The state of Tennessee is widely known for its music scenes, including the Delta blues of the Memphis area and the Appalachian music (including bluegrass, country, and folk) created by the Scots-Irish people of central and eastern TN.
But anyone who’s explored the state in any depth knows it also boasts stunning natural beauty, including the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains. The area’s rivers and streams create some truly amazing waterfalls in Tennessee.
In our experience, the best waterfalls in TN are on the eastern side. There are gorgeous waterfalls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as well as in nearby state parks, national forests, and other public recreation areas.
I personally love to visit waterfalls when we travel to Tennessee, and consider them the highlight of any trip. In fact, I’ll travel hours from our home off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Elkin NC for the chance to hike to one.
Read on for our in-depth guide to the best waterfalls in TN to visit, including waterfalls near Chattanooga, Gatlinburg, Knoxville, Pigeon Forge, and more.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Places to See Fall in Tennessee
Best Waterfalls in Tennessee Guide
- Abrams Falls
- Laurel Falls
- Ramsey Cascades
- Spruce Flat Falls
- Big Branch Falls
- Fall Creek Falls
- Greeter Falls
- Machine Falls
- Ruby Falls
- Twin Falls
- Laurel Run Falls
- Northrop Falls
- Ozone Falls
- Burgess Falls
- Cummins Falls
Great Smoky Mountains Waterfalls
1. Abrams Falls
Located 66 miles east of the famous Lost Sea Adventure in Craighead Caverns, Abrams Falls is particularly impressive for the volume of water that rushes over it, even though it is only 20 feet high.
There’s deep and turbulent pool (which is considered too dangerous for swimming) at the base of this Smoky Mountain waterfall.
It’s 5 miles round-trip, and rated as a moderate trek.
2. Laurel Falls
The Laurel Falls Trail is extremely popular, and the parking area is prone to overcrowding.
With a trailhead located about 3.5 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center, Laurel Falls is 80 feet high and has upper and lower cascades.
This 2.6-mile out-and-back trail to these Great Smoky Mountains National Park waterfalls is surrounded by beautiful Tennessee wildflowers that bloom in late spring.
Note that the National Park warns parents to keep a close watch on children here due to the dangerous terrain.
3. Ramsey Cascades
Due to a strenuous 8-mile hike that climbs some 2,000 feet in elevation, Ramsey Cascades isn’t one of the most visited Smoky Mountains waterfalls.
But it is the tallest! Ramsey Cascades tumbles down some 100 feet into a small, salamander-laden pool.
This waterfall is located in the Greenbrier area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just east of Gatlinburg.
4. Spruce Flat Falls
Though it’s a relatively easy hiking trail and the waterfall is absolutely spectacular, Spruce Flat Falls does not rank among the most visited falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
For some reason, it isn’t always included on lists of waterfalls in Gatlinburg TN, despite being closer than the Cades Cove waterfalls.
Regardless, the 2-mile round-trip trail takes off from the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont.
This waterfall cuts through gorgeous mossy rocks, has a main section with a 30-foot drop, and several cascades leading to the final plunge into a lovely pool.
Waterfalls Near Chattanooga TN
5. Fall Creek Falls
At 256 feet high, Fall Creek Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River (and in all of Tennessee).
There’s an excellent Fall Creek Falls Overlook you can drive to, with a 0.8-mile round-trip Fall Creek Falls Base Trail starting from it. You can also find more interesting, longer routes for those who want to take a proper hike.
The state park encompasses nearly 30,000 acres and has several other notable waterfalls, including Piney Falls and Cane Creek Falls.
6. Greeter Falls
Though the water can sometimes run a bit low at this waterfall, Greeter Falls is a stunner when it is flowing.
This waterfall splits into two impressive parallel plunges separated by a huge boulder sticking up in the plunge pool.
7. Machine Falls
The Machine Falls Trail is a 4.1-mile loop, but it isn’t especially challenging.
