The pavilion at Backbone Rock Recreation Area is a popular location for family reunions and other types of group gatherings. The pavilion is large and adjacent to an expansive field, Beaverdam Creek, and a large parking area. The area includes accessible grills, picnic tables, dumpsters, and vault toilets. PLEASE NOTE: The Large reservable pavilion at Backbone Rock Day Use Area and the smaller non-reservable pavilion next to 'The Rock' at Backbone Rock Day Use Area will both be CLOSED due to Historic Preservation Repair starting Nov 1, 2023 until approximately May 20, 2024. These are necessary repairs to be made to ensure these CCC-era Pavilions are used for generations to come.
There is a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) -era pavilion, picnic tables and grills. The pavilion includes a stone fireplace and several large picnic tables with additional tables and grills nearby. Vault toilets are located within the parking area, and are open for the 2022 season.
The large pavilion is available for reservations until October 31, 2023. Starting Nov 1, 2023 the Large reservable pavilion and the smaller non-reservable pavilion will be CLOSED due to Historic Preservation Repair. This closure will last until approx May 20, 2024.
There is no cell phone coverage in the Backbone Rock Recreation Area.
Pavilions are cleaned by 10:00 a.m. the day of a reservation. Please make your own arrangements if you plan to use the site before 10:00 a.m.
If your group size will be 75 people or more, please call the Watauga Ranger District at 423-735-1500 to apply for a special use permit. Pavilion #1 has extensive parking for larger groups.
Be Bear Wise: Never leave food out on tables or in the open. Store unattended food in bear-resistant containers, in a vehicle in solid non-pliable material, or suspend food at least 12 feet off the ground. Remember to use the bear resistant trash receptacles provided at this facility. Please adhere to the Cherokee National Forest Food and Refuse Storage Requirements 36 CFR 261.58 (cc) . Visit the Cherokee National Forest website for more information.
All pets must be on a 6' leash at all times. Owners must pick up after their pets, and all pet waste disposed of properly.
It is your responsibility to read, know, understand, and follow all day-use area specific rules and regulations which are posted at the day-use area.
The vault toilet is closed for the season.
Backbone Rock Recreation Area is located along Beaverdam Creek in northern Johnson County. Backbone Rock gets its name from a spur ridge on Holston Mountain that ends abruptly at a bend in Beaverdam Creek. A tunnel was drilled through the rock in 1901 to allow railroad access between Shady Valley, TN and Damascus, VA. Motorists pass through what is locally known as "The shortest tunnel in the world" as they travel along TN 133.
Damascus, Virginia is five miles North of Backbone Rock for any in-town needs.
There is a trail that will take you to the top of Backbone Rock, following a stone-step wooded path. The trail crosses the rock and leads to Beaverdam Creek or Backbone Rock Falls. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail adjoins Backbone Rock Trail. Beaverdam Creek is known for its excellent fishing.
4400 Unicoi Drive Unicoi Tennessee 37692
For campground inquiries, please call: 423-735-1500
From Bristol, TN take US 421 south for 20 miles to Shady Valley. Turn left onto TN 133 for eight miles to the recreation area. From Abingdon, VA, take US 58 east for 15 miles to Damascus. Turn right onto VA 716 for five miles to the recreation area (VA 178 becomes TN 133 at the state line).