The crisp, cooler air has children of all ages yearning to be outside. They love to play and run around. Now’s the time to enjoy a nice family hike in one of Middle Tennessee’s largest state parks, Fall Creek Falls.
Just two-and-a-half hours from Nashville, this grand state park offers up more than 34 miles of hiking, a nature center and beyond. Our favorite attractions are the swinging bridges! And be sure to pack a cooler — it’s a great opportunity to have a family picnic, too.
See the waterfalls
Growing up in Tennessee, I loved going to Fall Creek Falls each year. It’s something that I am very thankful that my parents did with us. It’s a nice time to hang out and enjoy each other’s company while taking in the beautiful sights and hiking together as a family.
Get out and see the many natural aspects that the park has to offer like the six waterfalls including Piney Creek Falls, Cane Creek Falls, Rockhouse Falls, Fall Creek Falls, Coon Creek Falls and Cane Creek Cascades. We’ve now been taking our children time after time (the photo above is them at ages 6 and 2).
Park at the Falls Overlook for the most famous of the falls, Fall Creek Falls. You can get a spectacular view from above, but you’ll witness so much more by taking the nearly half-mile hike down to the base of the falls. This trail is very steep, and if you take your little ones, be sure to keep hold of their hands if they are not riding in a carrier on your back. The view looking down the path can be daunting for some. For others, it just looks like fun.
No matter what, tell everyone to stay on the trails and not to throw sticks or stones as they may hit hikers below. Our daughter, Lilliana, was so excited to be there that she wanted to run right down the path. Remember this: the hike to the base of this falls should not to be taken quickly. Take your time and enjoy the view — it’s always easier to go down than it is to come back up!
The look on our children’s faces as they saw the massive flow of water towering overhead was priceless. We encountered baby squirrels that seemed very interested in our son, Seth and made him laugh. He tried so hard to touch them, we had to keep moving him back as the squirrels kept approaching. as for our youngest, Sebastian, it’s best to keep him in the backpack carrier. He gets down often, but those little legs tire quickly.
We took our time coming back up. You can get a different approach to the ancient rock layers looming overhead. Once at the top, we went back to the car, grabbed the cooler and seated ourselves down for a picnic at the closest table. There are restrooms nearby, too.
After lunch, we headed back to the overlook to access the more than half-mile Woodland Trail leading to the nature center and Cane Creek Falls. You can drive to the nature center, but where’s the fun in that? This trail has a few close-to-the-edge sections, so keep an eye out. Other than that, we let our two run loose. It’s a great way for them to understand what paths are for and the importance of staying on them.
This easy trail also has one of the swinging bridges. So, grab your child’s hand and enjoy the sway with each step! For a one-day trip, these two hikes were just about all our kids could handle, and there was a variety in difficulty and views, too.
Canopy challenge course
Bet you didn’t know Fall Creek Falls had a canopy course, huh? It’s been open for a few years now. Enjoy two-and-a-half hours of fun up in the trees on more than 70 aerial obstacles. Test your skills on ladders, wobbly bridges, rope swings, cargo nets, balance beams and zip lines. Receive thorough instruction at Ground School before you set off to explore six different 8- to 13-element routes ranging from serene to extreme. Move through the course connected to a flexible lifeline system that uses smart-belay technology. This self-guided adventure is supervised by competent guides, too. All the necessary equipment (full-body harness, helmet, zip line trolley and smart-belay connector) are provided. Options available for ages 4 and older. Call for pricing and details. Walk-in tickets available, however, advance reservations are recommended.
Make it an all-nighter
Camping is a great way to make sure you have had your chance to take in all that Fall Creek Falls has to offer. It’s only $20 per night (base rate, subject to change) for primitive camping. When you camp, you can be sure to take your time and visit each of the grand falls that are within this gigantic park. You can hike a couple trails in one day, rest up and take on a few more the next. If you decide not to camp in a tent, you can stay overnight in the Group Lodge, Park Inn, rustic cabins (which share bathhouses) or one of the regular cabins. Camping is a family favorite for us. I have some of the most wonderful memories camping with my family and making new friends with other campers. So, why not start making those memories with your own children? They may not like staying in a tent at first, but the idea of sleeping outside is exciting — not to mention a great learning experience. Your children are sure to thank you for it.
Fall Creek Falls State Park
2009 Village Camp Road
Pikeville, TN 37367
Inn & Cabin Reservations | 800-250-8610 Camping | 800-250-8611