Note that the Short Springs Natural Area is relatively small (420 acres) and has limited parking available. Once it’s full, it means the area is at visitor capacity and additional cars will be turned away.
Still, it’s one of the finest waterfalls near Chattanooga TN, which is about an hour away.
8. Ruby Falls
Ruby Falls is the only waterfall in Chattanooga TN proper. This waterfall is actually inside Lookout Mountain, which is also home to major Chattanooga tourist attractions such as Rock City and the Incline Railway.
The waterfall is accessed by a glass-front elevator that descends 260 feet into the earth, and is accompanied by music and colorful lights.
Ruby Falls wasn’t discovered until 1928, when Leo Lambert accidentally stumbled upon it and named it after his wife.
9. Twin Falls
The Twin Falls Overlook is at the end of Powerhouse Road, where there’s also a parking area, benches, and a kiosk.
From there, the downhill trail travels 1.7 miles along the steep river bluff, passing Little Falls and Blue Hole along the way.
This state park gets tons of visitors, so remember that parking outside the designated areas is strictly prohibited.
Caney Fork River Gorge (with is located within the park) is also one of TN’s most impressive natural wonders.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Lakes in Tennessee to Visit
10. Virgin Falls
Big Laurel Falls, Sheep Cave Falls, and Big Branch Falls are all worth a visit, but Virgin Falls is truly magical.
The hike to Virgin Falls is a strenuous 9 miles round-trip, with an elevation change of about 900 feet. There’s also a serious crossing to navigate at Big Laurel Creek.
Waterfalls Near Knoxville TN
11. Laurel Run Falls
Punching above its weight in terms of big-brand parks, Laurel Run Falls is the belle of Laurel Run Park, a family-friendly park beloved by locals.
The park boasts a playground, sports courts, ball fields, and several picnic shelters.
It also has the Holston River running through it, and several nice-looking waterfalls as a bonus.
But Laurel Run Falls is the main attraction of the park, which is located about 90 minutes from Knoxville in the northeast corner of the state, closer to towns like Bristol and Kingsport.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Bristol TN/VA
12. Northrup Falls
Colditz Cove State Natural Area is a diminutive 165 acres, but it packs a wallop of a feature in Northrup Falls.
This waterfall plunges over 60 feet from a protruding rock ledge, ultimately splashing down into a narrow gorge cut by Big Branch Creek.
The relatively easy trail to Northrup Falls is a 1.4-mile lollipop loop that takes less than an hour to complete.
13. Ozone Falls
Located in northeastern Tennessee’s Cumberland County, Ozone Falls State Natural Area encompasses a mere 43 acres.
And yet it is one of TN’s most visited state-protected natural areas.
For one, it’s conveniently located off of I-40. More importantly, the 110-foot Ozone Falls wows visitors as it plunges into a deep, rocky pool.
Hikers can stand right at the base of the waterfall and walk beneath the plunge, and the out-and-back Ozone Falls Trail is barely a quarter of a mile!
READ MORE: The 10 Best Fairs in TN to Visit
Waterfalls Near Nashville TN
14. Burgess Falls
Burgess Falls State Park is easily the best place to see waterfalls in Tennessee near Nashville.
Falling Water River cuts right through the park, and a short, 1.5-mile hike will deliver 4 waterfalls for visitors to enjoy.
Because it’s located about an hour from Nashville, this is a high-traffic park. But it’s well worth a visit.
15. Cummins Falls
Cummins Falls is a beautiful, wide waterfall that streams over a rock ledge in several different places before cascading down -rominent rock terraces.
There’s also an ADA-accessible overlook above the falls, and an unimproved route to the base of the falls that offers rough hiking, swimming/wading, and rock clambering along the .
The park suggests that no one under the age of 5 should go into the gorge, and all children ages 12 and under should be accompanied by an adult. –Jonathon Engels; lead photo of Laural Run Waterfall in Tennessee via Canva