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Middle Tennessee is home to some of the best waterfall hikes that the Southeast has to offer — that’s just a fact. Some are composed of a series of picturesque cascades; others are free-falling waterfalls that plummet from heights as tall as 100-feet. All of the waterfall trails listed are within a 2.5-hour drive of the Nashville city center. So, don’t listen to 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).
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10. Rutledge Falls, Tullahoma
Visit the amazing falls just 12 minutes from Interstate 24 Exit 110. Just a short walk from the parking lot through privately owned land. Closed toe shoes are recommended as the walk down to the falls can be slippery at times. Open from dawn to dusk. 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. 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
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9. Greeter Falls, Altamont
Greeter Falls Loop is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and nature trips and is best used from March until October. The falls themselves are impressive, with a 50ft plunge over a limestone ledge into a pool below, but the best part 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
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8. Fiery Gizzard, Tracy City
Beginning at the Foster Falls parking lot, witness the 60 foot waterfall at the start. From the overlook, go to the right and cross the bridge to start the trail. Continue on the Fiery Gizzard Trail as it leads you deep into the old growth forest, coming across many creeks that fall off the rock ledges that dot the landscape. Don’t worry, there are bridge crossings for each creek, and the views atop the waterfalls are stunning. 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
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7. Fall Creek Falls, Spencer
at 256 feet, Fall Creek Falls is actually the tallest free-fall waterfall east of the Mississippi River. The best bang-for-your-buck hike for waterfall viewing is to walk along the Woodland Trail (0.9-miles) above Fall Creek Falls and to add on the Gorge Overlook Trail (a 0.2-mile scenic bypass loop that tacks on Cane Creek Falls, Cane Creek Gorge, and a less-witnessed vantage of Fall Creek Falls). Most of the day hiking trails are fairly moderate with smooth paths, solid footbridges, and rocky stairs. The view of the 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
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6. Cummins Falls, Cookeville
A well-known swimming hole about an hour and a half from Nashville, Cummins Falls State Park is a fantastic, especially in the warmer months. There’s a 1.5 mile hike down to the falls, or you can take the shortcut that runs down the side of the overlook. If you take the climb down, be sure you’re wearing good hiking shoes and follow the well-used path. Once you reach the falls, after a number of creek crossings and boulder hoppings, you’ll be greeted with a pretty surreal view of the falls as they cascade over a series of shelf-like rocks before spilling into a deep emerald pool below. Have a swim in the cool gorge water or lay out on the boulders and take a quick nap; whatever you decide it will be beautiful.Difficulty level: 3
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5. Twin Falls, Rock Island
The Twin Falls are located in Rock Island State Park downstream of the dam, with great overlooks of the falls right where you park your car. Accidentally created when they dammed the Caney Fork River in 1925, the gorge water pours through the wall rather than over making this 80-foot cascade a rare site in Tennessee. 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. Our only precaution with this falls is to check the TVA water release schedule before hiking down, as you are directly downstream if they open the dam.Difficulty level: 3
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4. Foster Falls, Sequatchie
A popular sport climbing destination for many regional climbers along the well-known Fiery Gizzard Trail, Foster Falls is a 60-foot free-falling waterfall that’s pretty much impossible to take a bad photo of. It’s only about an hour and forty-five minutes from downtown Nashville, and there’s a wide array of activities to be had here. When you arrive, there’s almost immediately a great overlook for you to take in the sites, and then you can head to the Climbers Loop that will take you down to the falls, which doubles as an excellent swimming hole. It’s a moderate descent with a lot of awesome overlooks on the way down, but save your energy because the climb back out is quite steep.Difficulty level: 3
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3. Ozone Falls, Crossville
This picturesque waterfall was actually selected to be a filming location for a scene in the movie, Jungle Book, and it’s obvious to see why. It feels secluded and almost otherworldly with water spilling over 110-feet from a rim of sandstone caprock into a gouged-out punchbowl below. 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
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2. Burgess Falls, Sparta
Burgess Falls is a 136-foot beauty located on the Falling Water River that forms the centerpiece of Burgess Falls State Park. The classic 1.5-mile River Trail/Service Road Loop brings hikers next to four waterfalls within the park, following the riverbank past increasingly impressive cascades until eventually culminating in the 136-foot main falls. Be warned, the descent can be pretty rigorous in spots, even with the assistance of a set of metal steps to carry you the last bit to the base of the big falls. However, ease your mind a little at the park website which frequently provides updates on the status of trail’s safety.Difficulty level: 5
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1. Virgin Falls, Sparta
Virgin Falls is another set of falls found within a state natural area that also happens to be a 2.5 hour drive from Nashville. This hike is one of the most unusual waterfall hikes in the area, featuring no less than 4 falls on a 9-mile loop.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.Difficulty level: 5
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