Hiking in Fall Creek Falls - Tips and Guides

From Nashville take Tennessee 111 south through Spencer and turn left into the south entrance of the park. Or take TN 111 south, turn left onto Tennessee 30 at Spencer, and follow it to a right-hand turn into the park's north entrance. For hiking in“Fall creek falls”, you need to take one of these two ways.

Either way, follow signs through the park to the Betty Dunn Nature Center, located 1.4 miles south of the north entrance, and park in the nature center parking area.

The Hike onFall Creek Falls

The yellow-blazed Woodland Trail begins behind the nature center, with a walk along Cane Creek toward a swinging bridge over the top of Cane Creek Cascades. A short scramble down the embankment leads to a platform where you can look up at 45-foot cascades.

Cane Creek Falls are out of sight, downstream and to the right, but these can be seen from another overlook on the north side of the nature center. After crossing the swinging bridge, turn right then left again to climb some concrete steps and bear right again to continue on the loop. If you go straight at the top of the steps, you will end up in the park campground.

The Cane Creek Gulf Trail begins at 0.2 miles and is marked with a red blaze, with a few white blazes in between marking the Lower Loop of the Cane Creek Overnight Trail. The trail passes through a mixed hardwood forest and reaches the first overlook at 0.4 miles.

A spur trail to the right gives a view of Cane Creek Falls, Rockhouse Falls will come into view to the left. These falls consist of a 125-foot narrow stream of water that shares the amphitheater with the 85-foot Cane Creek Falls.

How to Hike on the Main Trail

Back on the main trail, you will descend gradually to another spur trail on the right at 0.6 mile that leads to the edge of Cane Creek Gulf. Here you can see it meet Fall Creek Gulf. On the main trail again, in the next 0.3 miles, you will pass turnoffs for Rocky Point Overlook and Fall Creek Gulf Overlook

The Cane Creek Gulf Trail meets the Woodland Trail again at 0.9 miles. At this point, you can turn left to complete the loop back to the NatureCenter.Or you can turn right on the Woodland Trail toward the Fall Creek Falls Overlook.

According to Justin Alexander of the “Safariors”website: “If you choose the right, you will almost immediately reach a wooden bridge across Fall Creek. The creek here is discolored and yellowed from sulfur and iron oxides that indirectly have resulted from the damming of Fall Creek.”

These chemicals have stained the rock under Fall Creek Falls, although this can be seen only when the water is low.

Crossing Fall Creek &Coon Creek

Just before you cross Fall Creek, railings with a posted warning prohibit leaving the main trail. A small side trail to the right leads to the rocky ledge where the waters of Fall Creek drop more than two hundred feet to the canyon below.

Two teenagers fell 256 feet here in 1995, so please take these warnings seriously, and do not walk or allow children past this point.

If you continue, you will cross Coon Creek on another wooden bridge, and in 0.2 miles, you will reach the Fall Creek Falls Overlook.

This overlook can also be accessed by road and is likely to have quite a crowd staring down into the amphitheater at the 256-foot high cascade of Fall Creek Falls. Notwithstanding the crowds, this is a spectacular view of the tallest waterfall in eastern North America.

If you want to get a little closer look at the falls, you can continue from the overlook down the steep, rocky trail that leads from the overlook straight down to the plunge pool at its base.

The trail begins to the left side of the overlook, as you are facing the falls, and leads straight down the side of the gorge, first through switchbacks and then following along the base of the rock face of the gorge.

Steep Trail in Fall Creek Falls

Steep trail in this area is worth the effort. On the way down, you will pass the evidence of millennia of geologic development, with signs of tidal plains, salt marshes, and sand dunes. The rocks of the Cumberland Plateau date back to a warm, tropical period 250 to 325 million years ago.

This happens when the landscape was like the present-day Atlantic coast. Swamp forests were later buried by advancing sea, eventually creating coal seams that can be seen in the cliff walls at 1,600 feet elevation.

Last Few Words

When you reach the base, you will be near one of the few remaining stands of virgin forest, in the southeast with mature hemlocks and yellow poplar.

You will feel the coolness of the air immediately upon reaching the base of the falls. In fact, you can walk right under the falls, if you need to cool off even more, and you are likely to witness others enjoying this respite after the rigorous hike to the bottom.

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