There’s more to Nashville than country music, honky-tonks and fried chicken. Nearby are rocky ridges and lush green gorges laced with waterfalls that make the perfect summer bathing spots. Our local insiders pick their favorites.
Nashville is close to the Cumberland Plateau, which stretches 1,000ft (305m) above the Tennessee River Valley, with turrets of crystal-clear water that gush into pools below. They’re the perfect place to head out of the city on a hot day.
Just east of the Mississippi river, Fall Creek Falls is the tallest waterfall in the eastern United States. Set within Fall Creek Falls State Park, it’s a spectacular medley of cascades, gorges and hardwood trees. From the top, the view of the valley is astonishing. It’s just a short hike to the plunge pool, where you can swim, have picnics and take in the natural paradise around them. It’s usually empty of crowds, too. Recommended by local insider Chaney Curd
Cummins Falls, on the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River, is 75ft (23m) high. Its only accessible by foot, and the climb is steep, but the view you get from the top is worth it – with deep forests of oak, beech, buckeye, sycamore and hemlocks. A variety of wildlife roam the riverbanks and treetops, including eagles, quail, turkey, minks and turtles. Recommended by local insider Chaney Curd
The majestic Twin Falls, in Rock Island State Park, belches out an intimidating roar of cascading water – gallons of the stuff – into a dazzling blue pool below. It takes a short hike to get here, and your trail is peppered with enormous oaks and maples. World-class rapids offer excellent kayaking and canoeing opportunities, and there are two campgrounds within the park. A note of caution: the gorge water can rise rapidly, so keep an eye out. Recommended by local insider Chaney Curd
Burgess Falls, deep within the Burgess Falls State Park, spills into a massive limestone gorge surrounded by steep, slippery walls of rock. The loop trail to get here might look short on the map, but it’s actually a long hike that can take hours, so wear comfortable footing. It’s well worth checking out, though, even if you’re not a big hiker, as the gorge offers visitors great fishing opportunities, and there’s a butterfly garden close by. Recommended by local insider Erica Commisso
This picturesque waterfall drops into a box canyon surrounded by moss-carpeted hills and pine trees. This then leads to a second waterfall and a deep pool. It’s a remote spot, but there are plenty of marked trails and in spring, hundreds of wildflowers bloom on the hills. The cliff edges are steep, though, so take care – and of course, watch out for rattlesnakes. Recommended by local insider Erica Commisso
Near Spencer, Tennessee, Cane Creek Falls lies above the area where Rockhouse and Fall creeks meet. Cane Creek Falls is one of five waterfalls in the area, and the trails offer different views of the surrounding mountains. It’s great for a day trip, complete with a suspension bridge, but be warned: the Cable Trail involves climbing down a steep precipice via a metal cable. Recommended by local insider Erica Commisso