Known in the United States for its music, mountains and mouthwatering barbecue, Tennessee has a lot to offer.
But don’t just make a beeline for Nashville, Graceland or the Great Smoky Mountains. Instead, take time to explore the Highland Rim and the Cumberland Plateau regions, which are home to impressive gorges and cascading waterfalls that can be admired from the trails or from the water. Below are five magnificent waterfalls you won’t want to miss on your next central Tennessee adventure.
Less than 130 kilometers east of Nashville in Tennessee’s Highland Rim sits a tiny state park with a big attraction. Burgess Falls State Park draws visitors with its leafy hiking trails, its peaceful fishing pier and four beautiful waterfalls. The Falling Water River has carved a deep gorge through the area and created the park’s crown jewel, the 40-meter-high Burgess Falls. To get to the falls, follow the 2.4-kilometer round-trip River Trail hiking route (which takes you past the park’s other falls) and you’ll find yourself standing on the ledge overlooking the river as it plummets over the cliff. A stairway leads down into the ravine, where you can cool off in the water before continuing on your hike.
The 40-meter-high Burgess Falls on the Falling Water River in Tennessee
Fall Creek Falls
Sprawling across more than 10,500 hectares of eastern Tennessee (a little over 100 kilometers north of Chattanooga), Fall Creek Falls State Park amazes with its landscape of deep gorges and tumbling waterfalls. Here, you’ll find the one of the tallest free-fall waterfalls in the eastern USA, Falls Creek Falls. This incredible fall drops 78 meters from the edge of a rounded gorge into a tranquil azure pool. To see the falls from above, follow the 2-kilometer Gorge Overlook Trail; if you’d prefer to dip your toes in the water, take the shorter, more challenging Base of Fall Creek Falls Trail. Whichever you choose, your hike will be rewarded with spectacular views.
A scenic trail in Fall Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee
The 33.5-meter Ozone Falls is the star of a 17.5-hectare recreational area roughly 120 kilometers northeast of Chattanooga. This stunning waterfall also played a starring role in the 1994 live-action Disney movie The Jungle Book. A 2.4-kilometer round-trip hike will lead you to the rim of the gorge and then down to the base of the falls framed by amphitheater-like rock walls. Come in autumn to see this waterfall framed by the vibrant red and yellow foliage displayed on the surrounding birch and maple trees.
Ozone Falls, featured in the 1994 movie “The Jungle Book”
Often overlooked for the state’s larger falls, this 18-meter waterfall in the southeast corner of Tennessee (56 kilometers northwest of Chattanooga) offers respite for those who prefer to avoid the crowds. An easy hike will lead you to the top of the falls. From there, cross the scenic suspension bridge to continue down to the deep plunge pool below. But the waterfall isn’t the only reason why a trip to the Foster Falls Small Wild Area is worthwhile. This section of South Cumberland State Park, on the southern end of the Cumberland Plateau, is also a rock climber’s dream. Even if you didn’t come equipped with ropes and carabiners, you can still feel the thrill of a climb along the 3-kilometer round-trip Climbers Loop hiking trail, which features some steep portions.
Foster Falls, in the southwest corner of Tennessee
This tiered waterfall formed by the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River – which runs along the eastern portion of the Highland Rim through Cummins Falls State Park (about 135 kilometers east of Nashville) – has earned a reputation as one of the most scenic swimming holes in the USA. During the steamy summer months, you can cool off on one of the 23-meter-high waterfall’s multiple ledges and dive in to the calm waters of the pool below. Cummins Falls is a popular family getaway during the summer months, so get there early to avoid the crowds, then spend the afternoon picnicking and exploring one of four short hiking trails.
The tiered Cummins Falls, which are popular with families, especially in summer