For a small fee, an individual or family can join the Bays Mountain Park Association (BMPA). There are many advantages to membership, too many to list here, but the park has an outstanding website that is very thorough in its explanation of levels of membership, classes, activities, events, available rentals, pretty much everything one would want or need to know about the park. There is also a section of Frequently Asked Questions that gives a lot of great information. The information available online gives a great overview of what’s available.
Here, we’ve opted to share a first-hand look from a member and her children ~ to give you a more personal “inside” look at the park that members love so much.
“Since moving to Kingsport six years ago, Bays Mountain has been a regular spot for me and my kids. We are so blessed to be able to escape from the rat race of everyday life with only a 10-minute drive from our home,” said volunteer and BMPA member Dana McMurray.
When Dana went through the Leadership Kingsport program in 2014/2015, Bays Mountain was her Community Impact Project.
“We are avid hikers and Bays Mountain does not disappoint. There are numerous trails from beginner to expert levels,” Dana said.
“Hiking to the fire tower is a must. The view is amazing. It is not a long hike, but it is steep... trust me when I say it is worth the climb. Once a year, you need to take advantage of the Nighttime Hike. It is a guided hike on Lakeside Trail and it allows you to see the park in a different light. Also, the animal exhibits are fun for kids. You can get very close to a lot of them and learn so much about their habitats.”
If someone has more time, Dana recommends hiking from Bays Mountain to Laurel Run Park (in Hawkins County). It's an all-day hike that ends at beautiful waterfalls. (Just make sure you plan ahead and have a ride pick you up or drop a car off for your ride back).
For those that mountain bike, the trails at Bays Mountain are ideal. (Bike trails are marked.) Fishing is allowed as well for kids under 16 years of age and adults 55 and over.
“My son is 12 and he loves hiking all the trails. Also, the observatory is something that never disappoints,”she said. “The planetarium’s shows are always so amazing. It makes you feel that you have traveled light years away.”
The Adventure (Ropes) Course is another popular activity for kids. It really tests their bravery and agility. For those older or less athletic, Bays Mountain is a great getaway. Take the day and hike around the lake. There are benches all around the Lakeside Trail for you to sit and enjoy the scenery. The barge ride is ideal for all ages - as visitors can view the park from the lake.
In addition to the numerous physical activities offered at Bays Mountain Park, there are also clubs and groups to get involved with, such as the Astronomy Club which offers meetings, opportunities for planned star-gazing, special shows in the planetarium and special speakers.
Members are also able to check out videos from the large collection of National Geographic, nature and space-related programs. There's also a BMAC (Bays Mountain Astronomy Club) Yahoo! Group and a YouTube channel. Rooms are available for renting for meetings or birthday parties (reservation information is on the website) and there are picnic tables scattered throughout the park. There is even a gift shop with educational and unique gifts for all ages. This time of year, the park is gearing up for Summer Day Camp.
In addition, there are many volunteer opportunities available for youth to retirees.
There is so much to see and do in this beautiful 3,550-acre park. Check it out at www.baysmountain.com or, better yet, pay the park a visit at 853 Bays Mountain Road in Kingsport.
Thanks to Rob Cole and volunteer Dana McMurray for their generous help on this story.