harder to find info about them online though). It's great to have state parks we can hold up as best practice examples.

John Wegner April 4, 2018, 1:53 PM

Minnesota does not have a state wide no turn away policy. They would like you to make same day online reservations. If the campground is full, each park may have a different practice, there is no guaranty every state park will honor the no turn away practice.

Saara Snow April 6, 2018, 10:07 AM

I recently heard about their new 'reservations only' rule and will look into it. We have a copy of their 'emergency camping' policy but it doesn't seem to hold up under their new approach.

Rishab Sharma March 31, 2018, 9:18 PM

This policy was new for me to read and it is a must for cyclist. I wish it was there in my country. Great work!

Saara Snow April 6, 2018, 10:17 AM

Thanks! Feel free to download and share the Guide to Bicycle Camping (from www.adventurecycling.org/parks) if it would be a helpful resource for educating your country's decision-makers about bike travel best practices.

Andrew Squirrel March 15, 2018, 12:40 PM

Hey Sarah, Unfortunately we did not have the policy with us at the time and I bet it would have allowed us to shoehorn our way in the campsite a little quicker. I'm sure the camp host that turned us away would have breezed right by the "May vs Must" distinction if we were convincing enough in our argument. She seemed like she had many years of experience turning away drivers that show up late to a very popular camping destination for photographers. Overall it was a learning experience to keep this documentation on hand with every trip. It would be awesome if Adventure Cycling kept a library of the official no-turn-away literature for each state on hand for easy access of touring cyclists. Thanks!

Saara Snow March 16, 2018, 2:14 PM

Hi Andrew,

Yeah, that's my sense as well, is that a campground host probably wouldn't nitpick the wording on an official policy, but I hope I'm not wrong on that. We do keep all of the No-Turn-Away policies in the Guide to Bicycle Camping, downloadable at www.adventurecycling.org/parks. I'll think about how we can make them more visible to touring cyclists though, since that page is aimed more at parks. If you have any suggestions on where on the website would make most sense to provide them from a user perspective, let me know.

Andrew Squirrel March 14, 2018, 6:58 PM

You claimed that Washington State is a no-turn-away state but unfortunately that is incorrect information.

My group traveling from Seattle to Montana was denied access to a state park despite our protests. We eventually found a small loophole that allowed us to stay in a campsite reserved for handicapped campers after 6pm. A fellow cyclist was able to obtain the document that appears to allow cyclists the right to no-turn-away-policy but after detailed analysis instead allows the camp host the final call ("May" not "Must"). You can read more about it here and see the official document: http://www.bikingbis.com/2017/06/13/how-bicycle-travelers-can-pitch-their-tents-at-full-wa-state-park-campgrounds/

Saara Snow March 15, 2018, 10:54 AM

Hi Andrew, Thanks for letting us know about your experience getting turned away at WA State Parks - did you have the policy with you or knowledge of it at the time? And was it the campground manager who turned you away or a park ranger? It sounds like the actual park staff are on board with 'never' turning away bicyclists (as reported by Nick), but campground hosts are not. We'll keep it listed as a no-turn-away policy because people (including the Path Less Pedaled) have used it successfully to guarantee emergency camping. But I will look into it further and see if the policy can be amended to be more definitive. Feel free to email me at ssnow@adventurecycling.org if you have more info to share.

Ariel March 14, 2018, 1:42 PM

Is the Minnesota policy new? I toured there in 2016 and neither Itasca or Crow Wing had hiker/biker sites. At the time, neither had a no turn away policy either. I got turned away at Itasca my first night there.

Saara Snow March 15, 2018, 10:59 AM

Hi Ariel,

The Minnesota policy is not new, it's from 2011, and it is encompassing of all state parks since it is a system-wide policy. I'm sorry to hear you had that experience, you can find the policy in the Guide to Bicycle Camping, which is downloadable at www.adventurecycling.org/parks. Unfortunately it seems to be fairly common that if you don't have the policy in hand, it is a gamble whether the campground host will know about it and follow it. So I would recommend carrying it with you on future tours.

Saara Snow March 14, 2018, 10:53 AM

Hi Connie,

We've seen a copy of a policy from 1999 from Bike Indiana, but we have also never heard direct confirmation from Indiana State Parks that they still recognize and follow this policy, which is important because it is now almost 20 years old. We also heard that a touring cyclist was turned away at an Indiana State Park a couple of years ago. If Indiana State Parks confirms that the policy is still in effect and being followed consistently, then we can include it in our listing of states with policies, but so far we have not heard back. If you have more information to share or a contact at IN State Parks that we can talk to, we would love to connect with them.

Jim Badgley March 14, 2018, 7:40 PM

We were turned away from Lieber State Recreation area around Memorial Day last year on our trip west. So if there is a no turn away policy in Indiana, they don't seem to know about it at the parks.

Saara Snow March 15, 2018, 11:01 AM

Hi Jim,

Thanks for sharing your experience getting turned away, it's helpful for us to be able to share these stories when reaching out to parks.

Connie Szabo Schmucker March 14, 2018, 6:39 AM

Indiana has had a no-turn-away policy for decades, as a result of work by Indiana Bicycle Coalition (now Bicycle Indiana).

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