Frequently Asked Questions

What is Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium?

What is a Nature Preserve?

What is a Planetarium?

When are you open?

Are the Nature Center and animal exhibits stroller and wheelchair accessible?

Do you offer field trips for school classes? Home school classes?

Do you offer birthday parties?

Do you have picnic shelters?

Do the picnic shelters have grills and/or what is your policy on grills?

What are the rules for mountain biking at Bays Mountain Park?

Are there rules for hiking?

Are there snakes and predators on your trails and/or in the park?

Do you allow dogs at Bays Mountain Park?

Do you assist boy and girl scouts with merit badges and projects?

Do you accept injured animals?

Do you have special astronomy viewings and events?

Do you use/need volunteers?

What is Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium?

Located in Kingsport, Tennessee, Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium is one of the nation’s largest city-owned parks. A 3,550-acre nature preserve featuring a Nature Center with a state-of-the-art planetarium, Bays Mountain Park also offers a 44-acre lake, 40 miles of trails approved for hiking and mountain biking, native animal habitats, adventure ropes course facility with a 300-ft. zip line, gift shop and much more!

What is a Nature Preserve?

A nature preserve is an area identified and set aside for the protection and preservation of its flora (plant life), fauna (wildlife) and even its geological significance. Nature preserves may be designated by governments and/or communities and are often used for educational and/or research purposes. In 1973, the State of Tennessee designated Bays Mountain Park as a state natural area to be protected from irresponsible development and other harmful threats.

What is a Planetarium?

A planetarium is a special theater facility designed primarily for the study of the night sky and other astronomy related subjects. Bays Mountain Park is home to a $1.3 million dollar state-of-the-art planetarium featuring a 40-foot dome, 6.1 surround sound and a Zeiss ZKP-4 star projector that is so precise viewers can use binoculars to see stars that cannot be seen with the naked eye! Shows are offered almost every day except Monday during the school year.

When are you open?

Bays Mountain Park is open every day of the year except four, when the park is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. Park hours are seasonal, however, so please visit the Hours and Fees page or call 423-229-9447 for updated hours before visiting.

Are the Nature Center and animal exhibits stroller and wheelchair accessible?

Yes. The upper and lower levels of the Nature Center are accessible via ramp while the main paths thru our animal habitats are paved.

Do you offer field trips for school classes? Home school classes?

Yes! One of the park’s primary goals is education outreach. Between 35,000 and 50,000 students visit Bays Mountain Park each year for quality, up-to-date educational programming. Bays Mountain Park follows state standards of learning when preparing our programs. Many home school groups also make Bays Mountain Park a part of their learning process. To receive more information or to schedule a visit, call Senior Naturalist Fred Hilton at 423-229-9490.

Do you offer birthday parties?

Birthday parties are very popular as Bays Mountain Park offers attendees the opportunity to mix birthday fun with planetarium shows, nature programs and even barge rides (individual or group fees apply for all programs). For more information or to schedule a birthday party call 423-229-9447.

Do you have picnic shelters?

Picnic shelters are conveniently located throughout our main parking area. We also have two larger shelters located on Lake Road just above our Raptor Center that could accommodate around 35 people each. All shelters are on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Do the picnic shelters have grills and/or what is your policy on grills?

Due to our status as a nature preserve there are no grills at our picnic shelters. Also, the use of grills is prohibited at Bays Mountain Park.

What are the rules for mountain biking at Bays Mountain Park?

More than 25 miles of our 40 mile trail system are approved for mountain biking. Prior to enjoying our trails, all bikers MUST register their bikes at the Nature Center. The registration process is a simple one taking only a few minutes as park staff will inspect the bike for proper equipment and advise each biker of the park’s rules for biking. Bikers also complete a registration/liability release form. Registration is $2.00 per bike. No street bikes are allowed and no bikes are allowed in the animal habitats.  Visit our Hiking & Biking page for more information.

Are there rules for hiking?

While there are no firm guidelines for hiking, we do strongly recommend hikers take a park map with them on each and every hike. Hiking tips and recommendations are located just below the map for your convenience and on our Hiking & Biking page. Proper planning will help ensure your safety and help make certain that your hike can be completed before park closing.

Are there snakes and predators on your trails and/or in the park?

As a nature preserve, snakes and predators can be found inside park boundaries including on our trails. For your safety, please stay on trails at all times and NEVER feed or entice wild animals. DO NOT carry food on the trails.

Do you allow dogs at Bays Mountain Park?

Dogs are allowed at Bays Mountain Park, however, there are some strict rules that must be followed to ensure a successful program. All dogs must be kept under physical control and on a leash at all times. Dogs are not allowed in the animal habitats. Please do not leave your dog unattended (in a car or otherwise) or tied to an object. And please clean up any feces your dog leaves behind.

Do you assist boy and girl scouts with merit badges and projects?

Bays Mountain Park has a proud history of assisting boys and girl scouts with their merit badges and projects. For assistance, call 423-229-9447 and identify yourself as a scout needing assistance.

Do you accept injured animals?

While Bays Mountain Park does not, there are two wildlife rehabilitation facilities in our Northeast Tennessee area: Grassy Creek Wildlife (423-272-5535) and Wynnwood Wildlife (423-474-6220). While we are not a rehabilitation facility, if you cannot reach either of the previously mentioned experts, simply call Bays Mountain Park at 423-229-9447 and we will assist any way we can.

Do you have special astronomy viewings and events?

Some of the more unique, fascinating offerings at Bays Mountain Park are our StarWatch and SunWatch programs. Both of these are free events and are offered seasonally.

StarWatch offers an up close view of our night sky and takes place every Saturday night during the months of October and November and again in March and April. Viewers can expect to see the moon, constellations, planets and more.

SunWatch programs are offered every Saturday and Sunday from 3:00-3:30 p.m., March thru October. Attendees can see the sun thru the special filtered lenses of the telescopes used at our observatories.

Other events such as StarFest and Astronomy Day take place each year.

Do you use/need volunteers?

Yes! The success of our park hinges on our wonderful volunteers! Volunteer opportunities exist in our Herpetarium, Raptor Center, Farmstead Museum, Adventure Ropes Course and Zip Line and more.  Please see the “Volunteer Program” tab on this page.  For more information about volunteering contact Rob Cole via email at robcole@kingsporttn.gov or phone at 423-229-9449.