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Month: March 2016

Chasing Waterfalls in Central Tennessee

Chasing Waterfalls in Central Tennessee

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The area East of Nashville has quite a few waterfalls to offer the adventurer passing through. Before our trip I looked into, Cummins Falls State Park, Burgess Falls State Park, Virgin Falls State Natural Area, and Fall Creek Falls State Park. All four feature beautiful waterfalls and landscapes. Unfortunately, Burgess Falls had several of their main trails closed due to heavy rainfall damaging their stairs. Virgin Falls was stunning, but a 10 mile hike that lots of people choose to do overnight. Sleeping in a tent next to a waterfall… sign me up! But we only had one day in our road trip scheduled for this area, so Virgin Falls was cut from the list as well. That left us with Cummins Falls and Fall Creek Falls to explore on our day in Central Tennessee.

Cummins Falls is a 211 acre park with it’s main feature being a 75 feet high waterfall. There are several paths to hike and views of the falls. We decided to do the route directly to the bottom of the falls and back and it did not disappoint!

According to the website, it was about a 3 mile round trip hike. On the map we followed Overlook Trail, Shortcut Trail, Downstream Trail, and followed the gorge bottom to the falls. We spent about 2.5 hours visiting Cummins Falls. 1 hour hiking to the falls, due to how many times we stopped to take pictures and enjoy the area. 1 hour exploring at the falls and half an hour to hike back with fewer stops.

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The trail to the waterfall is a bit rugged. They don’t recommend flip flops, although I saw some others making the trip in them. I wouldn’t recommend it. We, however, often chose the most difficult path, rock hopping and crossing the river on stones to get pictures and explore. The trail back was easier as we stayed on the river bank more. There is one part where you have to cross the river via rock hopping and we had some difficulty with it.

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The views along the river and completely worth doing this trail. Plus, seeing the waterfall from the bottom is stunning!

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Cummins Falls is the 8th largest Tennessee waterfall in volume. The water pooled at the bottom of the falls goes up to about the chest of an average adult female. If you do want to stay a while and swim, bring a suit! The state park has a line of safety jackets for younger swimmers.

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Cummins Falls is one of the most beautiful places I’ve had the pleasure to explore. I would definitely recommend this hike if you’re in the area!

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We arrived at Fall Creek Falls at about 5 PM. Knowing we didn’t have a lot of sunlight left, we chose to visit the waterfall overlooks instead of hiking to the bottom of the falls.

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According to the website, Fall Creek Falls is Tennessee’s largest and most visited State Park at 26,000 acres. There are four falls in the park: Fall Creek Falls is the tallest at 256 ft, Piney Falls, Cane Creek Falls, and Cane Creek Cascades. See the map here.

Then we drove along the Gorge Scenic Drive stopping at some view points to see the beautiful tree covered mountains.

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Finally, we did two quite short trails by Piney Creek Falls. One was the overlook path. The falls were a little hidden behind the trees, so this would definitely be one to hike to the bottom of if you have time.

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The second short trail we did led to a suspension bridge, but didn’t feature any views of the falls.

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We saw lots of people with bikes for their bike trail, canoes, and fishing gear. There’s also an adventure area with a zip line and other aerial obstacles, tennis courts, a golf course, and stables. I can see why this area is so popular. It offers a lot to do, very beautiful views, but isn’t too rustic. For those who want a more rustic visit, there is a long overnight trail as well.

We ate dinner and spent the night at the lodge on the State Park. Overall, it was clean and edible, but didn’t impress us in any way. If you’re going to spend some time here, I would camp if you have the gear.

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Both these areas I’m sure are packed during the summer and weekends. We visited on a Tuesday afternoon/evening in mid September and the crowds were very light.

Ghost Dance Canyon

Ghost Dance Canyon

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Dixon Springs is a 801 acre state park near Golconda, IL. The area is known for mineral-enriched water and was a health spa in the 19th century. The area today is known for cliffs, crags, boulders, and bubbling brooks that turn into waterfalls with enough rain, just a few of my favorite things.

The park contains a swimming pool and some camp grounds (although I read that they aren’t the best in the area). The trails could also use some maintenance. There were a few times that I was guessing where it went next and eventually just followed the sound of the water. The areas without a clear trail were filled with brush and Chiba’s leash became tangled too many times. That being said, it’s a lovely area for a more adventurous hiker!

There are two trails in Dixon Springs: a short down and back trail about a mile called Ghost Dance Canyon and a longer loop of Oak Tree Trail, Bluff Trail, and Pine Tree Trail. I cannot find a length for the longer loop on the internet. The longer loop is definitely the better known of the two. Ghost Dance Canyon can barely be seen on the map of the park. I had read online, however, that Ghost Dance Canyon was the real gem of the park. This time I only completed Ghost Dance Canyon, but I hope to go back for the longer loop.

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Ghost Dance Canyon begins in the parking lot for the swimming pool. You probably wouldn’t even know it was a trail just looking at it. It immediately crosses the brook, takes a left pass a sign for the trail, and goes under a highway bridge.

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After the bridge, you follow a brook for a while. There’s several points where it’s quite easy to be right next to the river and climb around on the rocks. Chiba had fun trying to snap at bubbles.

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The next turn is a tricky one, you have to cross the river, but the path isn’t well laid out. There’s a series of rocks in a line across the brook. If it was warmer, you could easily walk in the water. I did read online that the water can get high in a very rainy season and it’s not advised to cross then.

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The trail picks back up here and you walk alongside a cliff.

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Again there are several paths to walk down to the water’s edge.

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After this is where I became more confused and just followed the sound of falling water. The waterfall was flowing for me!

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The small waterfall was lovely and river rock hopping is always a favorite for me. I do wish the state would spend some time and money cleaning up this area. Even knowing this, I’ll be back to do the longer loop!

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