Camping Confidential: Fall Creek Falls State Park

There is no other place in Tennessee quite like Fall Creek Falls State Park.


There is no other place in Tennessee quite like Fall Creek Falls State Park. The park offers 29,800 acres of breathtaking scenery and fun for the entire family. If you live nearby and are planning a day trip or are coming from out of state for a longer stay, you are definitely going to leave wanting to come back for more! It’s impossible to experience everything that the park has to offer in one weekend, so you’re going to want to plan your time ahead. Here are some of our favorite activities to help you plan your stay.


(Photo: Candace Halstead)

One thing that Fall Creek Falls is not lacking in is waterfalls. There are multiple trails in the park that you can undertake to get to an array of scenic overlooks or, if you’re feeling froggy, to the base of the falls! We spent quite a bit of time wade fishing the creeks for trout on our last visit and were delighted to find several large waterfalls and cascades that aren’t evident on any maps.

(Photo: Candace Halstead)

Hiking Trails 

(Photo: Candace Halstead)

The hiking trails in and around Fall Creek Falls State Park are definitely some that you don’t want to miss. There are multiple trails of varying difficulty, so whether you are an experienced trail master or a family with young kids who just want to enjoy the scenery, there is something there that is sure to impress everyone. Each trail is unique and offers its own awe-inspiring scenery. 

(Photo: Candace Halstead)
  • Paw Paw Trail (easy) — This 2.6-mile trail offers stunning views of Cane Creek Gorge, Cane Creek Falls and Fall Creek Falls. If you cut to the left shortly after the trailhead and follow the creek downstream, you’ll arrive at the mouth of another waterfall that spills into Cane Creek Gorge. 
  • Piney Falls Trail (easy) — Just past the scenic loop that leads to the Fall Creek Falls overlook is another loop that has the trailhead to the suspension bridge at Piney Creek Falls. This is a shorter trail and worth the visit, especially during the summer. You can trek down to the water on the opposite side of the suspension bridge. The clear creek offers ample opportunities for swimming, and if you wade the creek about a half-mile downstream, you’ll find yourself at the mouth of a large waterfall that is not on any of the maps.
  • Wheeler Farm Loop Trail (easy) — This trail is just outside of Fall Creek Falls State Park off of Highway 285. It’s a 2-mile loop that treks down into the river valley and back up again. Don’t miss this one if you want to see some pretty cool rock formations, cascades and a vast array of stunning terrain.
  • Base of Fall Creek Falls Trail (medium difficulty) — A short, 0.4-mile hike down man-made wooden stairs and stone steps will take you to the base of one of the tallest waterfalls in the southeastern United States. If you want to visit the base of a waterfall but aren’t quite up to the challenge of the Cable Trail, this is your best option.
  • Cable Trail (extremely difficult) — This trail is extremely difficult and not for the faint of heart. A steel cable will lead you almost vertically down a rocky ledge to the large basin of Cane Creek Falls. Once at the bottom, you can enjoy a dip in the large pool and swim under the waters cascading from the two waterfalls that spill into it.
(Photo: Candace Halstead)

There are many other trails, bike paths and even overnight trails offered at the state park. Trail maps can be found at the Betty Dunn Nature Center or downloaded from an app on your phone.


(Photo: Candace Halstead)

I just can’t say enough about all of the things you can do at the park. If you still have some free time after exploring the trails, here are a few more activities to do during your stay.

