Rob Cole says many folks mistakenly think that Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium is a seasonal park that goes into hibernation during the cooler months of the year.
“That is certainly not the case. We’re actually only closed four days a year and that’s for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day,” said Cole, who is the operations coordinator for the park. “During the winter months, obviously, our hours change by necessity — it gets darker earlier. But, I’ve got to tell you, during the winter, it is just an absolutely fantastic time of year to be at the park.”
Bays Mountain Park is a 3,500-acre nature preserve and the largest city-owned park in the state of Tennessee. The park features a 44-acre lake, a Nature Center with a state-of-the-art planetarium theater and animal habitats that feature wolves, bobcats, raptors, reptiles and otters.
“Just because it’s wintertime doesn’t mean there are not still plenty of opportunities to get you out and about and maintain a good sense of health and wellness. Here at the park, we don’t stop. We don’t slow down,” said Cole. “During the winter, we always have quite a few hikers and mountain bikers that still like to come up during the winter and enjoy our trails. We have essentially 40 miles of trails now and I think about 29 of those trails are approved for mountain biking.”
And, Cole adds, a visit to Bays Mountain in the winter months can provide a fresh perspective on all the park has to offer
“Everybody’s accustomed to seeing the park with lots of green or, during the fall, a great splash of fall color. But there’s a different sort of beauty that reveals itself here at the park during the winter. Because of that, we have a lot of photographers that come up this time of year and take pictures,” he said.
One of the park’s biggest draws has always been the animal habitats.
“The winter is a good time to be up here to observe the animals,” Cole said. “They’re actually a little more active. The wolves are a good example of that. They have multiple layers of fur and conserve their energy during the warm months. They’re not quite as active during the summer. But from fall through winter into early spring, they are a little more active. The same is true of the bobcats. The chances of getting to enjoy our animals are a little bit higher during the cooler months.”
Planetarium and naturalist shows continue throughout the winter and the Nature Center runs normal hours.
“Our exhibits in the Nature Center and the gallery around the planetarium are all still open for viewing. With the exception of our barge rides, which shut down for the winter, really nothing at the park changes during the winter months,” Cole said.
The park’s Adventure Course also remains open, and features both a high-rope and low-rope course and a 310-foot zip line.
Bays Mountain Park is open during the winter months from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and from 12 to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
For more information, visit www.baysmountain.com or call (423) 229-9447.