Our nation has so many fantastic national parks that we sometimes forget that our state parks offer beautiful scenery and treasures to discover. One of loveliest of these is Fall Creek Falls State Park, near Pikeville, Tennessee.
Some Basics About the Park
Fall Creek Falls State Park has its origins in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) reforestation efforts begun 1937. In 1944 the park was transferred to the state of Tennessee. Celebrating its 80th birthday, it is the biggest and most popular state park in Tennessee. There are 26,000-plus acres along the eastern highlands of the Cumberland Plateau. Here you will find many waterfalls, rocky gorges, splashing streams and verdant hardwood forests.
Fall Creek Falls State Park Highlights
The park is named for its main natural feature, Fall Creek Falls, which is 256-feet high; the falls are among the highest in the eastern United States. Other waterfalls within the park that make it the premier waterfalls destination in Tennessee include Piney Falls, Cane Creek Falls, Paw Paw Falls, and Cane Creek Cascades. These Falls, both from above and below, are the centerpiece of the park’s outdoor wonders. You can hike to the various Falls, and around the lake, and take longer overnight hikes as well. There are more than thirty-four miles of hiking trails in all. Biking, boating, fishing, horseback riding, and even zip lining are available. The Fall Creek Falls Golf Course, a challenging 18-hole course, is considered among the best in Tennessee. The park also has playgrounds, covered picnic pavilions and an Olympic-sized pool with a wading area which is open Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Dining and Lodging Options
The Inn at Fall Creek Falls State Park has 145 hotel rooms, many overlooking Falls Creek Falls Lake; the inn dates to the 1970’s and could benefit from a general updating. You can dine at Gaul’s Gallery Restaurant, on Southern Style cuisine; their Hiker Sandwich is very popular, as is the banana pudding. In addition you can choose from 30 cabins; twenty of the cabins are directly on Fall Creek Lake, these are called the “Fishermen Cabins.” Stay in one of them and you can fish off your back porch overhanging the water. You can also select one of the 222 campsites. Backcountry camping is also available with permit. Outside the park, The Manor at Fall Creek has big rooms and a gracious proprietor, as well as a restaurant on site.
Best Kept Secrets
We particularly like the suspension bridge over Piney Falls, for a touch of beauty and adventure in any season. The overlooks give you wonderful views of the falls from high above. In season, walking behind the falls can be a refreshing treat. Visit the Betty Dunn Cascades Nature Center when they are doing special presentations (most of the hiking trails start at the Nature Center as well). Cane Creek Cascades has a swimming hole really close to the Cascades. Waterfall tours, and the annual 100K Tree Day are among the many fine interpretive events and programs offered in the park. Visit the, “Indian Outpost” outside the main entrance, to find some unique gifts.
Getting to Fall Creek Falls State Park
Fall Creek Falls State Park is at the center of the triangle created by the cities of Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tennessee. From Nashville, take I-40 East and US-70 East to TN-285 East in Van Buren County. From Knoxville, follow I-40 West to TN-101 South and Peavine Road in Crossville; continue on TN-101 South to your destination in Van Buren County. And from Chattanooga, take US-27 North, to TN-111 North; then TN-285 East, to your destination. The park may be entered from Highway 111 or Highway 30. Each of these drives will offer some lovely Tennessee scenery.