Fall Creek Falls
  • Location: Fall Creek Falls State Park, south of Spencer, Tennessee
  • Access: From Spencer, TN, head south on Hwy 111 8 miles, then turn east on Hwy 284 (follow the brown signs to Fall Creek Falls), and proceed 1 mile to Old Tennessee 111. Jog north ~300 yards and continue east on Hwy 284 and follow the signs to the Visitors Center / Lodge. 
  • Maps: USGS Sampson quad; Trail maps available at the Friends of Fall Creek Falls website
  • Trailhead: UTM NAD83 zone 16 647859e 3946991n
  • Trail: A nice walk along a regularly-used walking path to Fall Creek Falls, an easy walk of about 2.5 miles to the base of the falls. 
  • Fees: None
  • Dogs: Allowed on leash
  • Weather: National Weather Service Forecast

March 6, 2010

Itís a beautiful spring day in Middle Tennessee, and I find myself, improbably, here in Fall Creek Falls State Park. After spending several days interviewing for a job in nearby McMinnville, Iím testing out the recreational options in this new area, in order to determine if it will be OK to live here after having lived within view of the incomparable Rockies for the last 15 years. I have my park map from the internet, and I keep an eye on it as I drive through the tree-lined roads of the park, on the lookout for Fall Creek Falls. The road I want to go down to park is closed off due to a race. No problem. I continue on and park at the lodge/restaurant area, and take a wide path from there around the west side of Fall Creek Lake, where half a dozen folks are out walking the path. Itís around 40 degrees, and there is some snow on the ground, but while walking briskly, it feels nice. The lake is surrounded by hardwood forest, dormant, and in the trees there are cabins, presumably for rent. I walk and ponder whether to leap into a new job here in Tennessee. How will Tennessee compare after Wyoming and Colorado? Could be fun, I think. 

The path reaches the paved road, and I cross over to the north side of the road, and continue on the trail. Itís not long before I pass by a parking lot, the one I think I might have ended up at were it not for the barricade blocking the road. From there itís not more than 50 yards to the falls overlook. Itís deserted, and aside from the slithering hiss of the water splashing on the rocks below, itís very quiet. Fall Creek Falls, at 256 ft, is the tallest waterfall in the United States east of the Rockies, so touts a sign at the overlook. So I wonder to myself whatís the next highest, going west? Perhaps itís Fish Creek Falls near Steamboat Springs, Colorado at 280 feet. Anyone know of a falls higher than 256í between Steamboat Springs and Fall Creek Falls, TN? Rocky Mountain National Park has lots of falls, but I donít recall any of them being all that tall. 

Near the overlook sign one has the option of descending a steep trail less than a mile to the base of the falls. The going is warned to be steep and rugged. Naturally, I take it. The air gets even cooler while descending, and the route is steep, though the liberal use of wooden handrails ease the trip. Spots are icy, and I watch my step. The base of the falls provides a much more impressive view, and I enjoy it from an icy boulder near the water. All the rocks near the plunge pool are coated in rime ice, so that there is no way of safely walking closer to the falls than the terminus of the trail. Lots of hemlocks line the cliffs, providing a splash of green against the gray rock and blue sky. 

The route back up is steep, and in hotter weather, would be a sweatfest. At the overlook, a couple of other folks had arrived, and I left them to enjoy the falls, the signage, and to perhaps ponder my own question of the first falls going west >256í. I retrace my steps back to the road, cross it, and in the sunny midmorning, enjoy the stroll along Fall Creek Lake back to my car. 

Fall Creek Falls on icy rocks

Icy rocks at the base of the falls

Plunge pool at Fall Creek Falls

Couldn't climb past here if you wanted to.

Trail to the base of the falls

Near the Lodge

The paved path near the lodge.

Fall Creek Falls

Fall Creek Lake

Fall Creek Lake

Along the shore of Fall Creek Lake

Along Fall Creek Lake

Fall Creek Falls from the overlook

Along the trail to the base of Fall Creek Falls

Trail to the base of the falls

Trail to the base of the falls

Fall Creek Lake


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