On a beautiful day last week, Tom and I went to Fall Creek Falls State Park on the Cumberland Plateau. From Chattanooga it is about a one hour drive and the scenery is wonderful. We have been to Fall Creek Falls before, but it was more than 33 years ago. At the time we were poor graduate students and we splurged on an off-season stay at the lodge. It was February – and it was really cold.
So we were glad to return on a day that was much warmer. It had rained some over the previous weekend so there was plenty of water in the four waterfalls that populate the park. The highest is Fall Creek Falls, one of the highest waterfalls east of the Mississippi.
Fall Creek Falls is the largest and most-visited state park in Tennessee. Because we went on a weekday after the fall leaf peak, there were plenty of people but it didn’t feel crowded. We ate at the restaurant in the Lodge, overlooking Fall Creek Lake. We had the “blue plate special,” which was three ribs, baked beans, baked potato, salad bar, yeast rolls, and dessert for $8.99! Lunch was delicious and surprisingly cheap.
After lunch we hiked around the gorge (to work off that lunch) and saw all the waterfalls. We did not hike into the gorge, but there were plenty of overlooks that gave great views of all the waterfalls.
There is plenty to do at Fall Creek Falls: fishing, camping, golfing, and zip-lining. You can hike, swim, boat, or ride horses. The lodge isn’t gorgeous, but it is well placed on a ridge over the lake, so the views from the lakeside rooms are wonderful.
We actually went to Fall Creek Falls because of a small store just outside the park. Tom wanted to get me a Native American Flute for my birthday, so we went to the Trading Post, an odd collection of Native American related items. Tom had been to the Trading Post many times with youth groups when he was at Mountain TOP. It is one of those places that I would never choose to go in, but turned out to be a delightful surprise. We called before we went to find out the hours and the owner said it was open “from when I get here until I decide to go home.” I was able to find a flute I liked and have been practicing every day.
The Tennessee River Gorge may be the Grand Canyon of Tennessee, but Fall Creek Falls Gorge is a close second. It is beautiful any time of year and definitely worth a visit. If you do go, be sure to stop by the Trading Post. Tell him Mountain TOP sent you!