Fall Creek Falls State Park

Take a hike through this state park in Spencer, Tennessee, to see Fall Creek Falls. The rushing waters plunge from 256 feet, making it the highest waterfall in the eastern United States. 

Cane Creek Falls at Fall Creek Falls State Park in Spencer, Tennessee (photo courtesy of Tennessee State Parks)

Fall Creek Falls doesn’t simply slide down a rocky outcropping into the waters below. Its rushing flow appears to fly off the edge of the Cumberland Plateau before dropping 256 feet to meet the cool expanse below, making it the centerpiece of Tennessee’s Fall Creek Falls State Park.

Compared to other waterfalls in the eastern United States, it’s one of the tallest, with a drop that reaches far beyond that of Niagara Falls’ American Falls, which measures between 90 and 120 feet. While it does not boast the same roaring volume, Fall Creek Falls’ plunge ends in an alluring pool of water. On summer days, adventurous visitors can clamber down a steep, one-third-mile trail and get a look from the base of the falls.

A starting point for the journey is the Betty Dunn Nature Center, where displays explain the region’s geology and why waterfalls are so abundant there, as there are several others in the park’s jurisdiction besides Fall Creek Falls. The nature center is at one end of the 0.8-mile Woodland Trail that stops at Falls Creek Falls, while the nearly three-quarter-mile-long Overlook Trail leads to an observation deck where hikers can find amenities like water-bottle filling stations, a scenic lookout, restrooms and a perfect picnicking spot. 

Casual hikers can enjoy the Paw Paw Trail (2.5 miles with overlooks to Fall Creek Falls and the 85-foot-tall Cane Creek Falls), while backpackers come here to tackle the Upper Loop and Lower Loop trails for overnight backcountry experiences. 

Located in a triangulate between Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga, Fall Creek Falls State Park is full of other attractions, all of which are wrapped in nature’s glory. A second nature center within the park hosts activities such as arts and crafts programs for kids, while an 18-hole golf course and 14 hiking trails offer plenty of options for exercise. 2009 Village Camp Rd., Spencer, Tennessee 38585, 423/881-5298, tnstateparks.com