Tennessee: Cummins Falls State Park
One thing I've been wanting to do more often in Tennessee is go hiking. There are hiking meetup groups, and specifically night hikes that I plan to do, but then it sort of gets lost throughout the day on my list of priorities.
While April was here, my friend Matt suggested a little half-day trip to Cummins Falls State Park. He easily convinced me it was an ideal location to hike in from his beautiful photos of the waterfalls themselves and him behind the waterfall. Not only going to a waterfall but being able to go behind one? SOLD.
We ventured out around 9:30am, got there about 11am, proceeded to make our own parking space (we had so many options) and then went to the trail.
There's a divide where you can choose to go down to the actual falls or to the overlook. After this sign, and choosing the trail down to the falls, there's little (if any, actually) signage to point you where to go.
Honestly, if it wasn't for Matt, I would have been a little confused about whether we were on the right path or not. Hiking in Los Angeles is typically set with paved trails and a lot of signs, whereas here, it was necessary to wade in the cold water up almost up to our knees (almost) to keep on the path toward the falls.
The gorge itself is stunning and majestic. It's so quiet, and you feel a little more capable of taking it all in.
I began by wearing regular running shoes. By the time we got to the part where our feet were getting wet, I switched to my water-proof sandals and ended up wearing those the entire rest of the time because we were constantly getting in and out of the water.
Cummins Falls is the eighth largest waterfall in Tennessee in volume of water and is 75 feet high. I always love that you can hear a waterfall before you see it. This one is seriously impressive. Once we trekked over the last remaining rocks, we stood and took in the falls and the beautiful scenery that surrounded us.
There were barely any people there — except a family from Costa Rica, some ladies with dogs, and a couple from Australia. I guess the secret is out?
I then watched as Matt began to make his way over to the waterfall. Following him, April and I felt like gymnasts on a high-beam (maybe I just felt that way...) balancing on a tree trunk to the other set of rocks (don't worry — there's alternate ways), and then getting our feet/shoes wet again by walking through the water to get to the higher rocks. Following that, we made it to the actual hard part: pulling ourselves up and over a higher set of rocks.
Of course, Matt made it look easy since he's like 6'5", but I had a hard time at 5'6" and barely was able to reach a stronghold to pull myself up. April's a little shorter than I am and was unable to reach the above rock, so Matt and I grabbed on to her arms and slid her up the slimy moss rock. #teamwork #nooneleftbehind
I have to say though, she's a trooper — she obtained some pretty gnarly warrior wounds and bumps where the rock hit her legs on the way up. Neosporin anyone?
But, of course, it all seemed so worth it once we climbed up to the waterfall and sat ourselves on the ridge. It's such an intense feeling to sit behind such a powerful gush of water and to see it and mostly hear it, falling in front of you.
Before heading back, as the sun started coming up from behind the walls of rock, we took some obligatory jumping and scenic background photos. Because I'm in need of a screensaver mostly. And it's always good to capture how little of a jump I have. (Reasons why I stopped playing volleyball in high school #3.)
One of the best parts of this whole trip was not just what we got to explore, but also what we got to eat. The doughnuts at Ralph's Donut Shop — listed as the #21 best doughnut shop for apple fritter by this website — was something I looked forward to the entire hike.
It's in Cookeville which is about nine miles from the Falls. I was unable to convince Matt and April that it was in our best interest to have a doughnut before the hike, once we got to the waterfall, and then again after to celebrate each great moment; so we saved it for when I was getting so hungry I was starting to get snappy (always bring snacks on hikes you guys, I should have know that by now too).
It was so worth the wait though. The diner style counter-top and the various selection of doughnuts is a dream. Honestly, you can't go wrong with doughnuts. And each of these was amazing. I personally loved the cinnamon sugar doughnut, the chocolate covered creme doughnut (the one pictured below with chocoalte on top), and the butter twist the best.
And then we went to a sushi place (because doughnuts aren't exactly filling) before driving home!
Cummins Falls State Park
390 Cummins Falls Lane
Cookeville, Tennessee 38501
Ralph's Donut Shop
59 S. Cedar Ave, Cookeville, TN 38501