We wanted to camp someplace not too far away but with more to do than park on a grassy field and walk through woods. The Appalachian mountains are about four hours east of us but the Cumberland plateau raises up about 2000′ just a couple of hours east. There are lots of waterfalls from westward flowing rivers falling down from the plateau to the highlands roughly a thousand feet lower. Fall Creek Falls State Park, 2.5 hours east, is the largest TN state park with three waterfalls, lots of interesting hiking along the gorge that bisects the park, a scenic small lake with kayak rental and 230 campsites. We booked three nights, Tues-Thurs.
Site E218. The whole campground is hilly with thick woods so is nicely private.
The reservation system indicated the park would be mostly empty and it was. Maybe 30% of the sites around us were occupied. That makes it extra private, really quiet all the time and really dark at night. I walked to an open area about 9:30 and was able to spot a satellite and find the little dipper.
This overlook is across the gorge from the falls and right off the park road, easy to get to with bathrooms and picnic tables.
Note the water falls all the way down (256′, the highest waterfall east of the Rockies) to the very bottom of the picture. The grey rock is about 100′ of relatively hard sandstone. The very dark area below that is about 150′ of much softer shale. The softer rock erodes creating an amphitheatre of sorts around the pool at the bottom.
From the overlook there is a 0.4 mile trail that descends to the base of the waterfall. The trail itself was really pretty with lots of rock overhangs and even a huge crack in the face of a cliff with a strong cold breeze blowing out.
Enough hand rails, natural rock steps and tree roots for easy (but slow) going.
A bit of the trail was even undercut into the clif face. This is a 90 degree pan from straight up to level.
A ten second video of the falling water taken from the base.
After lunch and a little recuperation we went to the Cane Creek Cascade nature area. There is a nature center, bathrooms and two cool swimming holes. One is quiet water behind a small dam with a cliff for the adventuresome to jump from.
Then back to the camp site for showers, reading and another lovely dinner in the woods.
There is a cable trail on the other side of the gorge down to the base. A waterfall site on the internet says the trail is 1/4 mile on a 45 degree incline. All I know is I really took my time. It was a little scary going down as it’s sometimes hard to see your footholds. Up was definitely easier. The 50% where you could grab the cable was easier still. This picture is from the bottom looking up
After the cable trail it was definitely time for a nice long lunch and some blog writing time.
We spent the second half of the afternoon driving and stopping a lot on the scenic loop road. First stop was another look at Fall Creek Falls from the overlook. This picture, taken on a cloudy afternoon, is quite different from the one taken yesterday on a sunny morning.
Our next stop was an overlook called buzzard’s roost. A nice little ten minute hike ended at a rocky promontory with a great view many miles down the valley. Unlike every other spot where we were the only people there, buzzard’s roost had a dozen or so park ranger trainees learning to rapel down the face of the cliff. One of them offered to take our picture.
Another twenty minutes on the trail got us down to Piney Creek well upstream of the falls. Like everywhere we walked, the trail was lots of up and down but a real visual treat. A suspension bridge took us across the Creek not far from the bottom.
Friday morning we got a brief thunderstorm but the sun quickly returned. We only had a couple of hours before we had to pack up so went for a short hike on the paw-paw trail. One side of the loop skirts the gorge where Fall Creek and Cane Creek fall. Easy hiking and, like everywhere we went here, pretty scenery.
There were three spur trails veering off to overlooks. Two were kind of lame as the trees totally obscured the promised waterfall views but one was terrific. This photo is at the Cane Creek gorge overlook held at arm’s length pointing straight down. Must have been 500′ to the bottom. The tops of really big trees were really far down.
We had a great time here and definitely plan to visit again.