Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park is our 13,000-acre forest, just 13 miles north of Memphis in beautiful Millington, Tennessee. It’s an easy 20-minute drive out Danny Thomas (Highway 51) from downtown or a quick trip on the Interstate from anywhere else.
Nestled along the Chickasaw Bluffs, Shelby Forest features a mature Bald Cypress and Tupelo swamp, a sandy beach along the mighty Mississippi River, cabins, camping, local wildlife, more than 20 miles of trails, 36 holes of disc golf, a nature center and a general store. Whether you spend the day or stay the weekend, there’s lots of fun to be had.
Stock Up At Shelby Forest General Store
Let’s start with the Shelby Forest General Store since any good visit to the park requires a few provisions. Added bonus--it’s a great place to meet locals and the owners are as nice as they come.
Built in the 1930s, there’s a grill inside and the store offers up some very tasty breakfast and lunch items including a legendary burger. Every Friday night is steak night, which starts at 6 p.m., and features live music, typically of the bluegrass, banjo picking variety. Music is either inside or outside on the deck, weather permitting. File this under “must do.”
The store is also fully stocked on ice cold beverages, live bait, firewood and picnic supplies, including individually wrapped chunks of cheese. (You can buy beer here, but you can’t drink it on the premises due to their proximity to the local school.)
Take A Hike In Memphis’ Shelby Forest
Now that you are fueled up, let’s go on a hike. Meeman-Shelby Forest offers more than 20 miles of hiking trails that wind throughout the park. Check in at the Visitor's Center for trail and topography maps.
The most popular hiking trail is the approximately eight-mile, wooded Chickasaw Bluff Trail. It winds along a bluff with the largest loop overlooking Poplar Tree Lake. The Pioneer Springs Trail (4.0 miles) and Woodland Trail (3.5 miles) are also great, but shorter, options. The Woodland Trail, also known as the “Red Trail” is very steep in places and is a favorite among trail runners, especially those training for mountainous terrains.
ENJOY THE SHELBY FOREST BIKE TRAILS
Prefer biking? The 5-mile bike trail is a down and back, an intermediate trail, suitable for a cross or mountain bike. It has flat areas, smooth pavement, switchbacks, and some great turns. Best of all, it’s well marked so you won’t get lost. Many cyclists also utilize the roads surrounding the park, so keep an eye out when driving in.
PLAY FRISBEE GOLF AND RENT CANOES
Frisbee golf, anyone? The park has one of the largest and most scenic disc golf courses in the Southeast. The 36-hole, wooded course is divided into two 18-hole courses that offer beginners as well as advanced players a challenging game. It’s fun for all ages. Visitors can find disc golf accessories at Shelby Forest General Store.
Poplar Tree Lake is a paddler’s paradise. Bring your own paddle craft and pay a $2 launch fee or rent from the park. Canoes are $7/hour or $25 per day; kayaks $7/hour; tandem kayaks $10/hour; and paddleboards & pedal boats $7/hour. Life jackets are available for $5 each. Cash or check only.
RENT A CABIN OR CAMP in the FOREST
In addition to all of this, there’s fishing, birding, and horseback riding too. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Better stay the night! For $100-$125 you can rent one of six two-bedroom standard cabins situated along the shoreline of Poplar Tree Lake in a heavily wooded section of the park. These newly renovated cabins can sleep up to six people. They have two bedrooms that each has one bed along with one full size pull out couch. In cabins 1 - 5, the beds are queen size. In cabin 6, the beds are full size. These cozy cabins are ideal for family vacations, couples' weekend, fishing trip, or a girls' getaway.
Prefer to “rough it?” The park’s campground rate is $25-$27 per night. It has 49 campsites, each equipped with a table, grill, electrical and water hookups. A modern bathhouse provides hot showers. There is a dump station for self-contained trailer rigs. Reservations may be made well in advance through the visitor center or online. Maximum stay limit is two weeks.
The Piersol Group Camp, located on 25-acre Piersol Lake, is $300 per night and should be reserved well in advance. It can accommodate up to 140 people. Available from April - October, the camp is rented by the week only during the summer months, and on weekends at other times.
No matter what activities you choose, we hope you love the park as much as we do. For more information and to start planning your trip, visit Meeman-Shelby Forest’s website and social media channels: Facebook and Instagram