Saturday, July 10, 2010

Adventures in Tennessee - Cummins Falls

I'm a huge fan of hiking and swimming and in general spending the summer months getting dirty and then rinsing off in a nice pool, either man made or natural.  After some coercion, I convinced the Geek, who is not very outdoorsy, but loves and humors his wife, to take a family outing to a nearby swimming hole.  We got our info at (or .org), and packed up for an adventure.  Matt was skeptical of our ability to do any serious climbing around waterfalls to find secret swimming holes with a 20 month old, but we went anyway.  Because I'm stubborn and hey, the worst that could happen is that we get there, take one look and decide to swim in the upper part of the river rather than climbing down a cliff with the baby girl strapped to my back.  Which is what happened. provided directions and this description:
"Take the trail down to the overlook then switchback to the river. Wade cross the river (it's only ankle deep) and look for a trail that begins as a steep scramble up to the ridge top. Follow the ridge top trail for a few minutes until you see a rope and use the rope to (safely) get down to the river. Walk back up river to the hole. It sounds like a lot of work but it only takes about 15 minutes and its worth every minute!"

These falls are about an hour and half from Nashville, but most of it is on I-40 and an easy drive.  When we got there there were lots of trails, no switchbacks that we could find, until later.  We never did find the overlook on the road side of the gorge unless they meant the place where the waterfall begins to fall.  We scrambled to the ridge top with Cora in arms, got lost, wandered around in the wrong direction since we had no idea which way the falls were.  (They were downriver)  There were markers, but they led to something else and we eventually found a hunting or logging road that was on top of the ridge (it was not the trail).  Finally after much sweating, some mild swearing and sending Matt ahead to scout where the various rabbit trails went, we found the trail. Then we took a lunch break.
I wish I had taken a picture of the rope that you are supposed to use to "safely get down to the river".  Umm.  We took one look and said nope.  It was nearly straight down for at least 75 feet with a rope tied to some roots at the top.  True there were lots of rocks to climb down, but with me pregnant (and easily exhausted because of that) and a one and a half year old to get down the rocks (even in a baby backpack), it was just not worth the risk.  (And I'm usually a risk taker!) We played in the upper part of the river which was rocky and very chilly where there was a rope swing and lots of minnows to chase
My final review - great for a day trip with older kids who are experienced at climbing and hiking.  Go early before the beer cooler crowd shows up.  We left about 1:30 and they were headed in.  All in all, it was beautiful.  We will go back either when I'm not preggo and Cora is bigger and can climb on her own, or when I'm not preggo and we have pawned our children off on relatives or friends for the day.

4/13/13 *Edited to add*  Last year Cummins Falls became a TN State Park!  I have not gone back with my family to check out the new park and if they have added a safer way to get down to the swimming hole, but you can find more details at
Enjoy the outside!


Erin said...

woh. this looks super fun! Now I wanna go.

Sarah said...

I am with Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation--the land conservation group working to save Cummins Falls and found your story of the watering hole delightful! Bravo for braving the elements and I'm glad you made it there safely. The pics of your family are great! It is a beautiful river/swimming hole for kids to explore. If interested in checking out the campaign to save Cummins Falls from private development, go to or 'Save Cummins Falls' on Facebook.

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