Once a hidden gem, and only known to those in the closest of local circles, until its recent addition as Tennessee’s 54th State Park, Cummins Falls is now one of the most popular destinations in Tennessee. Recently named one of the ten best swimming holes in America by Travel + Leisure, this hike is not for the faint of heart.
The trail itself is a 2.5 mile out and back trail that leads you through the rolling hills along the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River in the Cordell Hull Watershed and ending where the stream gives way to a majestic 75 foot cascading waterfall that feeds the wide pool at the base. Once known to have a large population of buffalo, this area was a popular hunting ground for Native Americans so it is not uncommon to find arrowheads along the river trail. Although there may not be buffalo roaming the waters any longer, there is still an abundance of wildlife that inhabits this area.
Starting at the kiosks and traveling 0.4 miles takes you to the waterfall overlook for a bird’s eye view of Cummins Falls at the bottom of the gorge. From the overlook it’s another 0.6 miles to the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River. Descending only 200 feet deep into the gorge with a few switchbacks, this part of the trail has several steep areas that can be challenging especially after a little rain so be sure to wear a descent pair of shoes or river sandals with traction. Once you reach the river, turn left and the waterfall is 0.25 miles upriver. This part of the trail is not marked and will require wading through knee deep water at some points in the river to get around large rock faces. Be careful with your footing here because the algae on the rocks can be quite hazardous.
For those of you looking to bypass a majority of the hike, there is also a much more challenging trail that will require a bit of climbing skills. Use extreme caution here! Once you reach the overlook the trail continues right for .05 miles to another exposed, fenced area. The downstream trail starts here. It is another 0.3 miles to the junction with the shortcut. To follow the route, descend the short sections of exposed rock, then contour toward the falls. Then proceed another 0.25 miles to the creek downstream. This will save you a lot of time, but it is also extremely dangerous.
This is one of my favorite hikes in all of Tennessee so if you have plenty of time (3-4 hours) I recommend experiencing the trail in its entirety. The swimming hole at the bottom of the falls is extremely rewarding, especially on a hot summer day. If you aren’t up to swimming then there are some great rocks for relaxing and sun bathing on so be sure to plan on spending some time at the bottom of the falls.