  • Fishing — The fishing at Fall Creek Falls State Park is top-notch. Did you know that the state record for both bluegill and channel catfish were caught out of the 345-acre Fall Creek Lake? Trout are stocked at George Hole, so the creeks and streams offer abundant opportunities for trout and bass for both bank and wade fishing. We caught catfish and bluegill from the lake and loaded up on trout in Cane Creek just below George Hole.
(Photo: Candace Halstead)
  • Golf — A renowned golf course is not something you would expect to find at a state park, but according to the Tennessee State Parks’ website, the golf course here was designed by renowned golf course architect Joe Lee and has been selected by Golf Digest as one of the Top 100 Public Places to Play on multiple occasions.
  • Swimming — In addition to Fall Creek Lake, George Hole and a plethora of clear-water creeks and streams, the park is also home to an Olympic-size swimming pool and children’s wading pool. You’ll have no problem getting your feet wet!
(Photo: Candace Halstead)
  • Horseback Riding — If you want to try your hand at horseback riding, you’re definitely going to want to check out the Fall Creek Falls riding stables. They are priced fairly and offer unforgettable experiences for all ages and experience levels. 
  • Betty Dunn Nature Center — Take about a half-hour to check out the Betty Dunn Nature Center. It’s a small, walkthrough building loaded with exhibits pertaining to the history of the park and information on local wildlife. There’s a small gift shop inside as well, if you’re looking for souvenirs. 
  • Kayaking and Boating — If you don’t have your own kayak, you can rent one at the boat ramp on the lake. Personal watercraft with gas motors are not allowed on the lake, but the park does offer daily pontoon boat tours. If you have a trolling motor, you can bring that along and use it with one of the canoes that are also available to rent at the boat landing.
  • Canopy Challenge Course and Rock Climbing — If you’re not afraid of heights and want to create some awesome memories, check out the Canopy Challenge Course, where you’ll experience up to 2.5 hours of thrilling ziplines and obstacles through the tallest canopy. There are multiple routes available to choose from, and some are suitable for children as young as 4 years old.
  • Park Events — The park hosts a multitude of family-friendly events, including kayak tours, guided hikes, origami with park rangers, volleyball, educational seminars and more. A schedule of upcoming events can be found on the Tennessee State Parks’ website

Accommodations and Amenities

Another thing that sets Fall Creek Falls State Park apart from other parks is the accommodations. Whether you are pitching a tent, hauling a camper or looking to book multiple rooms or cabins for a large event, they have something for everyone.

  • Lodge — The newly built lakeside lodge offers modern rooms, a contemporary restaurant and a waterside pool. There are 85 guest rooms as well as conference and meeting spaces. 
  • Campgrounds — There are five campground loops in the park that house a total of 222 campsites, as well as some backcountry camping along the overnight trails. The campsites have water hookups, grills, electricity, tables and accessible bathhouses that are very well-maintained. 
  • Cabins — There are 20 lakeside and 10 hillside cabins available to rent at the park. The porches on the lakeside cabins rest over the water and offer serene views of the lake. We rented five of the “Fishermen Cabins” for our wedding last year and were not disappointed. The kids enjoyed catching channel catfish with hot dogs right off the porch in the evenings after afternoons exploring the park and kayaking on the lake.
  • Taft Village and Snack Bar — I consider this the resort area of the park. The village contains a small outfitter shop, a general store that really has everything you would need during your stay, an Olympic-size pool and kids’ wading pool, a snack bar, an amphitheater, multiple venue areas and a recreation hall.
  • Event Venues — There are multiple event venues available for rent at the park that are perfect for birthday parties, family reunions, work conferences, simple or large weddings, etc. While this isn’t something most people pay attention to when planning a weekend getaway, I’m indebted to point it out because my husband and I said our vows at a place in the park known as the “secret overlook” — a hidden overlook that’s perched atop a mountain ledge and lined with old church pews. The Fall Creek Falls waterfall visible in the mountain backdrop and the roar of the river rushing from it in the gorge below made it a memory that none are soon to forget. 
(Photo: Candace Halstead)

No matter where you live, Fall Creek Falls State Park is definitely worth adding to your list. Reservations for the lodge, cabins or campgrounds can be made online or over the phone, and staff at the visitor center and park rangers are available to answer any question you may have. For more information on the park, or to download detailed maps, visit the Tennessee State Parks’ website.

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