One of my absolute favorite adventures in Tennessee is Cummins Falls! It's a difficult hike, very steep and sometimes muddy, but every second of it is pretty gorgeous. Once you make the decline into the gorge, every step along the path to the falls leads you right along (and sometimes through) the water. And after you've made the trek, there's nothing more satisfying than swimming at the base of Cummins falls and picnicking on the surrounding rocks.
I've hiked and swam (it's been listed as one of "America's Best Swimming Holes" ) at Cummins falls multiple times, always at different times of the year. The picture on below is from one weekend last September.
You'll notice a huge difference in the amount of people in it and the lack of people in the one below, taken on my first visit to the falls one March a couple years ago.
The first time I visited the park was in March (you'll see in the pictures that the trees and plants had not bloomed yet) when one of my friends and I were stay-cationing. We had heard how cool the falls were and decided to head out on a relatively warm day in early spring. The air was warm, the water was COLD!!! So the swimming didn't last long, but we couldn't hike all that way to see water so beautiful and not get in!
There is an overlook of the falls just a short (and pretty easy) hike from the parking lot. So if you're not feeling super adventurous or are not up for a strenuous hike, you can still see the falls from here (as pictured behind me and my adventure buddy, Jessie Wallace, to the right).
However, if you are determined to reach the base of the falls, splash through the water, go swimming, or climb behind the curtain of falling water, follow the path (sometimes it's hard to see where the path is marked, but keep searching, it's worth it) down to the river.
The hike along the river looks something like this:
Essentially, here's what you need to know! Cummins Falls is an hour and a half east of Nashville. The water is COLD. I've found it is much more enjoyable to go swimming at Cummins Falls between May and September (though it is really pretty in winter/spring as well). There are plenty of parking spots at the park as well as restrooms near the parking lot at the head of the trail. It is also in Cookeville, which means it is near Ralph's Donuts! (Grab a butternut twist, you'll thank me later!) Also, I feel like every time I visit there is a moment between the overlook and the trail down to the gorge where we loose sense of where the path is. If this happens to you, do not give up and turn back. You do not want to miss this hike. Just keep following the people or sounds of other hikers and eventually you'll find it. If you are at the overlook, staring down at the falls, you will need to go to your right (downriver) to get to the path that takes you down to the water.
Beyond that, here's what you'll need:
Beach Towel - To dry off with and serve as your picnic blanket!
Tennis shoes - I usually throw on an old pair that I don't mind wearing through the river.
Flip flops - Because you don't want to wear wet tennis shoes all the way home.
Packed lunch & water bottle
A sense of adventure!
You'll see in the picture below, there is a lot of fun to be had at Cummins Falls. People swim, climb the rocks to get behind the falling water, stretch hammocks above the natural pool, etc.
That's pretty much it! Happy exploring, everybody! If you have any questions, send me an email through my contact page! I'd be happy to be your travel guide!