Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee

This was the only state park we visited while in the state of Tennessee. Located in Bledsoe and Van Buren counties and it surrounds the eastern top of the rugged Cumberland Plateau. We explored two waterfalls while here, Fall Creek Falls and Cane creek Falls.

Even when you take into consideration that we visited here without a plan, in mid January, and really only came to hike a quick hike to the Fall Creek Falls itself…..our visit here ended up being quite amazing. Now, apparently, there is an inn, campsites, cabins and meeting rooms for, I would assume, weddings and such…..we saw non of this. Like I said, it was quickly planned and we went directly to the trailhead we were seeking without any extra exploration.

Upon arrival to the trailhead we found ample parking, great signage, and an overlook for anyone not hoping to hike down to the falls itself.

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All very gorgeous and easily accessible……but we were looking to hike. So down into the gorge we headed.

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It was amazing. The terrain was mostly rock with some dirt trail here and there. We knew to be careful not to turn an ankle since the park ranger we spoke to upon arriving told us many individuals do injure themselves on this trail.

Beside the falls itself, our favorite spot we found to explore was a crevice in the rock that we all crawled into. If you recall in Sedona, the new family rule is I only hike on trails that are as wide as my hips and thankfully my hips fit through this crevice which meant I could also explore with my boys.

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Eventually you arrive at the end of the trail and two waterfalls roaring over the edge into the gorge.

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After we all did some exploring in this area it was time to head back out of the gorge and see if we could find our way to Cane Creek Falls.

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Although, by the time we reached the top again, we were hot…. in January…..again just amazing, so it was time do some adjusting to our zip off hiking pants.

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To reach Cane Creek Falls you followed a fairly smooth trail through some dense wooded areas with lookouts along the way.

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For us the lookouts were quite a disappointment since you could see very little if anything around the over grown tree line. So we headed a bit further down the trail to what we had read was a swinging bridge. How fun does that sound right? Well, it was fun, shaky and a bit unnerving to see cables with only, what I refer to as, chicken wire for edges. However, you only live once, so we all crossed it once and then twice to return to our vehicle from there.

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Our entire hike took us 5.3 miles through this state park.

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The park service rated this hike as strenuous and going into the gorge down to the falls I would agree simply because of the terrain. With that being said, I think anyone not disabled could do this at a comfortable pace per individual.

The trail to Cane Creek Falls I would rate as easy….since there is very little rock to be scrambling over to reach the overlooks.

 

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Alum Cave Hike In The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

We did two hikes while in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in January. One being the Alum Cave hike to the bluffs.

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According to the day hikes guide we picked up at the Sugarlands visitor center upon arrival,

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it was a fairly short hike, 4.6 miles round trip and rated as strenuous.

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This trail was amazing…..there were so many different things to look at, experience, and explore. First, I must remind you, we were here in January and this particular day was a Saturday. The trail was no doubt wet. Some spots were wetter than others but easily doable.

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A bit down the trail we came to our first of three one sided bridges that were over water.

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This trail does follow a stream/river almost the entire way which makes for some very nice photo opportunities along the way.

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(photo courtesy of our son, Quade Byrnes Photography)

Eventually you will come to a cave opening that has steps built into it that will bring you up and over away from the stream. This is Alum Cave. There is cable built into the wall of the bluff for guidance but it is not difficult in any way, in my opinion.

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After going through the cave we came across our first water crossing without a bridge. In January we found it easy to find big enough rocks to make it across with dry feet.

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Upon reaching the bluffs, it was still very foggy and made for a good rest spot while our son took all the photographs he came to get. This also made a nice spot to stop and have a snack and cool down. It was a warm hike, being about 60 degrees outside on this day, but it is straight up the mountain the entire way.

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After this we headed back down the same trail we came up and back to the parking area where we began. Of course, there were more photographs to be taken along the way.

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For us this trail was great. Our GPS read 5.6 miles round trip when we returned to the vehicle. Now, we did make a few extra steps for necessary reasons but an extra mile I would have to wonder about. However, after many years of hiking I have found no one measurement of mileage on a trail is ever the same so for us it ended up being 5.6 miles proudly!

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A few things I must mention…..in January you will not find the restrooms at the trailhead open. So take care of “business” before hand. The parking area for this trail is well mark, easy to find and has ample parking. However, in January when we returned from our hike, vehicles were lined up on the road due to full lots everywhere. I can only imagine summer/spring and fall to be even worse. So I would say, arrive early during all seasons.

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And, as near other trailheads we have visited, this one was also well marked to take all valuables with you.

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I would highly recommend this hike if you are in good shape and like mountain hiking. Children will also be able to easily do this trail with parent supervision. Cliff edges are easily manageable and the views are breathtaking.