Fall Creek Falls State Park is easily one of the most famous state park in Tennessee. Its iconic waterfall (the park’s namesake) attracts visitors from all over the state and country who are seeking a view of the 256ft tall falls as its water plunges from dramatic cliffs into a steep gorge. The waterfall– one of the largest east of the Mississippi– is rightfully one of the park’s most popular attractions and a huge draw for visitors planning their next state park adventure. The actual falls at Fall Creek Falls, however, is only the beginning of what this park has to offer.
From trails that wind through virgin hardwood forest to waterways primed for excellent fishing and, of course, gorgeous falls that create the most picturesque of views Tennessee has to offer, Fall Creek Falls has it all. The park’s natural features, along with the infrastructure developed to create more opportunities for outdoor recreation and adventure, makes planning a trip to Fall Creek Falls a task filled with seemingly endless possibilities.
There are activities for almost every type of outdoors-person to explore. Test your skills on the Canopy Course Challenge, go for a paddle on Fall Creek Lake, rent a mountain bike and explore the winding trails through miles of untouched forest. Fall Creek Falls State Park is the ideal location for explorers looking to broaden their horizons and plan their perfect state park trip.
Located in Bledsoe and Van Buren counties, Fall Creek Falls is one of the state’s largest parks, spanning nearly 30,000 acres of land across the eastern top of the Cumberland Plateau. The land where the park is located sits on historic Shawnee and Cherokee land. The park’s creation started in 1937, when the federal government began purchasing land around the falls.
The land suffered from severe erosion and soil degradation at the time, triggering forest restoration efforts by the WPA and CCC. Around the same time, these groups also began to construct park facilities in the area to accommodate visitors seeking views of the iconic waterfalls and meandering streams. In 1944, ownership of the land was transferred to the state of Tennessee, marking its true establishment as a Tennessee State Park. Today, the 33,000 acres of park can be explored by foot, bike, car, and boat.
Fall Creek Falls State Park offers a range of lodging options to accommodate its many visitors looking for different ways to stay at the park. Lodging options include rooms at the New Lodge at Fall Creek Falls (coming fall of 2021), a variety of cabins of different sizes and locations, and sites at full-service and primitive campgrounds.
The Lodge at Fall Creek Falls is a brand new building that serves as an ideal destination for families and large groups in search of a more lavish stay at the park. The lodge, opening fall of 2021, is located on the lake and offers 85 guest rooms, lakeside dining, and a waterside pool.
The park also offers 30 cabins for visitors looking for a roof over their head during their stay. The cabins are divided into two categories, Fishermen and Landside, based on their location, and all host full kitchens, living spaces, bathrooms, and bedrooms. The cabins are popular and book up well in advance so be sure to check their availability and book early if you are planning on renting one for your stay.
For those looking to set up camp at the park, Fall Creek Falls offers more than 200 campsites in 5 different locations throughout the park. All campsites have electricity, grills, picnic tables, and access to water and bathhouses. There is also an Olympic-sized swimming pool near one of the campgrounds which offers a place for guests to cool off during summer months. For those looking to get off the grid, the park has 16 primitive sites that have hike-in or drive-in options.
Fall Creek Falls is home to Fall Creek Lake, a 345-acre body of water that makes for opportunities in various types of water recreation, including boating, swimming, and fishing. The park’s many creeks and streams, and its 7 waterfalls, also make for opportunities to cool off.
While no privately-owned boats or gas motors are allowed on the lake (with the exception of private kayaks and canoes), the park provides a variety of different boats available for rental. Visitors can rent kayaks, canoes, pedal boats, rowboats, and aluminum jon boats (bring your own battery and motor) to explore the lake. Guided pontoon boat tours are also offered seasonally.
Fall Creek Lake is an excellent destination for fishing. The lake holds the state record for Channel Catfish and Bluegill catches and provides great fishing for largemouth bass, as well. Fishers can cast their lines by bank or boat on the lake, and can bank fish in creeks throughout the park, too.
There are 7 waterfalls within the park, along with the creeks and rivers they run along. The biggest and most famous waterfall is, of course, Fall Creek Falls. Other notable falls included Cane Creek Falls, Coon Creek Falls, Rockhouse Falls, and Piney Creek Falls, all of which host beautiful views of their cascading water.
Visitors can hike to these falls to gain views of them, as well as view them from many lookouts in the park. Visit the website for more details on the best trails and lookouts to access these falls.
Fall Creek Falls State Park offers more than 50 miles of trails throughout its gorgeous, hardwood forests. These trails can by hikers and bikers as they trek through the park gaining beautiful views of the scenery and wildlife surrounding them.
Different hiking options for visitors looking to put on their trekking shoes range from short strolls, day hikes, and overnight backpacking routes. These hikes cover all sorts of terrain and take hikers to the base of falls, along streams and creeks, throughout the woods, and around Fall Creek lake. Check the website for trail maps and more information to plan your hike(s) in the park.
Those looking to explore certain trails by bike can rent mountain bikes at the Canopy Challenge Course center. There are three major designated mountain bike trails in the park for riders to choose from, ranging from 6-14 miles long. These single and double tracked trails give visitors the chance to explore the park as they navigate rolling hills, twists and turns, and view beautiful forest scenery.
Other Recreational Activities
The park’s waterfalls, trails, and lake are only the beginning of activities offered at Fall Creek Falls. Other popular activities include rock climbing, golfing, exploring the nature center and canopy challenge course, and bird watching.
There are two locations where rock climbers can test their skills at the state park: Copperhead Rock and Buzzard’s Roost. Copperhead is a popular destination for top roping and rappelling and hosts beginners routes and more advanced routes for climbers looking for a challenge. The courses range from 5-5 to 5-510 and are 25ft- 60ft tall. Buzzard’s Roost also has climbing and rappelling opportunities for climbers of various expertise levels at the park’s most famous scenic overlook.
All climbers must register before climbing at Fall Creek Falls and any other TN State Park. Check the website for rules about climbing at the park and to register your plan to climb. Seasonal workshops are also offered for those seeking to expand their climbing skills.
The 18-horse golf course at the park is known as one of the best in TN and has been named to the “Top 100 Public Places to Play” list by Golf Digest multiple times. Nestled on the edge of the forest, the course gives golfers the feel of being in nature and offers wildlife sighting opportunities.
The park’s nature center offers hands on environmental education through naturalist-led activities and programs. It has been offering rich and low-cost enviro educational experiences and overnight programs since 1996 and is open to families and school groups looking to learn more about the natural history and ecosystems at Fall Creek Falls.
Canopy Challenge Course
Thrill-seekers and those looking to try something new during their stay at Fall Creek Falls can head to the Canopy Challenge Course. There they will find a 75-feature aerial course that sets the state park apart from others. Participants are suspended above ground with smart-belay technology as they navigate bridges, rope swings, nets, balance beams, zip lines, and more. There are 6 different routes to choose from, allowing visitors the choice of a serene or extreme experience. To purchase tickets and get more information about the course, visit the park’s website.
The park hosts beautiful lookouts to watch for birds, including the iconic Buzzard’s Roost, which has wide, panoramic views of the park. Birders can look for different species of birds depending on the season, including a range of neotropical migrants from March through October. Year-round avian residents of the park include barred owls, woodpeckers, hawks, and lake viewings of ducks, loons, and bald eagles.