It's a good thing that Fall Creek Falls is a bit off the beaten track. If this lovely state resort park were more easily accessible, it would be too popular for its own good. As it is, the park is one of the most beloved in the state of Tennessee. Not only is the scenery outstanding, but the park boasts some pretty cushy amenities, and a wide variety of recreational activities.
Fall Creek Falls Resort State Park encompasses some 20,000 acres on the Cumberland Plateau. The park's scenic attractions include numerous streams, waterfalls, cascades and dramatic gorges set amid lush hardwood forests. Recreational activities include hiking, swimming, boating, fishing, golfing, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
Fall Creek Falls: The park has many features that make it so attractive, the most famous being its namesake waterfall. Fall Creek Falls, which plunges down 256 feet, is the highest vertical drop waterfall in the eastern United States. These falls are easily accessible. From the parking area, it's a short walk to the spacious overlook. If you want to get up close, there's a trail to the base of the falls from the overlook. The trail is only .8 miles round trip, but it's rocky and steep. Just take your time; there are places to stop and rest along the way.
Cane Creek Falls & Rockhouse Falls: Cane Creek Falls drops 85 feet into the pool below and is located adjacent to Rockhouse Falls, which plunges 125 feet. Although a viewing area is easily accessible close to the Nature Center, you'll have to do a bit of hiking to get a really good view.
There's an excellent overlook on the Gorge Trail, which is accessible from the Nature Center. Cross the swinging suspension bridge, head up the steps, and take the Gorge Trail to the Cane Creek Overlook.
If the suspension bridge gives you the heebie-jeebies, you can also access the Gorge Trail from the parking area at the Fall Creek Falls overlook.
You can take the Cable Trail to the base of Cane Creek Falls, but it's not for the faint of heart. The trail is so rocky and steep that you'll need the cable to help to help you navigate the terrain. It's more like climbing than hiking, and don't even try it when the rocks are wet.
Cane Creek Cascades: Located upstream of Cane Creek Falls, Cane Creek Cascades tumbles 45 feet down into a pool that's a very popular swimming hole. The Cascades are easy to get to from the Nature Center. Take the wooden steps down the slope, clamber over a few rocks, and you're there. The suspension bridge that leads to the Woodland Trail and the Gorge trail passes right over the Cascades.
Piney Creek Falls: Piney Creek Falls drops 95 feet and cascades over rocks into Piney Creek. No doubt it would be beautiful if you could get a good view of it. The overlook is just a short hike from Piney Falls Road off the Scenic Loop Drive, but the view is too distant and obscured by trees to be worth the trouble.
With over 20,000 acres to play in and over 34 miles of trails, there are plenty of opportunities to get out and see some outstanding scenery at Fall Creek Falls. The park has several trails for short day hikes, and 2 longer overnight trails. The overnight trails are 12-13 mile loops with 3 primitive camping areas; permits are required for overnight camping. The trails are open year round.
The park has 3 miles of paved bike trails (including a trail to Fall Creek Falls Overlook) and 15 miles of mountain bike trails, rated as moderately difficult for experienced riders. Bicycles are not allowed on the hiking trails.
Fall Creek Falls Golf Course is quite impressive. Designed by Joe Lee, the 18 hole, par 72 course opened in 1972 and was restored and rebuilt in 1998. It was selected 3 times by Golf Digest as one of the "Top 100 Public Places to Play".
The course includes a driving range, practice green, and snack bar. Club and cart rentals (both riding and pull carts) are available. Lessons are also available. The course is open year round, except for Christmas. Tee times are required 7 days a week. Call (423) 881-5706. Golf packages, including lodging, are also available. Call for reservations: 1-800-250-8610
Fall Creek Falls Lake is a small 345 acre lake created by a dam on Fall Creek. No private boats or gasoline motors are allowed on the lake, but you can rent a variety of water craft. They don't rent trolling motors, so you'll need to bring your own. Fishing boats are available year round, but paddleboats and canoes are only rented from April through October. Fishing supplies are also available.
