Power Rank

The 11 Best Waterfall Hikes Around Nashville, Ranked by Difficulty

One of the benefits of living near the Cumberland Plateau is that you can brag about it to all those Cumberland Gap people. Another is that there is plenty of elevation change as the state slants from east to west, from the Smoky Mountains to the flat Mississippi Delta. That means GALLONS of water are flowing downhill and over cliffs into pools below. So, go ahead and ignore TLC and chase some of the best waterfalls around Nashville, all ranked on a difficulty scale of 1-5 (with 5 being the most difficult). 

11. Rutledge Falls

Although Rutledge Falls is located on private property, it’s open to the public. It’s also a great place for a day of family fun, as the secluded spot offers easy access, pristine picnic spots, and a beautiful swimming hole... if you can handle the bracingly cold creek water. The only difficulty is a short climb down some rocks that may be slippery on the way to the base of the falls.
Difficulty level: 1

10. Greeter Falls

Greeter Falls is part of the Savage Gulf trail system and the South Cumberland State Park. The falls themselves are impressive, with a 50ft plunge over a limestone ledge into a pool below, but the bonus is that the 1.6-mile loop trail to reach it is dog-friendly. Take your pooch on a fairly easy hike, but keep them on a leash.
Difficulty level: 1

9. Fiery Gizzard 

Tracy City
If you like shorter falls that offer secluded swimming-hole opportunities, it’s tough to beat the Fiery Gizzard Trail, part of the South Cumberland State Forest in south central Tennessee. In one easy 3.3-mile loop, you can experience five different waterfalls, two of which drop into fantastic outdoor swimming pools. Blue Hole Falls and Sycamore Falls are both only 10-12ft tall, but they offer plunge pools filled with a constant flow of cool, crisp mountain water.
Difficulty level: 2

8. Fall Creek Falls

The big daddy of Tennessee cataracts is actually the tallest free-fall waterfall east of the Mississippi River. The view of the 256ft fall is great from the top, but a short hike down to the plunge pool below really gives visitors a better idea of the power and volume of the flow. Just remember that you have to hike back up to the parking lot afterwards.
Difficulty level: 3

7. Cummins Falls

Despite the inviting plunge pool below, this beautiful multi-level waterfall is best viewed from above, where the overlook is just a short amble through the woods from the parking lot. Acrophobes may have a little difficulty with the steepness of the viewing platform, but they will be rewarded for their courage. Descending into the valley below involves steep descents down unimproved trails and crossing the river, so think twice (or thrice) before attempting the trip.
Difficulty level: 3

6. Twin Falls

Rock Island
Twin Falls is unusual in that it was created by the damming of the Caney Fork River in the 1920s, which caused two streams to flow out of the side of a gorge, seeping from the walls about 40ft below the edge of the cliff into the river below. Several easy-to-moderate trails lead to different views of these remarkable falls, but how close you can actually get to them depends on the generation schedule of the dam. Stay alert, because the water levels can rise quickly.
Difficulty level: 3

5. Foster Falls

If you’re feeling froggy, you can reach this gorgeous 60ft-tall waterfall by extending the leisurely stroll through Fiery Gizzard to add a strenuous day’s worth of hiking for another nine miles -- rather than taking the day loop trail. However, the falls, and excellent swimming hole below, are also accessible as a much easier two-mile hike, which includes a cool swinging bridge across the creek below the falls.
Difficulty level: 3

4. Cane Creek Falls

Cane Creek is one of five waterfalls located near Fall Creek Falls, so it’s not too difficult to check multiple boxes on your bucket list in one day. The falls are only about a third as tall as their more famous neighbor, but after a good rain, it is still pretty impressive as the water flows in a wide swath over a rock ledge. Multiple trails of varying difficulties offer different vistas of the falls. Most of them are easy and less than a mile round-trip, but be warned that the Cable Trail does indeed involve clambering down a rock face while clinging to a metal cable.
Difficulty level: 4

3. Ozone Falls

As far as convenience, it’s tough to beat Ozone Falls if you’re seeking an impressive natural wonder within fifteen minutes of an interstate exit off of I-40. From the parking area, it’s a quick walk to the heart-stoppingly perilous edge of the 10-story falls, and then another short, steep, and slightly treacherous hike to the pool below. The view up of the roaring cascade is definitely worth the effort, and you can be back on the road to Gatlinburg in less than an hour.
Difficulty level: 4

2. Burgess Falls

The accurately named Falling Water River passes over four falls within Burgess Falls State Park, but the waterfall that gives the park its name is the most impressive for sure. The river is quite wide as it passes over the edge of a 130ft cliff into the gorge below, so the volume of rushing water is particularly awe-inspiring. A 1.5-mile loop takes visitors past all four falls, but don’t let the short length fool you; this is a big hike. Even with the assistance of a set of metal steps to carry you the last bit to the base of the big falls, lots of folks bail out and take a service road back to the parking lot rather than completing the entire hike. We won’t judge.
Difficulty level: 5

1. Virgin Falls

Virgin Falls is a fascinating example of a spring-fed falls, with a creek flowing out of a cave over a cliff and into another cave 120ft below. Particularly intrepid hikers can actually enter the two caves when the water levels are lower, but it is generally not recommended. However, if you can handle the rugged 8-mile hike to get to the falls, you’re probably kind of a badass anyway.
Difficulty level: 5

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Chris Chamberlain is a lifelong Nashvillager. If he was going to ride over a waterfall in a barrel, he would make sure that it would be at least half-full of bourbon. Follow him at @CeeElCee.