Cummins Falls in November 2017
When I visited Tennessee about eight years ago, Cummins Falls was off limits. If I remember correctly, a young man had died after slipping off the cliffs. I couldn’t even find where one might park and there was orange fencing blocking off the area. That has definitely changed. Now there’s a state park designated for the falls, and with that comes some important safety features. It’s definitely worth a stop at Cummins Falls now that one can explore a bit more.
The hike to the viewpoint for the falls is a very easy hike. At about 1/4 mile one way, it’s relatively flat and even until you get to the viewpoint. It’s understandable why it’s so dangerous…at the viewpoint, there’s a good 50′ or so drop to the river below, possibly a bit more. They have durable fencing to help deter any foolishness. With that being said, the viewpoint is at an odd angle, and it does make it difficult to get a good shot of the whole falls. I showed up on a sunny day, which I can’t prevent, but of course a cloudier day would have been better for photography.
I did explore the second option that would hopefully get me closer to the falls. There is a trail that initially leads away from the falls but then heads downhill toward the river. You can then head back upstream. I was able to go for a ways without any issue until the bank on the left side of the river disappeared. There is a way to continue along on the right side of the river, but it requires crossing the river. And while it’s not a huge river, it was still enough to deter me from getting wet. I tried to see an obvious way that wouldn’t get me wet, but there wasn’t one. If you don’t mind getting wet or have the right gear, it would be easy to get to the base of the falls.
- The falls are between Tennesee routes TN-56 and TN-135, so there are a few different ways to arrive at the falls. If headed north on TN-56 from I-40, you would drive just over 7.5 miles to TN-290.
- Turn right onto TN-290 (Old Gainesboro Highway) heading east and drive 1 mile.
- Turn left onto Cummins Mills Road and drive for 3 miles.
- Turn left onto Blackburn Fork Road to the entrance to Cummins Falls State Park.
Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: 0.6 miles roundtrip
Where in the World is Cummins Falls?
Soco Falls in late April 2013
I didn’t have very high expectations for Soco Falls. I was using the book “North Carolina Waterfalls” by Kevin Adams to find waterfall candidates. In 2005, he did not have anything particularly good to say about the falls. It is different now! And I think it’s possible that his comments could have spurred the changes (or the changes were already in motion). Either way, it’s definitely a good thing!
The most difficult part is finding the falls. Even that has somewhat improved. There are now signs in both directions, approximately 0.5 miles before the falls. If headed west along US-19, though, it is extremely easy to miss the parking area, even after seeing the sign indicating the distance. There is now a sign at the parking area but it cannot be seen coming from that direction. The sign for the parking area can be seen if headed east (from Cherokee). It was difficult to turn around, but I did, and it was worth it.
The hike to the falls is simple. The trail starts at a split between two metal barriers. It heads downhill pretty quickly, but is very manageable. There are rocks strategically placed to help with footing. After a tenth of a mile or so (if that), you’ll reach the wood boardwalk, which leads to a great view of the falls. The trail to the base of the falls was blocked with yellow rope, so I didn’t proceed to the base of the falls. This is a very beautiful waterfall, and it just so happened to be raining today. The falls were impressive! (They also seem to be cleaner now.)
- The parking area for Soco Falls is found approximately 1.5 miles west from the intersection of the Blue Ridge Parkway and US-19. As I said, if you are headed west, you will see a sign indicating 0.5 miles to Soco Falls (in blue), but then it is very easy to miss the parking area.
- If heading east from Cherokee along US-19, you will see both the first sign (0.5 miles ahead), and the blue sign at the parking area.
- From the parking area, head down the trail to the falls!
Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 35′ (main drop)
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip
Where in the World is Soco Falls?
I always have a hard time choosing favorites. I like most waterfalls that I’ve seen, and each of them has it’s own unique qualities, whether big or small. Upper Whitewater Falls has the distinction of being one of my favorites, though. It’s a big waterfall, but that alone does not make it my favorite. I’ve seen waterfalls that are bigger (Multnomah Falls), but that doesn’t mean that they’re my favorites. There is a complexity about Upper Whitewater Falls that puts it in the top ten.
At 411′ tall, it is one of the larger waterfalls east of the Mississippi River. It’s not a straight 411′ drop, but instead a series of drops that add up to the total. This is what makes Upper Whitewater Falls so beautiful. It’s narrow and then it’s wide, and then narrows down again. At some points, there are actually three separate “waterfalls”, or at least the river splits into three. In the picture below, you can’t even see the whole falls because it’s so large.
There are at least two easily accessible viewpoints. One of the viewpoints is right near the parking lot, while the second is accessed from a walk down some stairs. There may be a third viewpoint at the base of the falls, though I’m guessing that this is more complicated!
- From US-64 in North Carolina, turn left onto NC-281.
- Head south on NC-281 to the entrance for Upper Whitewater Falls.
- After parking, pay the $2 entrance fee, which is definitely worth it. Then follow the paved trail to the upper view.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: 0.4 miles round-trip
Upper Whitewater Falls in March 2009
Where in the World is Upper Whitewater Falls?