Chasing Waterfalls In East Tennessee


It is that time of year to get wet and wild! The heat is rising and summer is waning. To help you beat the heat, I have prepared a list of weekend waterfall trips for you, your lover, and maybe the kids (wink). Download some TLC “Waterfalls” and maybe the Beach Boys “Kokomo” and start chasing the waterfalls listed below. You can also check out my swimming hole scavenger hunt for sweet spots to take a dip. To give you some perspective of the sites I mention, I have made an at-a-glance map (Waterfall Map). Details and directions of waterfalls in each area listed.

Surrounding Knoxville (Day Trips):

Frozen Head State Park (1 hour):

Emory Gap Falls 25’
Debord Falls 12’

This is the perfect spot for a picnic or overnight tent camping. There are two small waterfalls that can be viewed here with an easy hike.

Directions: 964 Flat Fork Rd, Wartburg, TN 37887

Angel Falls Overlook (1.5 hour):

This is one of the most popular hikes in the Big South Fork National Recreation Area. This is a bigger 5.6 mile moderately, difficult hike not for the novice. 2.8 miles into the hike area bluffs overlooking the falls. If this is not your ideal and you would prefer to relax in a camp chair, head 45 minutes over (back towards Knoxville) to the Jett Bridge and Lily Bridge of the Wild and Scenic Obed River National Park for a soak in the river and cookout (there are grills at the Jett Bridge location).

Directions: To reach the Angel Falls Trail from Knoxville, take Interstate 75 north to the Hunstville/Oneida exit. Follow Highway 63 through Huntsville, and turn right onto Highway 27 toward Oneida. In Oneida, turn left onto Highway 297, one of three paved roads that runs through the Big South Fork, and follow it to Leatherwood Ford inside the park at the bottom of the gorge.

Angel Falls Overlook.
Angel Falls Overlook.

Great Smokey Mountains National Park (1.5 hours minimum):

Ramsey Cascades 90’

Grotto Falls 25’

Abrams Creek 20’

Baskins Creek Falls 40’

Many of these require a hike, so this is a good jaunt with older kids. This can be turned into an overnight or weekend trip if you piggy-back in a trip to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge.

One of the few waterfalls you can hike behind.
Be sure to take safe shoes (some with grip) when hiking near waterfalls! Safety first.

Tellico Creek/Sweet Water Area (1.5 hour):

Bald River Falls: This waterfall is located in the Cherokee National Forest, Tellico Plains Area. It is easily accessible and visible by road. (On your way there or out of town, visit the amazing Tellico Grains Bakery!)

Directions: From Tellico Plains – turn onto TN 165 for approximately 5 miles, turn right onto FR 210 going past Ranger Station. Bald River Falls will be 6 miles upstream on the right.

Coker Creek Falls: This waterfall is an easy to moderate hike. This is more of a hiking expedition and historical small town America tour as area attractions are more limited.

Directions: 12197 New Hwy 68, Coker Creek, TN 37314

Coker Creek Falls look like a sweet spot to find solace. the area is known for its East Tennessee history.
Coker Creek Falls look like a spot to find solace. The area is known for its East Tennessee history.

Over-nighter Road Trip (Camp or Cabins)

In the Cumberland Plateau Area (2.5 area drive) there are wicked waterfalls! I could spend a week in the area hunting down breathtaking treks for these beauties. Many of the State parks in this area are perfect for families OR a romantic, affordable getaway. It’s cheaper than tickets to Hawaii. If you pack a stash of tiny paper umbrellas and Mai Tai mix then you are set.

Rock Island State Park:

Twin Falls 80’
Badger Falls 30’
Badger Flat Falls 20’
Great Falls 20’
Lower Great Falls 10’

This has been one of my favorite camping and play spots with my family. The waterfalls flow out of the forest and into large basins. When visiting, I felt like we were on King Kong’s Island. There is also the perfect swimming hole at the ravine area. It is off the beaten path and close to Fall Creek Falls. This State park has small 1980’s style cabins and a family camp ground. There are also canoeing and kayaking trips, so call the park for more details.

Directions: 82 Beach Road, Rock Island, TN 38581

Burgess Falls State Park:

Burgess Falls in the Cumberland Plateau area is on my bucket list!
Burgess Falls in the Cumberland Plateau area is on my bucket list!

Burgess Falls 136’
Middle Falls 80’
Falling Water Cascades 10’

These waterfalls are on my bucket list! This is a scenic, stunning, moderately strenuous 1.5 mile round trip hike. You would need to plan to camp at another local state park because it does not offer lodging (Rock Island State Park is 20 miles away). The park has some closures so visit the Burgess Falls web site before you go.

Directions: 4000 Burgess Falls Drive Sparta, TN 38583

Cummins Falls is also in the area (19 miles away) and is Tennessee’s eighth largest waterfall in volume. (Cummins Falls 75′)

Fall Creek Falls State Park:

Fall Creek Falls 256’
Coon Creek Falls 250’
Rockhouse Falls 125’
Piney Creek Falls 95’
Cane Creek Falls 85’
Cane Creek Cascades 45′

This park is one of the most popular and visited waterfall parks in our region. Amenities include: group camping, cabin rentals, boating, aerial adventure course, and annual events.

Directions: 2009 Village Camp Road, Spencer, TN 38585

There are so MANY other waterfalls that I did not list in detail.

Maybe you can hunt a few: Foster Falls, Greeter Falls, Piney Falls, Virgin Falls, Stinging Fork Falls, Northrup Falls, Still Branch Falls, Ozone Falls.

Happy waterfall hunting!



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