It’s time to take that much needed time off to escape, relax and beat the heat. Tennessee offers some of the best waterfalls (and swimming holes) in the country. Some will take some strenuous hiking to get to, while others are a light hike away.
The Cumberland Plateau has some of the most beautiful falls for you to explore. Take your camera to capture them and nearby wildlife for your vacation memories.
*All photos: Chuck Sutherland
Cummins Falls is the eighth tallest waterfall in Tennessee by volume. 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 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. The key to this hike is to use extreme caution when hiking to the falls. If you want fewer crowds, check out some of the other falls on this list.
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.Burgess Falls is operating at limited capacity currently. The overlooks of the middle and main falls are closed for repairs, which are hoped to be completed this year. Visitors can still see the middle falls from a bend in the trail along with the smaller 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.
Grab your waterproof boots or sneakers for wading and a moderate hike to the base of the falls. Explore the world of mudbugs at Colditz Cove State Natural Area on a guided hike July 20th.
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 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.
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 13 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.
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.
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. Foster Falls is the easiest of the waterfalls in South Cumberland State Park to visit.