The lake is noted for bluegill, largemouth bass and catfish. There are plenty of spots along the shore for fishing, and fishing is also allowed in the park's many streams. You'll need a Tennessee fishing license and park permit to fish here.
The park features an Olympic-sized pool with a wading pool for tykes, located in the Taft Village area. The pool is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but it may be closed on weekdays near the end of the summer if lifeguards are not available. A bathhouse and snack bar are located in the pool area.
Visitors also enjoy swimming and wading in some of the park's streams and pools. There are no lifeguards on duty in these areas, and since rocks and moving water provide hazards, caution is advised. Cane Creek Cascades, close to the Nature Center, is a popular spot.
George Hole on Cane Creek is another good spot. There's a pool where the creek's been dammed, and a concrete sidewalk provides easy access. Picnic tables and grills are available. However, jumping off the swinging bridge is prohibited, and jumping off the cliffs is ill-advised. George Hole is located just north of the campgrounds.
Fall Creek Falls Stables offers guided trail rides from mid-March to early November, through a privately leased operation. There are 4 miles of equestrian trails in the park, and tours are generally 2 miles long. Overnight rides are also available by reservation. Call (423) 881-5952.
Fall Creek Falls offers camping for both tents and RVs. There are 3 camping areas with 228 campsites, plus nine primitive walk-in sites. The walk-in sites don't actually require a lot of walking. The most distant site in only 2/10 of a mile from the parking area. You can also camp at one of the 3 primitive camping areas on the overnight trails (which do require quite a bit of hiking). The campground is located near the north entrance on Highway 30.
The campground at Fall Creek Falls has some nice amenities. The campsites have tables, grills, water, and electricity. There are 6 bathhouses with showers, as well several playgrounds and handicapped-accessible. sites. Dump stations are available, and 59 of the sites have sewer connections. RVs up to 45 feet long can be accommodated at some sites.
Camping sites can be reserved from May through October, up to 6 months in advance, with a nonrefundable reservation fee. The minimum stay is 2 nights, the maximum 2 weeks. Campers are required to check in at the Camper Check-in station, and backcountry campers need to get a permit. Call (800) 250-8611 for camping reservations.
Since this is a resort park, you'll find some pretty nice lodging options here. Fall Creek Falls Inn features 144 rooms, a buffet-style restaurant and conference facilities. In addition, you can rent a cabin, many of them right on the lake.
And if you need supplies or just want some souvenirs during your stay, The Taft Village area offers shops and a variety of shops and amenities, including laundry facilities, a recreation center, and the park headquarters.
Fall Creek Falls State Resort Park is located on the Cumberland Plateau south of Crossville. You'll have to take rural highways to reach it, so be sure to have a good map, as these roads are sometimes poorly marked and confusing. However, the drive takes you through some lovely rolling fields and pastures, so enjoy the trip.
Tennessee State Parks offers these helpful directions:
From Nashville, take I-40 East to Cookeville (82 miles). Turn right onto 111 South (exit 288). Park entrance is on the left on Highway 284 (40 miles from I-40 to the park).
From Atlanta, take I-75 North to Chattanooga, take I-24 toward Nashville, take Hwy 27 North toward Dayton and follow Highway 111 North to the park entrance on the right.
From Knoxville, take I-40 West to Crossville, Peavine Road, exit 322. Take a left off the exit, onto Hwy 101 South. At the 4-way stop, go straight on Hwy 392, through the first trafic light (at 127). Continue straight to the 2nd traffic light (Lantana Road, Hwy 101). Take a left turn onto Hwy 101 South, and travel approx. 30 minutes to a dead-end. Turn left (still on Hwy 101 South) and go approx. 4 miles to Hwy 30. Turn right on Hwy 30 West. Park entrance is approx. 5 miles on the left (at Hwy 284).