“There’s no better place to find yourself than sitting by a waterfall and listening to its music.”― Roland R Kemler
With over 500 waterfalls, many located in the eastern part of the state, Tennessee is a perfect place for RVers to camp near and scout out these natural wonders. So the next time your RV travels take you through the land of country music, barbecue, whiskey, and more, be sure to step away from the bustling cities. Instead, stay awhile at these parks and explore some of the state’s most amazing majestic waterfalls.
Fall Creek Falls State Park
Located between Spencer and Pikeville, Fall Creek Falls State Park is a paradise of more than 20,000 acres featuring cascades, gorges, waterfalls, and streams. One of the highest waterfalls in the eastern United States at 256 feet, Fall Creek Falls is the namesake of the state park and its most famous waterfall. Visitors can access this sheer-drop waterfall and other waterfalls like Piney Falls, Cane Creek Falls, and Cane Creek Cascades utilizing the park’s almost 50 miles of hiking trails.
RVers wanting to stay a while and explore more of Fall Creek Falls State Park’s hidden treasures have five separate camping areas to choose from within the park. Other fun activities include rock climbing, a treetop agility course known as the Canopy Challenge Course, boating, interpretive programs, biking, fishing, swimming, birding, and golf.
The vacation destination Lookout Mountain, just minutes from downtown Chattanooga, has a few gems to experience above and below the surface. Ruby Falls is a 145-foot high waterfall located 1,120 feet beneath the mountain. Soon after the accidental discovery of the falls in the 1930s, the cavern became a tourist destination. Today, folks from all over the world flock to see the tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public in the United States.
The tour of Ruby Falls lasts about an hour. It takes ticket-holders 260 feet down in a glass-front elevator to the cavern trail that winds around unique cave formations leading up to the thundering falls. The cavern stays a consistent 60 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year so bring a sweater if that sounds chilly.
While RV parking is available, it is limited, and the drive up the mountain is rather steep. However, there are RV parks located in and around Chattanooga.
Burgess Falls State Park
Burgess Falls State Park in Sparta, Tennessee, is a day-use park known for its many outdoor activities (like hiking, fishing, and bird watching) set to the backdrop of dense forests, rocky cliffs, and the Falling Water River. Now a designated Tennessee State Natural Area, the river and surrounding land served various purposes through the ages, including hunting grounds for Native Americans and a hydroelectric power source for nearby Cookeville.
Perhaps the most sought-after features of the park are its four waterfalls. The River Trail on the Service Loop Road leads to the top of the waterfalls cascading down from over 250 feet into a large pool, the most spectacular one being the Burgess Falls. This waterfall plunges more than 130 feet into the gorge.
South Cumberland State Park
Day-use visitors and overnight campers can get up close and personal to the Foster Falls in South Cumberland State Park. Beginning at the Foster Falls Visitor Center in Sequatchie, Tennessee, a moderately challenging hike leads to the waterfall that drops from 60 feet into a gorge. The refreshing water is perfect for swimming year-round, save winter.
South Cumberland State Park offers all kinds of outdoor activities, including hiking, hunting, cave tours, rock climbing, fishing, interpretive programs and events, wildlife viewing, and primitive tent and RV camping.
Cummins Falls State Park
Another popular swimming hole is in Cummins Falls State Park. This day-use park can be found nine miles north of Cookeville on the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River.
The Cummins Falls drops down from a height of 75 feet. The first portion of the falls plunges 50 feet into a shallow pool, and the second portion cascades 25 feet into a larger, deeper pool. Any visitor wanting to enter the gorge or visit the base of the waterfall must now obtain a permit from the park.
A Word of Caution Regarding Waterfalls
Not to strip away the fun of waterfalls, but venturing to one of these natural beauties comes with a word of caution. Trauma surgeon Jonas Karlsson, MD, offers advice based on his experiences treating patients with fatal or nearly fatal injuries around waterfalls.
1. Wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots.
2. Stay on developed trails. Do not stray from observation decks and platforms.
3. Pay attention to warning signs and rules posted near waterfalls.
4. Never climb on or around waterfalls.
5. Never jump off waterfalls or dive into plunge pools.
6. Supervise children and pets carefully.
7. Never play in the stream or river above a waterfall, or try to take photos at the top of a waterfall.
Waterfalls Aren’t the Only Thing You Can Fall For…
Fall for the protection, security, and peace of mind that Coach-Net’s Premier Motorized Plan brings to RVers everywhere. You can rest easy knowing that Coach-Net has you covered with its 24/7, all-inclusive roadside assistance, Concierge Services, Global Emergency Travel Services, Tire Discounts, Camping Discounts, and so much more. When you sign up for our roadside assistance program before you set off, you’ll have the help you need whenever you need it. So get Coach-Net and get on with your Tennessee waterfall adventures!
About The Author: Natalie Henley
Levi Henley and his wife, Natalie, have been full-time RVers for over 5 years. They have also been Coach-Net customers for the same amount of time. They travel and workcamp around the U.S. in their 26-foot Itasca Sunstar motorhome with their two cats. They write for multiple RV-related publications and recently co-wrote “Seasonal Workamping for a Living: How We Did It.” You can follow their adventures on the road at henleyshappytrails.com
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