Back to Nature at Fall Creek Falls
Imagine yourself sitting on a wet rock ledge, feet hanging off. Sheer drop 86 feet to a huge pool below. A few yards away, at the edge of this leap into infinity, the waterfall cascades in a roar, spray and foam flying.
Fall Creek Falls State Park, 40 miles south of Cookville, is one of Tennessee’s favorites – a naturalist’s paradise of over 25,000 acres of virgin hardwood forests interlaced with waterfalls, streams, deep gorges, rhododendron, mountain laurel and abundant wildlife. Criss-crossed with hiking and biking trails, the park is also popular for camping, fishing and rock climbing. More than 200 campsites nestle in the woods along winding trails, a combination of spots for campers or tents.
Tennessee’s system of 53 state parks is the second most visited in the entire country and Fall Creek Falls has been voted the best state park in the Southeast by Southern Living magazine readers.
Two common starting points for day hikes are either from the Nature Center at the Cascades, or the Fall Creek Falls carpark, with the Cane Creek Falls trail linking the two. Fall Creek Falls, the highest waterfall in the eastern United States at 256 feet, is first glimpsed from the overlook near the car park. The steep, 0.4 mile trek to the base of the falls plunges into a rocky gorge. Massive boulders and towering rock walls flank the rough trail as it descends into a lush forest of hickory, maple, holly, pine and dogwood. Tulip and paw paw trees thrive in the low, moist places alongside the gurgling streambed and ferns spring from crevices in the tumble of fractured rocks.
The Cane Creek Falls trail to the Nature Center, a two-mile roundtrip loop beginning at Falls Creek Falls overlook, leads over a rocky path intersected with gnarled roots and shaded by rhododendrons, blooming mountain laurels and evergreens. A spur trail to the Rocky Point overlook affords views into the heavily forested gorge where Fall Creek and Cane Creek merge far below.
The exhilarating end of the gorge trail is the 150 ft span swinging bridge, crossing the watercourse just above Cane Creek Cascades to the Nature Center. Shouts of laughter ring in the air from families cooling off in the swimming holes below the Cascades. This is your chance to wade in the rocky shallows to the precipitous edge of Cane Creek Falls– if you dare!
As an alternative to camping, the Inn and Conference Center on the shores of scenic Fall Creek Lake offers 145 guestrooms with lake views, heated, outdoor swimming pool and full service restaurant. Nearby cabins and villas are a perfect getaway for families or groups liking more privacy. They rent weekly during summer, or a two-night minimum the rest of the year. A challenging 18-hole golf course, canoe rental and horseback trail rides guarantee activities to satisfy the whole family.
The park hosts numerous events and workshops throughout the year, including the Annual Mountaineer Folk Festival every September. Make your getaway plans today!