Cummins Falls - Hiking

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Hike up the stream bed of a beautiful Tennessee gorge to arrive at Cummins Falls, a top ten US swimming hole and waterfall, and one of the state's newest parks.

Written by

Desira Fuqua


2.0 miles

Using the shortcut trail, the hike can be done in 2 miles. Including the overlook the hike is 3 miles.

Destination Distance From Downtown

71.6 miles


3 of 5 diamonds

A trail that's downhill all the way, means an uphill climb on the journey back, combined with multiple (slippery!) stream crossings, mean the trail shouldn't be taken too lightly.

Time To Complete

2 hours

At an easy pace, the trail only requires a few hours, but you'll probably want to linger at the falls. Bathing suits, books, and lunch are all great ideas.


Spring, Summer, and Fall

The stream crossings can make the trail uncomfortable in winter and early spring, and water levels are also something to consider. The waterfall is a wildly popular swimming hole in summer, rightly so, but expect crowds.

Dog Friendly


Fees Permits




Cummins Falls might be a fairly new state park, created only in 2011, but it was already well known for a scenic hike and a place to swim. The main trail leads from an overlook of the 75 foot falls, down to the stream bed, then upstream to the base of this beautiful waterfall, and one of the best swimming holes in the country. The trail is much quieter in the cooler months, but retains its beauty.

What Makes It Great

The adventure begins at the overlook, where you have to climb down to a small finger that sticks out farther than the rest to get a really good look at the falls. Turning right away from the falls, you will follow the bluff’s edge downstream, through oak, hemlock, and laurel, to reach the stream, or, if you want to visit the top of the falls first, the upstream trail leads off from the left of the overlook area, and can also be used to return to the parking lot.  Once you reach the stream bed you will see many footpaths and you will have to pick your path upstream, crossing over to the opposite bank 2-3 times.

The rocks are slippery,  the stream is wide, and visitors often take an unintended dip, myself included! So have a safe place for things that need to stay dry, and take your time. Passing through the gorge you’ll spot fish, crawdads, a cascade joining the stream, and maybe a snapping turtle. When you round a bend, the stones will become boulders, as you pick your way the final distance to the basin of the falls. The trail is rustic and on a quiet day, the falls feel remote, but it’s also hopping with swimmers in the summer as the deep plunge pool, small sand bar, and multiple rock ledges of the falls make for a swimmer’s paradise.  To shorten the hike, skip the overlook and take the shortcut trail to take a half mile off the 1.5-mile trail’s one-way distance. Or, for those with experience and confidence rock climbing, you can follow the foot traffic up the rock face as you are rounding the curve in the stream leaving the falls for a fun little scramble that brings you back almost directly to the overlook.

Who is Going to Love It

Adventurous folks in decent health are going to love this hike. It provides lots of scenic beauty combined with a level of wildness not often found in a short day hike. Kids old enough to accomplish the hike will be delighted with the natural swimming pool at the end, as will dogs and adults.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Follow the brown signs from I-40 exit 280. Take 56 north 7.7 miles, right on 290 east 1 mile, left on Cummins Mill road for 3 miles, then left on Blackburn Fork Road for .2 miles. The gated park entrance from Blackburn Fork Road is small and easy to miss, keep an eye out for the small sign. 

The park closes at six, so plan to leave the falls by 5pm to return in time. Dogs must be leashed. Don't plan on bringing anything that won't fit in a backpack; coolers, alcohol, and pool floats are prohibited


Cummins Falls State Park

390 Cummins Falls Lane
Cookeville, TN, 38501
36.253644, -85.564816

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