Falls Creek Falls

Pikeville / Falls Creek Falls State Resort Park / Spencer, Tennessee, USA

About Falls Creek Falls

Hiking Distance: 0.8 miles round trip (to base)
Suggested Time: 60-75 minutes (to base)

Date first visited: 2012-10-25
Date last visited: 2012-10-25

Waterfall Latitude: 35.66622
Waterfall Longitude: -85.35572

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Falls Creek Falls is said to be the highest free-leaping waterfall east of the Mississippi River at about 256ft (at least according to the signs here).

If there happens to be enough water, then a second companion waterfall on Coon Creek also drops alongside the main waterfall.

Falls_Creek_Falls_022_20121025 - Falls Creek Falls
Falls Creek Falls

As you can see in the photograph above, clearly Coon Creek did not do very well while Falls Creek Falls had more of a wispy appearance.

Apparently, high flow on Falls Creek would only be possible if the dam holding up Falls Creek Falls Lake released water due to high volume (from high precipitation perhaps?) to allow Falls Creek to grow.

Experiencing the main viewing platform for Falls Creek Falls

We got to see this waterfall from a very easy stroll to an overlook platform that always seemed to be busy.

I guess that shouldn’t be surprising considering how accessible it was to everyone from the parking lot.

Falls_Creek_Falls_008_20121025 - Looking down into the gorge from around the main viewing deck for the Falls Creek Falls
Looking down into the gorge from around the main viewing deck for the Falls Creek Falls

Even though the falls could be seen from much of this overlook, there was only room for one or two people for the best viewing spot in the middle of the facing side of the viewing deck.

That was where the foliage beneath didn’t get in the way of the view.

Thus, photo buffs would probably have to wait their turn (and be considerate of others waiting for their turn).

We were looking somewhat against the sun at midday so the photo conditions weren’t optimal.

However, there were some clouds in the area that intermittently blocked the sun and allowed for us to take somewhat better photos.

Hiking to the bottom of Falls Creek Falls

Falls_Creek_Falls_033_20121025 - Descending to the base of Falls Creek Falls where I felt cool air coming from somewhere around this crack in the cliff
Descending to the base of Falls Creek Falls where I felt cool air coming from somewhere around this crack in the cliff

I also managed to take a 0.4-mile descent (0.8-mile round trip) to the base of the Falls Creek Falls for a quieter and more neck-cranking experience (along with some exercise to boot).

This trail left the overlook area to the left and followed the cliffs towards another overlook of the gorge.

Then, the trail made its steep descent along a combination of stairs and rocky trail with uneven footing.

Towards the bottom of the descent there was one section of rock steps where I felt cold air blow upwards into my face.

I suspected that there must be a cave somewhere off trail near that spot, but I didn’t investigate that further.

Falls_Creek_Falls_037_20121025 - Traversing this rockfall on the way to the bottom of Falls Creek Falls
Traversing this rockfall on the way to the bottom of Falls Creek Falls

Probably less than 5 minutes from the falls, I had to traverse a bit of a boulder field composed of large rocks that have already fallen from the neighboring cliff.

I was surprised that the trail had us go through this bit of a rough patch considering how fickle the vertical and overhanging cliffs can be when it comes to the next rock fall.

In any case, just beyond this stretch, I made it to the base of the Falls Creek Falls where there was a rocky outcrop with an elevated view as well as a steep rocky (and slippery) scramble right down to the plunge pool.

Visiting just Falls Creek Falls along with the descent to the base and back took me about an hour and 15 minutes, and this included all the photo-taking as well.

Falls_Creek_Falls_043_20121025 - Looking up from the base of the falls
Looking up from the base of the falls

It was also possible to extend this excursion and hike in the other direction from the overlook (to its right) towards the Nature Center.

In doing this extension of the Falls Creek Falls experience, I could’ve also visited three more waterfalls (which I’ll describe on a separate page).

I believe it was at least a mile or so to get to the Betty Dunn Nature Center from the main Falls Creek Falls overlook.


