Upper Piney Falls

Cumberland Mountain State Park / Rhea County, Tennessee, USA

Rating: 2     Difficulty: 2.5
Upper Piney Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Upper Piney Falls was a pretty 80ft waterfall that we got to walk behind. In an effort to avoid confusion, we're sticking with designating the main waterfalls on this page the Upper and Lower Piney Falls (yes there's a second waterfall here) because there happened to be another Piney Falls in Falls Creek Falls State Park further to the west near Spencer.

There seemed to be a bit of confusion regarding how dangerous visiting the falls was, but after our experience, those claims were either exaggerated or they were describing the conditions prior to improvements (especially regarding the signage) that we benefitted from.

From the small car park and trailhead (see directions below), we followed a wide trail that made a curve around what appeared to be a sign board except there was no sign on it. Instead, there were etchings (graffiti, if you will) on the wooden foundation with conflicting claims of how dangerous the descent to the base of the Upper Piney Falls was. While such messages planted seeds of doubt about whether we could visit the falls or not, we proceeded nonetheless.

Lower Piney Falls This part of the hike was pretty straightforward as it meandered on what appeared to be an old unpaved road beneath tall trees (said to be old growth) with plenty of Fall colors to boot. Along the way, we passed by what appeared to be a small wire rope barricade though we weren't sure what it was for. Eventually, we reached a junction where clearly-marked signboards on trees pointed the way to either the base of Upper Falls (left) or the top of Upper Falls (right). Since we weren't interested in going to the top of the falls, we went left.

At this point, the trail got a bit narrower with one short steep part that I'm sure would be easy to miss on the return if not for the trail markings. Eventually, we'd reach another junction where going left descended steeply for the Lower Piney Falls (we came back here later) and the right continued to the base of Upper Piney Falls.

Next, the trail started to hug the escarpment responsible for the plunge of Little Piney Creek over Upper Piney Falls. We happened to chance upon a dead deer by the trail during our hike, which we suspected were due to illegal hunting (as signs indicated this place prohibited such acts).

Eventually after roughly 1.5 or 2 miles (just a guess), the trail reached the Upper Piney Falls and even continued behind the falls as well as a little beyond it for a different angled view. Unfortunately, the late morning sun was against us from that different angled view, which made photography from there a bit difficult.

However, we did notice that the cliff wall adjacent to the trail here exhibited what appeared to be faintly discernable basalt formations (not sure if it is indeed basalt though). Whatever the case may be, it clued us in that this cliff was probably volcanic in origin and this layer of hard rock was why the creek plunged the way it did. This cliff also dripped water attesting to the amount of upstream moisture that spread from the creek and into the soil and vegetation.

Returning back to the junction with Lower Piney Falls, I made a very steep descent (might be even trickier if the ground was muddy and wet) towards a top down view of the smaller 40ft waterfall itself. I don't think there was a safe way to get to the bottom of this one and I didn't feel like trying. Plus, the sun was totally against me while most of the falls was in shadow so I didn't linger here too long.

Just to give you an idea of time, we spent about 90 minutes to do all the hiking and photo taking for both waterfalls.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

Upper Piney Falls from a different angle going beyond its backsideUpper Piney Falls from a different angle going beyond its backside
Upper Piney Falls was in the eastern side of Tennessee so it was also within reach of the Great Smoky Mountains National ParkUpper Piney Falls was in the eastern side of Tennessee so it was also within reach of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The car park and trailheadThe car park and trailhead

A small sign confirming we were at the right placeA small sign confirming we were at the right place

Gorgeous Fall colors at the start of the trailGorgeous Fall colors at the start of the trail

Blank signboardBlank signboard (containing lots of etchings or graffiti, if you will)

More vibrant colors while hiking on an old roadMore vibrant colors while hiking on an old road

We weren't sure what this barricade was forWe weren't sure what this barricade was for

Sign pointing the way to the base of Upper Piney FallsSign pointing the way to the base of Upper Piney Falls

Julie passes by some overhanging parts of the cliffJulie passes by some overhanging parts of the cliff

A fairly steep part where the red trail markings helped out a lot in both directionsA fairly steep part where the red trail markings helped out a lot in both directions

Signed trail junction for Lower Piney FallsSigned trail junction for Lower Piney Falls

The trail continually hugged cliff walls at this pointThe trail continually hugged cliff walls at this point

We saw this dead deer by the trailWe saw this dead deer by the trail

A closer look at the cliff walls around the fallsA closer look at the cliff walls around the falls

Another look from behind Upper Piney FallsAnother look from behind Upper Piney Falls

Looking down at the steep descent to the top of Lower Piney FallsLooking down at the steep descent to the top of Lower Piney Falls

Almost at the top of the fallsAlmost at the top of the falls

Lower Piney FallsLower Piney Falls


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


L-shaped bottom up sweep of the Upper Piney Falls' profile


Top down sweep panning up at the overhanging cliffs before doing a top down sweep of the falls then panning to the right at the plunge pool


Right to left sweep looking down at Lower Piney Falls in its shadowy gorge


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

Since we drove here from Ozone Falls, we'll describe the route going from there to the trailhead for the Piney Falls. Perhaps Ozone Falls visitors in the mood for another adventure might also do as we did. At least that's my thinking. Anyways, for directions to Ozone Falls, see the directions on that page. Logistically speaking, Ozone Falls was 48 miles (under an hour drive) east of Cookeville and 57 miles (about an hour drive) west of Knoxville.

Leaving Ozone Falls, we drove about 5.5 miles west on Hwy 70 before turning left onto the rural (but paved) Cox Valley Rd. Continuing another 3.4 miles on Cox Valley Rd, we eventually connected with Hwy 68.

Turning left onto Hwy 68, we then drove another 11.7 miles into the unincorporated town of Grandview. While in town, we turned right onto Firetower Rd (though Emergency Rd just before it also connected to Firetower Rd and was less rougher) and followed this unpaved road for about 1.6 miles. The limited car park and trailhead was on the right.

To give you some geographical context, Cookeville was 81 miles (90 minutes drive) east of Nashville, 102 miles (over 90 minutes drive) west of Knoxville, and 99 miles (2 hours drive) north of Chattanooga.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



Click here for the full World of Waterfalls map





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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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RELATED PAGES



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