We continued our tour of the Southeast with a visit to my family in Tennessee. After solemnly swearing not to discuss politics or religion, we enjoyed catching up on the activities of all the kids, cousins, and extended family members. Then it was time to go exploring.
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I wanted to go to Fall Creek Falls, but read on TripAdvisor that it was very crowded. Swimming is allowed at the bottom of the falls, so it is a hot spot in the summer. The reviewer said if you’re going for a hike, forget it. The trail is narrow and packed with people in flip flops toting toddlers. My dad recommended I go to Burgess Falls instead, and the saying is true, “Father Knows Best”. Well, at least in the particular circumstance. I’m not sure I’m willing to capitulate on every argument we’ve had just yet!
After a beautiful drive past corn fields, farm stands, and a restaurant with the best marketing hook ever, I arrived at Burgess Falls State Natural Area.
The park is situated around a steep gorge where the Falling Water River drops 250 feet in elevation in less than a mile, culminating in a 136-foot waterfall.
Did you know there are anywhere from 12 to 18 different types of waterfalls, depending on how specific you get in describing them?
Hiking at Burgess Falls
The trail to the waterfalls is marked as strenuous, but I think that is only referring to the bottom of the waterfall. The actual ¾ mile hike to the big falls is pretty easy. There are quite a few steps built into the trail, so it wouldn’t work with a wheelchair or for those with problems climbing steps, but it has a strong railing on most of the hike.
The First Falls, 20’ cascades, is just a few hundred feet after starting the trail.
The trail is really neat with the gorge and river on the right, and the forest on the left.
About 1/2 mile down the path is the 80’ Middle Falls.
And then the main attraction: the 136’ Main Falls!
The Main Falls
The picture really doesn’t do the main waterfall justice. It doesn’t look nearly as big as it did in person, and the limestone gorge it spills into is spectacular! The sheer walls are 100–200 feet high. From the Big Falls Overlook there are a few options for continuing the hike. The first is descending a fairly steep trail to the top or edge of the the main falls. You can actually walk onto it, but this was the closest I dared. I was afraid I’d trip and fall over the edge!
From here there is a long, steep, caged stairway that leads to the bottom of the Falls, but sadly it is closed for repairs. After looking around, I walked back up the hill, marveled at those cliffs one last time, and struck up a conversation with a local couple. They told me about a new hiking area that just opened up called Window Cliffs, where you could actually get to the top of some of these cliffs.
Finally I took the gravel road towards the parking lot, but detoured to the short Ridgetop Trail (only .2 miles), which provides views down the main canyon of Falling Water River.
This ends up back at the gravel road and left me with a half-mile walk to the parking area.
On my way to the car, I took a stroll through their little butterfly garden, then I was off to my next destination, Window Cliffs!
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