Falls Creek Falls resides in Falls Creek Falls State Resort Park near Pikeville in Van Buren County and Bledsoe County, Tennessee. It is administered by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Falls_Creek_Falls_007_20121025 - First look at the Falls Creek Falls somewhat against the sun
Falls_Creek_Falls_018_20121025 - Focused look at Falls Creek Falls when the sun was momentarily hidden behind patchy clouds
Falls_Creek_Falls_010_20121025 - The sun coming back out and creating harsh lighting conditions again. This shot was also taken from a different spot of the main overlook, but they're not optimal due to the foliage below blocking the bottom
Falls_Creek_Falls_015_20121025 - Direct look at Falls Creek Falls just as the sun was hiding behind clouds again
Falls_Creek_Falls_017_20121025 - Another look at Falls Creek Falls making its dramatic plunge while the sun was hiding behind clouds
Falls_Creek_Falls_019_20121025 - Falls Creek Falls seen together with a trickling Coon Creek on the right
Falls_Creek_Falls_020_20121025 - Another look at Falls Creek Falls but this time revealing some of the Autumn foliage starting to turn at the top of this photo
Falls_Creek_Falls_021_20121025 - Similar photo of Falls Creek Falls crowned by Autumn foliage at the top of this photo
Falls_Creek_Falls_023_20121025 - Looking at the Falls Creek Falls amphitheater broadly from the main overlook
Falls_Creek_Falls_030_20121025 - Context of the gorge from around the main overlook of Falls Creek Falls
Falls_Creek_Falls_032_20121025 - The trail descending towards the base of the Falls Creek Falls
Falls_Creek_Falls_049_20121025 - Overhanging cliffs responsible for the fallen rocks by the end of the trail to the bottom of Falls Creek Falls
Falls_Creek_Falls_038_20121025 - Almost at the base of the Falls Creek Falls while still following the trail close to these precarious overhanging cliffs
Falls_Creek_Falls_046_20121025 - Looking up towards Falls Creek Falls and the trickling Coon Creek Falls from the bottom of the gorge
Falls_Creek_Falls_048_20121025 - Some young folks managed to scramble further below right to the plunge pool of Falls Creek Falls

Since it seemed like the town of Spencer was the nearest town of any size and joined many of the highways in this part of Eastern Tennessee, we’ll describe the directions to Falls Creek Falls from there.

Spencer is about 31 miles south of Cookeville (where we had stayed prior to making our visit here) along the TN-111.

There were actually two ways of getting to Falls Creek Falls State Park from the Hwy 30/111 junction at Spencer.

We did drove both ways in a loop (going south first then coming back from the east) so that’ll be the order in which we describe both ways.

Approaching Falls Creek Falls heading south from Spencer

The first approach left Spencer to the south along TN-111 for a little over 8 miles then turned left onto Hwy 284 (there were signs telling us when to turn).

After about 10 miles or so along Hwy 284 (which became Park Rd), we reached an intersection where we turned left to continue to the Falls Overlook.

Note that going straight from this junction would’ve led to the Nature Center parking lot in another mile.

We then drove on this smaller road for another 1.6 miles (passing over the Falls Creek Falls Lake dam along the way) where we then turned right to continue on another small road.

Falls_Creek_Falls_001_20121025 - The parking lot area nearest to the Falls Creek Falls overlook
The parking lot area nearest to the Falls Creek Falls overlook

This small road eventually became a counterclockwise one-way loop after 0.7 miles, and the falls overlook was on our right after another mile.

Approaching Falls Creek Falls heading east from Spencer

The second approach leaves Spencer to the east along the winding TN-30, and after about 11 miles is a turnoff (also signposted) on the right for Hwy 284.

After about 3.3 miles is the parking lot for the Nature Center complex, but continuing on Hwy 284 for another mile gets to the junction for the falls overlook on the right.

Once on the smaller roads leading to the falls overlook, you can follow the directions as above (i.e. crossing over the dam, going right on another small road, and going onto the counterclockwise one-way loop).

For context, Spencer was 68 miles (over an hour drive) north of Chattanooga and 21 miles (30 minutes drive) east of McMinnville, where we had overnighted after making our visit to Falls Creek Falls State Resort Park.

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Slow top down sweep of the falls from the overlook

Fixated on the falls from the overlook

C-shaped sweep following the cliffs before panning down the falls from its base, then panning over to the right to show the jumble of fallen rocks and some people for scale

Slow bottom up sweep of the falls from its base

Trip Planning Resources

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Tagged with: falls creek falls, state resort park, van buren, bledsoe, tennessee, waterfall, spencer, pikeville, cane creek, fall creek, betty dunn

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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