Fall Creek Falls is a 26,000-acre outdoor wonderland with four major waterfalls (including the tallest free-fall waterfall east of the Mississippi) and plenty of ways to enjoy its vast wilderness. Visitors can stay overnight in an array of accommodations—camping, renting a cabin or staying at the inn—but even for those who just want a moderately challenging mountain bike ride, plenty of options await. With three trails from which to choose (plus a few paved paths to get to other parts of the park as well), you do a quick six-mile out-and-back, spend a few hours challenging yourself on a 13.5-mile trek, or split the difference on an eight-mile out-and-back ending next to a gorge.
What Makes It Great
For a moderately difficult, but serene, ride through areas of the park that aren’t too highly trafficked, check out the Chinquapin Ridge Mountain Bike Trail. This six-mile, out-and-back doubletrack starts near the Newton Ford Picnic Area, and has some medium inclines and descents as well as several creek crossings. It runs through a part of the park not frequented by many visitors, making it a great introduction for an intermediate-level mountain biker wanting to get away from it all for a little while.
Next up is the Piney Mountain Bike Trail, an eight-mile, out-and-back doubletrack that departs from the Group Camp 2 gate and leads downhill across Piney Creek. Concluding near the rim of Cane Creek Gorge, the tall pines make for a cool, shaded ride through rustic surroundings, where you may occasionally find logs on the path to jump over.
For a longer ride requiring a good bit of persistence, the Upper Loop Trail offers some delicious twists and turns to test your acuity, as well as some open sections that provide a bit of relief. Climbing over hills with some decent climbs and a handful of rocky segments, the 13.5-mile ride is singletrack, and accessible from the northern entrance to the park.
Who is Going to Love It
While none of the trails are particularly well-suited for beginners, the Chinquapin is a good test for a less-experienced rider ready to take things to the next level. All three trails are perfect for casual but experienced mountain bikers who don’t mind a few challenges along some gorgeous, quiet trails through an otherwise popular area.
With the variety of other activities available in the park, many suitable for children, Fall Creek Falls is a great option for families or groups with one or two people who want to put their tenacity to the test while the rest enjoy a casual paved or natural hike, a simple picnic, or a stroll through some historic Appalachian structures, including a working grist mill.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The park is accessible via TN-284 from both the southwest and northeast; once inside, designated parking areas are clearly marked. If you’re riding the Upper Loop Trail, it’s best to use the north entrance where the park’s headquarters were originally located.