The Best Waterfalls of Tennessee!

I spent a week road tripping around Tennessee from the Smokey's to Chattanooga, up to Nashville, and home through Knoxville and a lot in-between. This is a collection in no order of the best waterfalls I visited during this week and a few noted at the end that I didn't get to visit which make up a pretty comprehensive list of waterfalls in Tennessee.


If you've been to any or have additions to this list please drop a comment below!


Greeter Falls

Greeter Falls Tennessee

Waterfall Type: Plunge Waterfall

Route Type: Loop or Out & Back

Mileage: 1.1 (Additional Mileage Options Available)

AllTrails Links - Greeter Falls Loop


Greeter Falls is a popular waterfall in Altamont, Tennessee which is about an hour north of Chattanooga. The loop trail (AllTrails link above) is 1.1 miles and takes you to three waterfalls the main being Greeter Falls. There is an upper and lower section to Greeter Falls with the lower being the best viewpoint. The path to the lower falls descends the bluffs using spiral stairs and normal stairs and rock paths built into the cliff. This waterfall offers great photos with people because of the rock formations directly in line with the falls.


These falls can also be reached from other sections of the Savage Gulf State Natural Area such as Alum Gap hikes and hikes from Stone Door Ranger Station.

Greeter Falls Tennessee

Stinging Fork Falls

Stinging Fork Falls  Tennessee

Waterfall Type: Cascade Waterfall

Route Type: Out & Back

Mileage: 1.4

AllTrails Links - Stinging Fork Falls Trail


The best part of this waterfall is its secluded vibe which is heavily attributed to its obscure location in Tennessee. Not far from other destinations but further from cities and further from main roads compared to many other more popular waterfalls in Tennessee. The hike in is three-quarters of a mile with half of that being a flat hike in and becoming more difficult with navigating rocky terrain and stairs going along the bluffs as you descend. The last quarter mile is along the side of the stream in the bottom of the gorge. I visited mid-week afternoon and was the only person at the actual falls for close to my hour there. Weekends I'm sure would draw more crowd but nothing in comparison to some of the other waterfalls.


The pool would make for a great summer swim spot and has a very cool shale rock bottom that can be seen through the water. Another feature I loved was the logs piled up hanging over the stream.

Stinging Fork Falls  Tennessee

Spruce Flat Falls

Spruce Flat Falls  Tennessee

Waterfall Type: Tiered Cascade Waterfall

Route Type: Out & Back

Mileage: 1.8

AllTrails Links - Spruce Flat Falls Trail


This is a popular hike to a waterfall in the Cades Cove area of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I have less to say about this hike because I actually missed the trailhead, parked on the road, and had to wade a river to cross over and find the trail. There is no cell service in this area or anywhere nearby for that matter so I would recommend downloading the AllTrails map before heading out and saving the actual trailhead to your maps rather than the actual waterfall location as I had.


Machine Falls

Machine Falls  Tennessee

Waterfall Type: Cascade Waterfall

Route Type: Loop

Mileage: 4.5 (Shorter loop approx. 2 miles)

AllTrails Links - Machine Falls Loop


The waterfall was packed the weekend day I went but you can see it's still easy to take shots without the crowds. This is a fun waterfall that you can explore from many angles. There is access to the top of the waterfall, the sides are easily scalable without many degrees of danger or difficulty, and it even features a large cave built into the left side bluff. The cascading block style waterfall also makes for a great backdrop to photos. Bring shoes that you're willing to get wet as the last stretch up to the waterfall is through a stream.

Machine Falls  Tennessee

Fall Creek Falls (Coon Creek Falls)

Fall Creek Falls  Tennessee

Waterfall Type: Plunge Waterfall

Route Type: Out & Back

Mileage: 0.8

AllTrails Links - Fall Creek Falls via Base of the Falls Trail


I have to start by saying the picture above was extremely disappointing to take (and unexciting to look at). This waterfall may be fed from a dam above at Fall Creek Lake because upon arrival in the morning this waterfall was rushing with water but the lighting was so poor I decided to head to Cane Creek Falls (by hike see below) and then come back to Fall Creek Falls. I should have at least snapped a single picture because by the time I came back the falls had turned into this trickle you see. Hopefully, this won't happen, and just know this is likely common based on many other pictures posted on AllTrails that I saw. The base is easily accessible by trail.


Fun Fact: At 256 feet this is the highest free-fall waterfall east of the Mississippi River


Fall Creek Falls (Cane Creek and Cascades Rockhouse)

Waterfall Type: Plunge & Ribbon Waterfall

Route Type: Out & Back

Mileage: Variable

AllTrails Links - Base of Coon Creek Falls via Cable Trail

AllTrails Links - Viewpoint Trail


These falls are part of Fall Creek Falls State park making it a great day of hiking and waterfall viewing. Cane Creek Falls is the plunge falls in the back of the picture above and Cascades Roadhouse is the ribbon falls in the foreground. The viewpoints from the nature center give a poor view and actually no view of the waterfalls. The best viewpoint from above is closer to Coon Creek Falls and is located at the top right of the rock ledge in the picture above which is where the photo below was shot.

