Tucked away in the hills of Tennessee, you’ll find over 500 waterfalls. The majority of
the waterfalls are nestled in the Appalachian mountains, eastern portion of the state and
in the Cumberland Plateau area. Each waterfall is beautiful in it’s own way, however
some stand out above others. The areas that surround those select waterfalls are
sections of Tennessee that are filled with unique features and interesting history. Sure,
you could explore them without knowing the wonder behind them – but.. To hike the
trails, to know the legends, the history and to slow down and notice all of the
characteristics that place them in the top 7 Waterfall Wonders of Tennesssee – is the
only way to truly feel their enchantment.
Foster Falls, located in Sequatchie, drops 60ft into a tranquil pool of perfection. Foster Falls is on my list of Waterfall Wonders, not only for it’s beauty but also for it’s connection to the Fiery Gizzard Trail. The first thing you’ll notice when arriving is the sandstone overlook. Due to its geological features – the Foster Falls area is one of the premier climbing destinations in the south. The short, but steep and rocky trail leading to the base will only take you deeper into what will soon feel like a fairytale. The area is filled hemlocks, mountain laurel and azaleas as well. However, the charming suspension bridge with the base of the waterfall to the right – will be what makes you believe in love at first sight. My first trip to the base was on a rainy winter day – with just the perfect amount of fog.. I felt like I had stumbled onto the page of my favorite children’s book. And, yes, I felt 5 again. Not only is that a reason for you to visit, but it’s also the perfect example of why you should never let the weather determine your adventure. And.. Speaking of determining your adventure – after exploring the base of the falls, you can continue and finish up with a 1.6 mile loop.. Or, you can choose to explore the 12.5miles(one way) Fiery Gizzard Trail. You’re probably thinking, “Well, that’s a crazy name for a trail.”.. And, it is.. However, all crazy names come with a history. One legend behind the name is from the days of Davy Crockett.. It is said that Davy was sitting at his camp, eating a turkey, when he burned his tongue on a gizzard and spit it into the gorge… So, today, it’s the Fiery Gizzard Trail. This may also explain why the Fiery Gizzard Trail was also once voted by Backpacker Magazine, to be one of the top 25 hiking trails in the United States, as well as a top 12 Amazing Fall Foliage Destination. Because, well… Who wouldn’t want to walk where the King Of The Wild Frontier has walked?
Laurel-Snow State Natural Area:
4 Waterfalls, 1 area.. So, it counts as one! 3 are just bonus falls.. Laurel-Snow State Natural Area is located in Dayton – famous for the Scopes Monkey Trail of 1925. Tucked away, just outside of Dayton, lies 2,259 acres of a natural area to explore.You’ll find natural features, such as : overlooks, waterfalls, virgin timber, steep gorges, wildflowers and many geological features. However, you’ll quickly notice man made features as well, like the remains of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, when logging and mining took place in the area. Just after starting on the trail, you’ll see a large coke oven built into the rock that still includes the retaining walls. The mine to your right is the Richland Mine, one of many in the area. Several tragic mine explosions occurred over the years, the first being in December of 1895 – in the Richland Mine. However, in March of 1902, an explosion in the Nelson mine nearby(on private property) killed over 20 men. Men that were working to put food on the tables of their families. Today, the area is the perfect place to take your family.. Explore and go an adventure. Take your children, teach them about the history of the area and the life of the Appalachians that worked and died there. Honor those lost by respecting the beauty of the nature that the trails are filled with. Go alone, listen and find solitude. Grab some friends – it’s a perfect spot for backcountry camping, hiking, swimming, climbing and is also a Class III-IV whitewater run. Laurel Snow was the first National Recreation Trail designated in Tennessee, the first of what will hopefully be many.
Greeter Falls is named after the Greeter family that sold the land to the state and is made up of both Upper and Lower levels. The amphitheater of Greeter and it’s extraordinary geological features have helped to toss it into the Waterfall Wonders mix. On the 1.6 mile loop, you’ll also view Boardtree Falls and an opportunity to explore the Greeter family homesite. A fun and unique feature as well is the metal spiral staircase that leads you down to Lower Greeter Falls. Lower Greeter Falls drops 50ft into a large plunge pool and is a very popular swimming hole in the summer months, along with Blue Hole, also in the area. Greeter Falls is also a part of the 15,590-acre state natural area known as Savage Gulf. This location also opens up a visit to the falls being a day of exploring many other local wonders as well, such as Stone Door.
