October 15-27, 2014 – When I was staying in the Great Smoky Mountains, I heard about Fall Creek Falls State Park from other RVers, so I was glad that I had the chance to check it out before leaving Tennessee. Below is shown some of the gorgeous scenery to keep you occupied and gawking with wonder during your stay. Fall is a great season to visit, but very busy, so be sure to book early if you want to camp here. Click here for my Campground Review.
At 25,659 acres, the park is the largest in the state park system with over half the park designated a natural area wilderness.
The Betty Dunn Nature Center should be among your first stops to get oriented and pick up brochures, trail maps, view a short video and meet some of the great folks that work here. Several hiking trails can also be accessed and below are pictures of the sights easily accessible from here.
Cane Creek Cascades
You can cross the suspension bridge shown here to the other side for hiking trails or get down to these cascades by a short but rocky trail.
Cane Creek Waterfall – seen from the observation deck to the left
Same falls looking from observation deck to the right
On my first visit, I was blessed to see this double rainbow appear between the two falls!
If you cross the suspension bridge over the Cane Creek Cascades shown above, walk up a bunch of stairs and then up/down a rocky path a little ways (about 1/4 mile), you come to this lookout where you can view what you saw from the Nature Center side. In the middle of these waterfalls at the top you can see the lookout where you were then.
Scenic Drive Motor Nature Trail
Don’t dare miss this! Pick up the Fall Creek Falls Self-Guiding Scenic Drive sheet at the Nature Center with highlights of the drive. Here are a few of the sights you can see along the way:
On the left, Fall Creek Falls, at 256′, is the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi River. Next to it is Raccoon Falls.
Piney Creek Falls
This was my favorite and I think the most beautiful one in the park. It only drops 85 feet, but even as high above it as I was here, the sound of this rushing water was phenomenal! It falls into a rugged, lush gorge where hemlock, birch and poplar trees have never been touched by axe or saw.
To the left of the overlook, there’s a trail to another fantastic suspension bridge over Piney Creek but there is no view of the falls from it.
There are several pull-offs and vantage points like this along Scenic Drive. This limestone ridge runs all the way to Kentucky and Virginia.
Fantastic panoramic views from here and I actually did see a couple of buzzards buzzing around but never could get a picture of them. There’s a large pull-off where you can park and a sign that points you down the rocky but short path that gets you here.
Don’t miss this stop alongside the road to the Nature Center from the campground.
This was the original swimming hole and that’s still allowed unless the water is flowing too rapidly.
There’s a suspension bridge here to the right, and if you take the tiny trail to the left after crossing it, you’ll come to this holey section of limestone cliff.
I was told that eons ago this entire area was once the bottom of an ocean.
Fall Creek Lake
This 345 acre lake has yielded record size bluegill and catfish.
Activities: Boating, zip lining, swimming, horseback riding, fishing, birding, biking. There is an Olympic sized swimming pool that is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. When it is open, there is an adjacent Snack Bar that serves hot dogs, pizza, etc. The General Store has basic snack items, but no hot food. Outfitters store has camping supplies and gear.
Hiking: 35 miles of trails around the park. There is also a 3.4 mile paved easy/ADA bike trail. Hikers can opt for short or long walks around the lake. I was told the trail to the bottom of Fall Creek Falls is about 1/4 mile down and feels like 3 miles coming back!
Tips: Stock up with groceries before getting to the park since the nearest town is Pikeville, almost 20 miles away down a small, winding road, and there’s not major shopping or dining out choices there, either.
Here’s my full Campground Review.
Malia’s 2 Cents: Once around the Scenic Drive was not enough and I loved it more every time I took it and discovered some new vantage point or trail. The only thing I wasn’t crazy about was the Inn – it’s a great location on the lake, but I thought the rather stark design did not fit into the landscape well and while I saw others that gave the restaurant great reviews, I ate the buffet lunch there twice and the first time was okay, the second time was not and I stayed away after that.
More info on Fall Creek Falls State Park:
Location/Contact: 2009 Village Camp Road; Pikeville, TN 37367
423-881-5298 (Park Office)
2014 Best of Tennessee – Named the best state park, the best camping spot, the best hiking trail and the best outdoor adventure. (Click on Travel and Fun tab for details.)
Tennessee’s Favorite State Resort Park (Discovering East TN.com) – It’s a good thing that Fall Creek Falls is a bit off the beaten track. If this lovely state resort park were more easily accessible, it would be too popular for its own good.
Fall Creek Falls State Park (TN Encyclopedia of History & Culture) – The park remains, as the National Park Service remarked in the mid-1930s, “unquestionably one of the most outstanding beauty regions” in the eastern United States.