Getting to the base of the trail is an 'experts' only type of trail. It's via the Cable Trail which is a short walk from the nature center. Fittingly named for the 200-yard cable that stretches from the top of the cliff to the bottom. The trail is basically a straight shot down the cliff filled with rocks and tree roots and a cable for extra hand grip help. It should be noted there is a section of about 15 feet that is a vertical cliff and no cable in reach, very good hand, and feet grips but can be uneasy on the nerves and impossible for unfit hikers.


Once at the base have fun exploring in the caves under the falls, downstream, and even across you can get to the base of Cane Creek Falls up close and personal. Take my word the rocks are extremely slippery with wetness and algae...


Burgess Falls

Burgess Falls  Tennessee

Waterfall Type: Segmented Waterfall

Route Type: Out & Back

Mileage: 1.1

AllTrails Links - Burgess Falls Trail


These are some miraculous falls in size and volume and described as a true 'segmented' waterfall which is caused when an object typically a protruding rock splits the water into two distinct paths. The full Burgess Falls Trail has numerous waterfalls that are impressive on their own. There is no trail to the base of this waterfall but a trail does go to the top which has some nice rock ledges and viewpoints. If you are looking to check out the base of these falls the best options are actually by boat! By taking a boat upstream from Center Hill Lake you can make it most (or all in a kayak) of the way to the base of Burgess Falls. A common option is to take jet skis and the view from the bottom is as spectacular as you can imagine. Hoping to do this on my next trip back here.


Foster Falls

Foster Falls  Tennessee

Waterfall Type: Plunge Waterfall

Route Type: Out & Back

Mileage: 1.1

AllTrails Links - Foster Falls Small Wild Area Loop


Foster falls is a really enjoyable waterfall and natural area with tons of options for great pictures from many angles. The falls, with the big pool, and being surrounded by cliffs give amazing vantage points. I missed the opportunity to do the full loop because of poor signage no cell service so would recommend downloading the AllTrails map before going. This waterfall also features a wooden suspension bridge, a cool down log across the stream, and other mini falls. Some of the best viewpoints include the cliffs walking in from the parking lot and the cliffs on the other side that the loop trail will take you to.

Foster Falls  Tennessee

Rock City

Rock City Waterfall  Tennessee

Waterfall Type: Plunge Waterfall (Man-made)

Route Type: Loop

Mileage: .5

AllTrails Links - Rock City Trail


Rock City is technically in Georgia and is not much of a nature area, nonetheless has a cool waterfall on the top of Lookout Mountain with a great cliff view. The star is usually gone but the Christmas decorations were already going up by early November when I was there - breaking the rules of no Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving but I guess for business they can bend the rule. Rock City is essentially a rock garden with a lot of man-made rock features and gnome, troll, and fairytale figures. The walkthrough takes an hour or more and is a touristy crowd. It's a cool place but no what to expect before you go or you could end up being disappointed. The fee was about $22 for an adult ticket.


Rock Island State Park


Waterfall Type: Cascade Waterfall

Route Type: Loop

Mileage: 1.6

AllTrails Links - Twin Falls and Down River Trail


Rock Island State Park is an incredible natural area with multiple waterfalls and trails to be explored. The falls above are Twin Falls (to my best knowledge). What makes these falls incredible is that it's fed by an underground river that flows out of the side of the cliff. These falls stretch about 100 yards and even a half-mile downriver there are more waterfalls fed from underground water. Upriver from Twin Falls is a fun gorge to be explored with additional large waterfalls further up before reaching the dam. Neither of these areas is accessible (to my knowledge again lol) from Rock Island State Park Campground but I do believe if you drive to Twin Falls or Great Falls both are accessible from either parking area with Great Falls being on the same side of the river as the campground. Twin Falls is a bit further of a drive around to the other side. Spotty service so download maps and plan in advance.


The Wrap Up


In no order whatsoever these are the falls visited:

  1. Greeter Falls

  2. Stinging Fork Falls

  3. Spruce Flat Falls

  4. Machine Falls

  5. Coon Creek Falls (Falls Creek Falls State Park)

  6. Cane Creek Falls (Falls Creek Falls State Park)

  7. Cascade Rockhouse falls (Falls Creek Falls State Park)

  8. Burgess Falls

  9. Foster Falls

  10. Twin Falls (Rock Island State Park)

  11. Great Falls (Rock Island State Park)

Check the map page for the exact locations to these!


A couple additional that I researched and ended up not having time or not being able to visit for certain reasons that are good to know about:

  1. Ozone Falls

  2. Lula Falls (Technically in Georgia and difficult to get permits)

  3. Virgin Falls

  4. Cul-Car-Mac Falls (I believe a permit from a bed n breakfast is needed)

  5. Cummins Falls (Permit required)

 

©Copyright 2020 Dan Oliver


Photography exclusively by Dan Oliver unless otherwise stated and cited. Embedded maps are provided by Embed Google Map (embedgooglemap.net) and map images shown are provided as stated and cited.

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