The Best Waterfalls on Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau
Mother Nature surely took care of watering my garden over the past week and filled our creeks to overflowing while she was at it. The rain on Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau means the waterfalls are once again at their spectacular, high-volume best. Although steep trails leading to the bases of waterfalls may be muddy and slick, there are several stunning waterfalls with overlooks that are easy to reach.
Here’s my smorgasbord of falls to visit while they are still in their glory before the hot old summertime reduces their flow. Of course, take your camera to capture them and nearby wildlife for your future pleasures.
Cummins Falls, the eight tallest waterfall in Tennessee by volume, is also our newest state park. A wide gravel road leads 0.4 miles from the parking lot to an awesome bird’s eye view of Blackburn Fork State Scenic River plunging 75 feet into a deep, wide pool at the base. If you’re up to the challenge of hiking down to the terminal cascade you’ll be taking on some steep muddy spots and switchbacks along a loop trail that drops 200 feet into the gorge. Before you reach the swimming hole there are some ankle-to-knee deep wading through portions of Blackburn Fork River. Cummins Falls is nine miles north of Cookeville and open until sunset.
At Burgess Falls State Park about eight miles south of Cookeville, Falling Water River drops some 250 feet forming 20-foot cascades, 30-foot upper falls, 80-foot middle falls, and the dramatic 136-foot lower falls.
Ozone Falls takes a 100-foot plunge through eastern hemlocks, white pines, magnolias and rosebay rhododendrons at Ozone Falls State Natural Area on the eastern edge of the Crab Orchard Mountains on the Cumberland Plateau about four miles from the Crab Orchard Exit off I-40.
Guided Hike to Northrup Falls
On July 20, join the guided hike and Crawdad Hootenanny scheduled at Colditz Cove State Natural Area, home of one of my favorite waterfalls, the 60-foot Northrup Falls. Grab your waterproof boots or sneakers for wading and a moderate hike to the base of the falls and you may want to take a pair of gloves to protect your fingers when grabbing feisty little crawdads. RSVP by July 16 to join David Withers on this delightful excursion at 615-532-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Fall Creek Falls
Fall Creeks Falls State Park is the home of six waterfalls, including Tennessee’s tallest waterfall, the magnificent 256-foot Fall Creek Falls. Food and lodging are offered at the park and there are many more waterfalls within an hour’s drive.
Stinging Fork Falls
Stinging Fork Falls is a 30-foot waterfall within a 783-acre natural area. The trail leading into the gorge ends at the bottom of the falls about a mile from the parking area. www.tn.gov/environment/na/natareas/stingingfork
Piney Falls, a 440-acre Tennessee State Natural Area, contains old growth forest with trees reaching 40 inches in diameter and 100 feet in height. This is one of thirteen National Natural Landmarks found in Tennessee. It’s a 2.5-mile round trip hike to see Little Piney Creek plunge 80 feet at Upper Piney Falls into the pool below. www.tn.gov/environment/na/natareas/piney
The going gets tougher on the way to the centerpiece of the 1,157-acre Virgin Falls Pocket Wilderness Area. Virgin Falls drops over a 110-foot high cliff before disappearing into another cave at the bottom of the sink. The strenuous 8-mile round trip hike to the falls will take most of a day. www.tn.gov/environment/na/natareas/virgin
The Waterfalls of South Cumberland
Last but not least in this waterfall hit parade are the wonderful waterfalls within South Cumberland Recreation Area State Park where nine waterfalls with drops ranging from 25 to 80 feet and some of the most popular and scenic hiking trails in the Southeast are found. www.tn.gov/environment/parks/SouthCumberland
When you’ve visited these Cumberland Plateau natural splendors, let me know which ones are your favorites.