We have a lot of natural beauty to brag about in Tennessee, including a particularly healthy collection of waterfalls — more than 500 in total, spread out from one end of the state to the other.
We’re bringing this up now because prevailing wisdom says that waterfall hunters get the most breath-stopping views when trips are planned in the early spring, when snow’s melted and rain is plentiful. If you’re crazy for a waterfall view, now’s the time to start sketching out your agenda.
Intrigued, but want a little help? The biggest concentration of impressive falls is in East Tennessee, and some of you might be more than willing to do some decent driving. But we decided to focus our recommendations on Middle Tennessee, within an hour and a half/two hours of Nashville, so you can get back in time to wash off all that natural beauty at the bar. Check ’em out:
7 stunning waterfall treks close to Nashville
Out in Sparta, the biggest draw to Burgess Falls State Park is the big falls, with white water plunging some 130 feet down into a gorgeous gorge. The bad news, in spring 2016: summer storms last year damaged the structures that lead to the main falls base and overlook, and until repairs are completed, the main falls aren’t accessible for viewing. The good news: The big one’s just one of four there, fed by the aptly named Falling Water River, and the 20-foot cascades, 30-foot upper falls and 80-foot middle falls are still viewable, and beautiful. (And there’s a guided hike this Saturday, if you feel inspired.)
Big Falls and Bluehole Falls at Old Stone Fort State Park
732 Stone Fort Drive
Manchester, Tennessee 37355
With a quick drive out to Manchester, you can check out more than a half dozen falls at Old Stone Fort (as well as the Fort itself, which traces back 1,500-2,000 years), accessible by short and relatively easy trail hikes. The largest are Big Falls and Bluehole, and both have intriguing attributes that make them a must-see. Big Falls was the site of a late-1800s paper mill, and you can still see the foundation near the wide, tiered falls. At the base of Blue Hole, you’ll get a hint of where its name comes from.
Just about nine miles from Cookeville, there’s another sizable waterfall that doesn’t require a long hike — though it is a challenging one. You can reach the gorge that gives you access to the 75-foot-high Cummins Falls — Tennessee’s eighth largest waterfall by volume — in about a mile/mile and a half, depending on the route you choose. But both are tricky, so novice hikers might want to look elsewhere. Once you’re at the bottom of the majestic falls, though… well, see above.
This one’s a favorite if you’re looking for a weekend trip at a day-trip distance. Fall Creek Falls State Park is about two hours away, and its namesake waterfall is the largest waterfall east of the Mississippi and one of the tallest vertical-drop waterfalls east of the Rocky Mountains, raining down a full 256 feet. There are other beautiful options there — including Cane Creek Cascades and Piney Falls — but you can’t miss the big one. The hike to Fall Creek Falls itself is a short (but moderately challenging) one. Great thing about making an overnight trip out of a Fall Creek visit: The Park has an inn with 145 rooms, plus 30 cabins and 222 campsites, so there’s a great option whether you like to rough it or decidedly not-rough it. This weekend (March 18-20) is their Waterfalls Weekend excursion, with hikes and drives and waterfalls galore. Coming up soon: the park’s Spring Wildflower and Waterfall tour, which’ll introduce you to waterfalls and colorful blooms over a three-day, two-night stay, March 28 through March 30.
With miles and miles of hiking trails that lead through gorges and forests and over panoramic overlooks and bubbling streams, South Cumberland State Park in Monteagle is huge and beautiful (more than 25,000 acres of nature with opportunities for camping, swimming and more). There are crystal-clear cascading falls aplenty here, but Greeter is extra special, with a two-ledged drop that adds up to about 50 feet, pouring into a cool and beautiful pool below. Reaching it is a pretty easy trek — about a mile out and back.
Rutledge Falls Rd
Tullahoma, TN 37388
These aren’t the tallest falls in Middle Tennessee — about a 40-foot drop — but they’re wide and beautiful, and easily accessible if you’re not looking for a strenuous/long hike. If you’re up for a chilly dip, you can swim there too. Open dawn to dusk, free of charge.
between Sparta and Crossville
This one isn’t for the timid hikers — a full 10 hours or so there and back, with a fair amount of challenge. But you’re rewarded with a unique and beautiful falls experience: an underground stream exits from a cave, plunges over a more than 100-foot-high cliff and then redeposits into a lower cave. It’s something special, even if you’re a veteran waterfall hiker. (Here’s a Virgin Falls map.)
Just a few more reasons to love living in Middle Tennessee. If you’re relocating here and need help finding the perfect place to land, give us a call!