Tennessee Waterfalls Tour

Three state parks within easy driving distance from Sparta, Tennessee, offer opportunities to see waterfalls.

Rock Island State Park kayaker in Rock Island, Tennessee (photo by Michael D. Tedesco)

Tennessee boasts one of the highest concentrations of waterfalls per square mile in the United States. The state’s unique natural topography coupled with its extensive system of rivers and streams makes for more than 325 magnificent cascades, all nestled among lush forests. 

Many of the waterfalls are located within or near Tennessee’s state parks. Whether you’re looking for an easy or challenging hike, three state parks within easy driving distance from Sparta, Tennessee, offer opportunities to see waterfalls. 

The moderately strenuous, 1.5-mile-round-trip River Trail at Burgess Falls State Park takes visitors past four waterfalls on the Falling Water River, while the 1-mile Ridge Top Trail provides sweeping views down the main canyon of the Falling Water River. 

Falls Creek State Park, located 42 miles south of Burgess Falls State Park, is home to the free-falling, 256-foot Fall Creek Falls — the largest in Tennessee. A hiking trail sets off from the parking area on the plateau and ends near the gorge, where you can jump into the natural pool at the base of the waterfall. Fall Creek Falls State Park also caters to travelers with cabins, campsites and the Lodge at Fall Creek Falls.

Rock Island State Park — a park at the confluence of the Caney Fork, Collins and Rocky rivers, is home to Great Falls, a 30-foot, cascading horseshoe waterfall. The natural feature is found below a 19th-century cotton textile mill that it powered over 100 years ago. RV and tent campsites are both available within the park. 

The best time to visit Tennessee’s waterfalls is in the spring when the snow melts and seasonal rain showers power the cascades. All three state parks offer guided waterfall hikes. Burgess Falls State Park: 4000 Burgess Falls Dr., Sparta, Tennessee 38583, 931/432-5312; Fall Creek Falls State Park: 2009 Village Camp Rd., Spencer, Tennessee 38585, 423/881-5298; Rock Island State Park: 82 Beach Rd., Rock Island, Tennessee 38581, 931/837-4770; tnstateparks.com/parks