TRAVEL

6 Beautiful Waterfalls in Tennessee to Adventure to Any Time of Year

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Lace up your waterproof hiking shoes, grab your backpack and get ready to visit some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Tennessee! During the summer, these waterfalls offer a great place to unwind and escape the summer heat, but spring, fall, and winter can also offer their own unique takes on the water. 

Check out these six beautiful waterfalls that will be picture perfect any time of year. 

Waterfalls in Tennessee

Fall Creek Falls

Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

At 256 feet, Fall Creek Falls is one of the highest waterfalls in the Eastern United States. Nestled in the Fall Creek Falls State Park, cascades, gorges, waterfalls, streams and lush hardwood timber surround the popular hike. 

There are multiple ways to get to the base of the falls while exploring the area surrounding them. For longer, overnight hikes, consider the Upper Loop Trail (14 miles) or the Lower Loop Trail (13.2 miles). If you’re looking to just spend a day at the falls, a 1-mile round trip hike will get you to the base. Each hike is dog-friendly. 

Cabins, campsites and backcountry camping are available lodging options, and other activities include the Nature Center, Canopy Challenge Course, golf course and waterfall hikes: Piney Falls, Cane Creek Falls and Cane Creek Cascades. The state park is open 24 hours, but the road to all trails closes at sunset.

Location: 2009 Village Camp Rd. Spencer, TN 38585(Fall Creek Falls State Park)

Laurel Falls

No, these aren’t the popular Laurel Falls from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (although, there are some great waterfall hikes there, too). This Laurel Falls is hidden in the Laurel-Snow Natural Area in Dayton, Tennessee. 

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The hike’s first 1.5 miles is generally easy, following Richland Creek upstream. The trail will fork, leading to two different sets of falls: Laurel Falls (80 feet high)  on the right and Snow Falls (35 feet high) on the left. Each direction requires an additional 1.5 miles, but each offers falls, views and rushing waters.

Gates for the area open at 8 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Furry friends are welcome to join on the hike. 

Location: 1098 Pockett Wilderness Rd. #100 Dayton, TN 37321(Laurel-Snow Natural Area)

Burgess Falls

Burgess Falls is a cascade in the Burgess Falls State Park, plunging from over 130 feet above. The waterfall is the largest of four in the park, and can be accessed via the River Trail/Service Road Loop. 

You’ll see each waterfall on the 1.5-mile roundtrip trail, and a strenuous 0.3-mile hike takes you to the base of the falls. Most visitors prefer to make it back to the parking lot via the service road rather than backtracking. Pets are allowed if on leash. 

Note: At this time, there is no access to the gorge or staircase leading to the main falls, but the overlook is open. Swimming is not allowed. 

The park opens at 8 a.m. and closes 30 minutes prior to sunset. Park hours are subject to change based on water levels and the presence of snow on the roads and/or trails. A picnic area is available with grills. 

Parking can fill up quickly during the busy season of April-October. The trailhead is to the left of restrooms, and begins with a short sidewalk leading toward the water. 

Location: 4000 Burgess Falls Drive Sparta, TN 38583(Burgess Falls State Park)

Twin Falls

rock island campground

Twin Falls is an 80-foot high hidden gem in the Rock Island State Park. A 1-mile round trip hike, visitors can expect to see rushing streams on the way to a gorgeous waterfall. 

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The falls are the byproduct of the damming of the Caney Fork River. The dam backed up the Caney Fork and the Collins Rivers, causing water to burst from the rock wall, rather than the stereotypical drop over the wall. 

Although beautiful every time of year, consider visiting the falls in the fall to see both beautiful water and fall colors in the trees. 

The park opens at 8 a.m. to visitors, and closes at 4 p.m. Stairs will take you down rapidly, before following the river to the eventual falls. The water here can be dangerous to maneuver, so try to stay on the shore and do not swim. Pets are allowed on the trails, and in some lodging at the park.

Location: 82 Beach Rd. Rock Island, TN 38581 (Rock Island State Park)

Ruby Falls 

Ruby Falls is the only hike on this list requiring a fee. All ages can access this underground waterfall for a $22.95 (adults) or $12.95 (kids) fee. 

Visitors board an elevator to the cavern 260 feet below before walking a paved, level pathway to the tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public. Found in Lookout Mountain, spectacular views can be seen from above ground, too. Pets are not allowed at the falls. 

Visitors who are claustrophobic should probably stay above ground as the falls are housed deep in the mountain. 

Note: Due to current COVID-19 regulations, a mask is required at all times while visiting the falls. In addition, tickets are reserved online-only and cannot be purchased on-site. 

Location: 1720 S. Scenic Highway Chattanooga, TN 37409

Cummins Falls 

Cummins Falls has been the highlight of Cookeville hiking for over 100 years as Tennessee’s largest waterfall in volume of water and 75 feet high. The park opens at 8 a.m., and closes at 6 p.m.  Pets are allowed if on leash. 

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Although beautiful, recent years have caused a major shift in the safety measures at the popular spot. In 2017, flash flooding from the day before caused a surge of water that killed two, and in 2019, a two-year-old boy was swept away and killed in flood waters. This makes the waterfall hike seem dangerous, but safety measures have created a safer experience. 

Safety measures include: 

  • A Gorge Access Permit ($6)  is required to visit the base of the falls. This can only be purchased online. There are no refunds, date changes, or rainchecks. 
  • The base of the falls is only accessible on fair weather days. 
  • Children under 12 must wear a life vest at the falls, and children under 5 are advised to not visit the base of the falls. 
  • Make sure to wear your best waterproof hiking shoes (and bring extra socks!) as reaching the falls requires crossing the water and slippery rocks and climbing rocks. 

Location: 390 Cummins Falls Lane Cookeville, TN 38501 (Cummins Falls State Park)

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Ashley Hubbard is a blogger and freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee focusing on sustainability, travel, veganism, mental health, and more. Passionate about animal rights, sustainable travel, and social impact, she seeks out ethical experiences whether at home or on the road. She shares these experiences on her website, wild-hearted.com.

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