Cummins Falls State Park is a 282 acre day-use park nine miles north of Cookeville, TN. Located along the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River, the park is the site of a local favorite scenic waterfall and swimming hole for residents of Jackson and Putnam counties for over 100 years. At 75 feet tall, Cummins Falls is the 8th largest waterfall in Tennessee by water volume. The spot was established as a state park in 2012 and continues to draw in visitors for its picturesque views, swimming opportunities, and unaltered trails.
Some aspects of the park and its activities can be classified as rugged and require planning and safety information before visiting. Permit access is required to access the gorge and the falls. Please make sure to properly research and plan for your visit to Cummins Falls before embarking on your journey to the park.
The gorge stands out as the park’s most spectacular feature and as a unique feature compared to other TN state parks. Virtually unaltered by humans, the gorge is beautiful but also rugged.
Getting to the gorge
There are two routes hikers can take to descend the gorge to the waterfall, one being 1 mile and the other 1.5 miles (2 and 3 miles roundtrip, respectively). Both trails feature uneven terrain, steep elevation drops, and may contain hazards such as water crossings, boulders, and loose rocks.
Once hikers have made their descent down the gorge to the base of the falls, they can enjoy spectacular views of the waterfall and cool off in its waters. Swimming is a popular activity at the falls. Visitors can swim and wade on various levels of rock shelves underneath the waterfall, cooling off in the water coming from every direction around them. There is also a swimming hole at the base of the falls where visitors can lounge in water more still than that directly beneath the falls.
Swimmers are urged to use caution when swimming and exploring the water under the falls. Use best judgement and remember that rocks may be slippery.
While the aforementioned trails in the gorge require permit access, Cummins Falls State Park offers three moderately difficult trails that do not require permitted access. The Waterfall Overlook Trail is .4 miles long and gives scenic views of Cummins Falls above the waterfall. The Upstream Trail is .5 mile trail that offers water access upstream of the waterfall. The Delia Bell Meadow Trail is 3 miles long and includes an overlook of Blackburn Fork River.
For those looking to fish in the water above the falls, Blackburn Fork River provides good wading and bank fishing for bass and bluegill species. The river is not deep enough for boat fishing.
Know before you go
While the state park is full of unique and beautiful sights, it is also rugged and can be potentially dangerous for poorly-equipped visitors. Please keep this information in mind before you travel to Cummins Falls:
- Restrooms, parking area, trailhead, and picnic area located above the falls. Visitors are encouraged to picnic and use the restrooms ahead of making their descent to the falls instead of carrying food down the gorge.
- Visitors are required to have a Gorge Access Permit to access gorge and base of waterfall. Permits must be purchased ahead of time on the park’s website.
- Only hike to base of waterfall on fair-weather days and check the weather before heading to the falls. Flash flooding can occur quickly at the base of the waterfall and rocks on the hike down the gorge can become slippery in rainy weather.
- Hiking to base of waterfall requires climbing sometimes slippery rocks, wading and swimming through water, and is considered strenuous
- Children under 5 are discouraged from visiting the waterfall. Children under age of 12 must have adult supervision and wear lifejacket while swimming at the falls
- For more important safety info and tips of how to prepare for your trip to Cummins Falls, visit the website before going