I avoided Fall Creek Falls State Park for years. I went once maybe 5 years ago on my way home from another hike. I got confused by the map and all the semi-interconnected short trails and ended up just doing the Woodland Trail and seeing just Fall Creek Falls from the overlook near the parking lot.
The popularity, especially in these times, has deterred me from returning. I always opted for something “more rugged” or “less popular”. Against all of the type 4 in me, I returned to the largest state park in Tennessee yesterday. And let me just say, what took me so long to get back??
Many people drive to the different sections and do some hiking at each landmark. But, I say why drive when you can hike to them all? I decided to see how long it would take to hike to all of the iconic spots: Cane Creek Falls and Cascades, Fall Creek Falls, Piney Creek Falls, both suspension bridges and Milliken’s Overlook. And yes, it can be done! It will end up being about an 11 mile hike with both easy and difficult sections, but I HIGHLY recommend this route.
I started at the nature center and attempted the Cable Trail first. Even though Luna is quite the adventure dog, there was a spot we couldn’t get safely down together. (She did amazing maneuvering the steep slopes until we got to the problem spot halfway down though!) So, we’ll return another time with a hiking pal so I can actually get all the way down. Then, we hiked all around the nature center which has accesses to Cane Creek Falls and Cascades. Be sure to make it all the way down the steps behind the nature center for the full cascades experience.
Then, we crossed the suspension bridge that connects this area to Fall Creek Falls via the Woodland Trail and ventured down to the bottom of the falls. We got absolutely soaked in the powerful mist from the falls and it was therapeutic. After returning to the top, we headed towards the parking area at the falls and found the Overnight Trail (also called the Lower Loop Trail) which takes you to Milliken’s Overlook (via a side trail) and Piney Creek Falls. The Lower Loop Trail is completely flat and just a bit hard to see the trail. It is marked with white trail markers, but all the fallen leaves made the trail almost indistinguishable from the other land. I didn’t have trouble following it, but I also use the Gaia GPS app, which I check frequently to make sure I am on the trail.
After viewing Cane Creek Gulf, return to the Lower Loop Trail and follow it to Piney Creek Falls. After seeing the falls from the overlook, continue on just a bit farther along the white trail until you reach the other large suspension bridge. I turned around here and returned to the Nature Center via the Overnight (Lower Loop). I thought there may be a way to the bottom of Piney Creek Falls, but I’m not sure that’s the case and I had to start making my way back.
The whole adventure ended up being just a bit over 11 miles and you get to see all the highlights. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this hike.
I kept seeing the same people at all these spots. They had driven to each and I had hiked the whole way. 😂
So, don’t think that just because this is the most visited and one of the largest recreation areas in the state that it doesn’t pack a punch. I’m sure it’s crowded on weekends, but going during the week in the winter (even though it was pretty warm fro February) was perfect.
The two long trails (Lower Loop and Upper Loop) have backcountry campsites. This would be a great way to experience camping in this state park without staying at the HUGE campground. There’s just so much more to this state park than I previously thought. They have added new land and trails in the past few years, so there’s just so much to do at Fall Creek Falls State Park besides see Fall Creek Falls from the overlook (which is honestly what I thought for the longest time! 🙈)
Distance from Nashville: 2 hours
Trailhead: Nature Center near Cane Creek Falls off of Village Camp Rd.
Trails: Cable, Overlook, Woodland and Lower Loop Trails (see my route below)
Link to trail map: Falls Creek Falls State Park
Length of hike: 11.2 miles
Type of hike: Mixed/Out-and-back
Camping: 4 backcountry sites scattered throughout lower and upper loop trails plus tons of front country campground sites.
Overview: See multiple waterfalls (from above and below), a few overlooks and a couple suspension bridges as you traverse the most popular spots of Fall Creek Falls by foot.