Sycamore Shoals State Park in Elizabethton, TN is a great place to stop and take a walk if you’re in the area. It’s right next to the hospital, and right in town, but it doesn’t feel that way once you start walking along the Watauga River.

The 70-acre park was designated in 1975 as a National Historic Landmark because a “series of events critical to the establishment of the states of Tennessee and Kentucky took place here” (Wikipedia). If you want to explore the history of the area, there is a museum in the Visitor’s Center, and several other sections of the park that are specifically dedicated to this aspect.

Brass plaque at Sycamore Shoals State Park in Elizabethton, TN designating it as a National Historic Landmark in 1975.

When we went, we were mainly interested in spending some time in nature and being near the water.

The one-mile loop known as Patriot’s Path leads you along the river, past a butterfly garden, and then back around to the beginning. The gravel path is well maintained, so fairly easy, but does have some slight hills and uneven ground.

(see my Guide to How I Rate Trails if you want more information on this.).

A sign that reads "Patriots Path Tr" (trail), one that reminds people to keep their dog on a leash, a no biking sign, and a small trail marker that reads "Sycamore Shoals State Park Trail", all on a wooden post at the beginning of a gravel covered trail.
Wide gravel pathway that leads through trees on both sides at Sycamore Shoals State Park in Elizabethton, TN.
A view of the river through the trees. The water has some grass around it, and some larger rocks in it. Blue sky in the background, partially reflecting off of the water. Taken at Sycamore Shoals State Park in Elizabethton, TN.
A tree sticking straight out over the river. Most likely pushed over by a storm, but still growing and thriving. Taken at Sycamore Shoals State Park in Elizabethton, TN.
It never ceases to amaze me, just how resilient trees are.
Looking out over a river from under the shade of trees. You can see through the water to the rocks and branches that are below. Trees and blue sky in the background.

I enjoyed the way the sun was shining through the trees, casting different shapes and shadows onto the ground below.

Shapes and shadows cast onto the ground by the sunlight shining through the trees.
Can you see the hearts?

Along the way, there are small paths off to the side that allow you to get closer to the river…or even in it if you choose to.

A view of a river, looking down a path and past a tree and some grass. Blue sky reflecting off of the water.

The day we went there was a mama duck and her duckling swimming around in the river near us. We spent a good twenty minutes just watching them ride the current one way and then swim back to grab another bite or two of the plants that were in the water.

A mama and baby duck swimming in the lake at Sycamore Shoals State Park in Elizabethton, TN.

There’s a butterfly garden that is filled with flowers. It has a small path around it so you can get an up-close view of the butterflies and bees hopping from flower to flower.

A garden with purple flowers mixed in with the green of the other plants surrounding them at Sycamore Shoals State Park in Elizabethton, TN.

Benches have also been placed along the path so that you can take a break if you need to, or just sit and enjoy the peaceful sounds of nature.

The bench at the end of the loop, or I guess the middle since it’s right where you turn around to go back, was my favorite. It overlooks the water, was shaded, and you had a nice view in both directions. The water was extremely clear that day and the colors were amazing.

A river with some large rocks on the right, trees all around it, and a large white fluffy cloud in a blue sky. Taken at Sycamore Shoals State Park in Elizabethton, TN.

Sycamore Shoals State Park isn’t necessarily a place that I would make a special trip from far away to see, but if you happen to be in the area, it would most certainly make a nice addition to your time in Elizabethton, TN.

Sign for Sycamore Shoals State Park in Elizabethton, TN, made out of stone and wood. Grass all around the sign and trees in the background.

If you’d like to plan an entire trip to this area, check out these blog posts about nearby places:

Roan Mountain State Park

Laurel Falls in Hampton, TN

Blue Hole Falls