Great Falls is located in Rock Island State Park and is one of the most unique waterfalls in the state. It is a large horseshoe shaped waterfall that cascades over a 30ft drop. The waterfall is located below a 19th century textile mill that it helped to power over 100 years ago. Past the falls lies the Caney Fork River Gorge and is an mindblowing area to explore. The reach the base of Great Falls can access the gorge by taking the Old Mill Trail near the overlook, if parking is full, hikers can also reach the gorge via the Upstream Trail near the Twin Falls Overlook. Once in the gorge, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into a different world or have wandered onto a tropical island paradise. You’ll be surrounded by waterfalls on the walls of the gorge, rock islands to hop around on and of course – you’ll get to experience Great Falls, face to face. Just a bit down the gorge you’ll spot Twin Falls – a mysterious and breathtaking waterfall. Twin Falls is rarely ever low on water due to the fact that the water is being pushed underground and through the walls, instead of over, from the Collins River. The area is perfect for exploring, swimming, fishing, kayaking and more.
Lost Creek Falls:
Lost Creek Falls in Sparta is probably one of the easiest accessible waterfalls in Tennessee, yet also of the most enchanting. I’m not the only one that thinks it’s a scene out of a story book.. Just ask Disney, the charm of the area is what convinced them to film scenes of the Jungle Book there in 1994. Lost Creek is a two for one deal as well – you’ll find Lost Creek Falls and Lost Creek Cave, on just opposite sides of the sink from each other. The waterfall stands mysteriously in a dark corner where water comes from the Dog Cove area, goes into a large spring then comes out – drops 40ft and then immediately disappears underground. The area is covered in moss, ferns, boulders, wildflowers and a mix of hardwoods. Lost Creek cave, just feet away, is one of the larger caves in the state and has 5 entrances. Although it is popular for recreational use, keep in mind that it is home to several rare species of bats. For this reason, a free permit for entry should be picked up from the Nature Center at Falls Creek Falls – the state park that manages the site. As you leave this area of our state, that is like no other.. Be sure to whisper a quiet thank you to the late Mr.James Rylander. Mr. Rylander, graciously left this area of property in his will to the state – so that the area would be protected and enjoyed by the public. Show your gratitude for his generosity by treating it with respect and practicing Leave No Trace ethics during your visit.
Looking for a spot with multiple waterfalls, overlooks, caves and backcountry camping… Next to the waterfalls? If you are, Virgin Falls State Natural Area in Sparta is the place you need to be. The area is named for Virgin Falls, the big sister of Lost Creek Falls, due to them being very similar. Virgin also emerges from a cave above the falls, drops 100ft and disappears into a cave. Virgin Fall is a beauty and a beast all rolled into one.. She will, without a doubt, take your breath away. On your 9 mile round-trip hike to the main falls, you’ll have the opportunity to explore several caves and waterfalls as well as Martha’s Pretty Point – an overlook with views of Scott’s Gulf and Caney Fork River. Big Laurel Falls is worth a visit as well – a perfectly perfect waterfall with a large limestone cave to explore behind it. You’ll find campsites in multiple spots, but also directly in front of Big Laurel Falls and Virgin Falls – two ideal spots to sleep like a baby under the stars. Overnight explorers can use the self-registration book located at the trailhead. Planning to day hike it? Start early so you’ll have plenty of time to explore.
Margarette Falls is a part of the Cherokee National Forest and is located in Greeneville. The falls, named after Margaret Doak, is a 60ft fan shaped waterfall. Pulling into the trailhead, you’ll feel as if you’re in the middle of nothing.. However, the area was once a booming logging camp. The largest logging operation in Greene County that sent logs from the forest 12 miles away to Greeneville. The trail to Margarette Falls is a moderate 2.7 miles round-trip. You’ll pass at least 3 smaller waterfalls on your way up, numerous cascades, cliffs and boulders. At 1.36th of a mile, you’ll pass Cathedral Rock. Once to Margarette Falls…you’ll find a nice open area to rest, picnic and take photos.. Before returning to the trailhead. But not before thinking of Bailey Falls, a well known, yet off trail waterfall in the area. One of the most fascinating waterfalls that i’ve ever seen. The waterfall is tucked away in a very narrow ravine, is two-tiered and by far one of the most amazing Waterfall Wonders in Tennessee.. I could give you directions to Bailey Falls, but..
That wouldn’t leave you anything to “wonder” about..