The 15 Best Waterfalls in Tennessee to Visit

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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

(Arranged Geographically)

  1. Abrams Falls
  2. Laurel Falls
  3. Ramsey Cascades
  4. Spruce Flat Falls
  5. Big Branch Falls
  6. Fall Creek Falls
  7. Greeter Falls
  8. Machine Falls
  9. Ruby Falls
  10. Twin Falls
  11. Laurel Run Falls
  12. Northrop Falls
  13. Ozone Falls
  14. Burgess Falls
  15. Cummins Falls

READ MORE: 20 Ways to Celebrate Christmas in the Smoky Mountains (NC & TN)


Great Smoky Mountains Waterfalls

Great smoky mountains waterfalls - Abrams Falls

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.

Located along the famous Cades Cove Loop Road in the National Park, the Abrams Falls Trail is one of the most popular Smoky Mountains waterfall hikes.

It’s 5 miles round-trip, and rated as a moderate trek.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Places to See Fall Foliage in the Smoky Mountains


Laurel Falls Smoky Mountains

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.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Waterfalls in Gatlinburg Tennessee - Ramsey Cascades

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.

Despite its difficulty, the Ramsey Cascades Trail is doubly rewarding because about half of it is through a rare stand of old-growth hardwood forest and follows a series of rivers and streams.

This waterfall is located in the Greenbrier area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just east of Gatlinburg.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Great Smoky Mountains Campgrounds to Visit

smoky mountain falls - Spruce Flat Falls

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. 

READ MORE: The 20 Best Places to See Fall Foliage in the Smoky Mountains


Waterfalls Near Chattanooga TN

Waterfalls in Tennessee state parks - Fall Creek Falls
Fall Creek Falls

5. Fall Creek Falls

Fall Creek Falls State Park is undisputedly the place to go for waterfalls in Tennessee state parks.

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.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Places for White Water Rafting in Tennessee

Waterfalls near Chattanooga TN - Greeter 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.

The Greeter Falls Trail loop is less than a mile and includes access to two other waterfalls (plus the Blue Hole, a popular TN swimming hole).

All of this is located in Savage Gulf State Park, the newest state park in Tennessee.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Pumpkin Patches in Tennessee to Visit

Waterfalls near Chattanooga Tennessee - Machine Falls

7. Machine Falls

Found in the Short Springs State Natural Area near Tullahoma TN, Machine Falls is an amazing waterfall that clip-clops down a rock face into a shallow pool.

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.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Apple Orchards in Tennessee for Apple Picking & More

Underground waterfalls in Tennessee - Pink Ruby Falls Waterfalls in Chattanooga
Ruby Falls Drenched in Pink, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

8. Ruby Falls

With so many caves and waterfalls in the state, it only makes sense to include Ruby Falls, the most remarkable of the underground waterfalls in Tennessee.

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.

READ MORE: 20 Incredible Places To See the Blue Ridge Mountains in Fall

Waterfalls in East Tennessee - Twin Falls

9. Twin Falls

Located in Rock Island State Park, Twin Falls is at the headwaters of Center Hill Lake.

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

Best waterfalls in TN - Virgin Falls
Photo courtesy of

10. Virgin Falls

Located in the Virgin Falls State Natural Area, Virgin Falls is a showstopper among several other beautiful waterfalls.

Big Laurel Falls, Sheep Cave Falls, and Big Branch Falls are all worth a visit, but Virgin Falls is truly magical.

This waterfall emerges from one cave, and then plunges over 100 feet into another cave below.

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.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Campgrounds in Tennessee to Visit


Waterfalls Near Knoxville TN 

Waterfalls Near Knoxville TN -Laurel Run Falls

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

Waterfalls near Knoxville TN - Northrup Falls
Photo by David Pineros courtesy of

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.

Along the creek and near the waterfall are ancient rock “houses,” which were occupied some 3,000 years ago by cliff-dwelling Woodland people.

The relatively easy trail to Northrup Falls is a 1.4-mile lollipop loop that takes less than an hour to complete.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Civil War Sites in Tennessee to Visit

Waterfalls in Knoxville TN - Ozone Falls

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

Waterfalls Near Nashville TN - Burgess Falls

14. Burgess Falls

The namesake of Burgess Falls State Park, this massive waterfall flows over a semi-circular rock ledge and straight down.

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.

Note that the base of the falls can only be reached via boat or kayak from the Cane Hollow Recreation Area.

READ MORE: Non-Venomous vs Venomous Snakes in Tennessee (ID Guide)

Waterfalls in Middle Tennessee - Cummins Falls

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.

Cummins Falls State Park is a day-use area, and there’s a popular swimming hole at the base of the 75-foot waterfall.

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



Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

After visiting North Carolina for the first time, Senior Writer Jonathon Engels and wife Emma spent 2 years exploring Western NC in search of a homestead property. They first lived in Brevard, where Jonathon taught writing at Blue Ridge Community College and extensively explored the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest. For the last several years they have lived just off the BRP near Elkin, Southwest Virginia, and the NC High Country. The couple also volunteers with the Surry Old Time Fiddlers Convention, the Elkin Valley Trail Association, and Reeves Downtown School of Music.