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5 Epic Waterfall Hikes in Tennessee

If chasing waterfalls is your thing, then Tennessee is the place for you! Tennessee is home to hundreds of waterfalls that can be found all over the state. From tall and narrow falls to rushing curtains of water, there are many types of waterfalls across The Volunteer State just waiting to be explored. Many of these falls are close together, making it easy to spend a day waterfall-hopping to check out multiple. With so many waterfalls around Tennessee, it can take years for even the most avid waterfall hikers to visit them all.

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Machine Falls

Just a quick three-mile drive from Rutledge Falls stands the perfect surprise in the middle of the forest, Machine Falls. With multiple layers resembling a wedding cake covered in vibrant green moss, Machine Falls is absolutely enchanting. While there isn’t a swimming hole at the base, this spot is so majestic, it’s worth the trip. These flowing falls are a great spot to check out while exploring the many hiking trails in this area. If you’re looking to experience some more waterfalls nearby, check out Adam Falls and Busby Falls. Both are within a short hike from Machine Falls.

Machine Falls in Tennessee
Machine Falls in Tennessee, photo by Lisa Valentine

Foster Falls

With an overlook platform a short walk from the parking lot and only a half mile down to the base of the falls, Foster Falls make for an easy spot to explore. The path to the falls includes a walk over a suspension bridge above water flowing water and the pool at the base of Foster Falls is perfect for an afternoon swim. Located within South Cumberland State Park, this area is home to beautiful campsites and is a favorite among rock climbers of all skill levels. If you have time to do some adventuring, South Cumberland State Park is home to multiple other waterfalls to add onto a Foster Falls hiking trip.

Foster Falls in Tennessee
Foster Falls in Tennessee, photo by Lisa Valentine

Burgess Falls

While the roaring Burgess Falls in Sparta, Tennessee are able to be viewed above from a hiking trail, the best way to take in these cascading falls is from a kayak or canoe at the base. Enjoy a leisurely paddle along the Falling Water River to take in this wonder from the base of the 130-foot waterfall. This waterfall is truly something to behold from below. Depending on water levels, you can even climb up the rocks to stand below the falls. Burgess Falls is the largest waterfall in the park, but also be sure to stop by the three other waterfalls that are along the Falling Water River in Burgess Falls State Park and Natural Area.

Burgess Falls photo by Lisa Valentine
Burgess Falls in Tennessee, photo by Lisa Valentine

Rutledge Falls

A little over an hour south of Nashville, in Tullahoma, Tennessee stand Rutledge Falls. There is small parking lot located just across the road from the trail and the walk to the falls is short, making this an easy waterfall to explore if you’re short on time. A quick walk (less than half a mile) takes you to the falls, which become a summer hot spot thanks to the idyllic swimming hole. If you’re looking for a bit of nature without much effort to get there, Rutledge Falls is the spot for you. The water may be chilly, but it’s the perfect way to escape the heat of Tennessee’s hottest months. The trail to Rutledge Falls is located on privately owned land, so be sure to be respectful and not leave anything behind.

Cummins Falls

About 20 miles north of Burgess Falls, you can find the beautiful Cummins Falls. Standing 75 feet high, Cummins falls is said to be in the top ten largest waterfalls in the state by volume of water. While hikers can view the falls from the top via a short hike, the most rewarding trail takes hikers through the gorge, up to the base of the falls. Keep in mind a Gorge Access Permit is required to do the hike to the base, so be sure to plan ahead. This hike is only allowed when weather is good, due to potential flash-flooding in the gorge.

There are two hikes that lead to the base, one being a mile long and the other 1.5 miles are considered strenuous. Based on water levels, the hike typically requires wading through the river and climbing over rocks, so be sure to wear appropriate footwear to avoid slipping.

In the hot summer months, Cummins Falls is filled with visitors of all ages enjoying a refreshing swim at the base. Visitors can also be found climbing up the rocks beneath the falls to experience the various levels and stand behind curtains of water.

With lots of these waterfalls being under a two-hour drive from Nashville, they are the perfect addition to a trip to Music City. Pack your swimsuit and some good outdoor sandals and spend some time exploring the waterfalls of Tennessee!

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