Northeast Tennessee has some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the country, but what you may not know about is the abundance of waterfalls throughout the region. We’ve put together some of our favorite videos of area waterfalls as a guide for your next outdoor adventure.
On Highway 133 in Johnson County, TN is Backbone Rock. Unlike the Natural Tunnel in Southwest Virginia, this tunnel is man-made. Its original purpose was as a railroad tunnel to haul timber out of the forest. Today, the area is part of the Cherokee National Forest. There are picnic and camp sites available, along with fishing and hiking opportunities.
The Blue Hole
The Blue Hole, located in the Stony Creek area of Elizabethton, TN is a really beautiful place, and a popular local destination for visitors and locals. There are four waterfalls located in close proximity to each other and to the parking area.
In case you’ve never heard of Buckeye Falls, it is said to be the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi. The height listed for it varies from source to source ranging from 475 to 700 feet high. This waterfall is best visited in the spring or times of heavy rainfall and located in the remote Clark’s Creek area of Unicoi County. Be advised that the journey is quite strenuous and should be left to more experienced hikers.
Coon Den Falls
This beautiful 50′ waterfall is located in the Dennis Cove area of the Cherokee National Forest near the Appalachian Trail in Carter County, TN. While the hike is short (1/2 mile), it’s fairly steep and is a moderately difficult trail. You’ll pass a smaller waterfall on the way up, but unfortunately it’s covered with fallen trees, and just a little further and you arrive at the main attraction.
Dennis Cove Falls
Getting there is half the fun. The 1.6 mile hike to Upper Dennis Cove Falls is a beautiful adventure as you walk through a tunnel of rhododendron along the cascading Laurel Fork Creek. The adventure is in making three creek crossings. Both the upper and lower falls are cascading waterfalls (with drops of 25′ and 10′) which form large pools at the base perfect for a summer swim.
Jones Falls is found along the Appalachian Trail near the Tennessee and North Carolina border. At 100 feet high, this impressive waterfall will be quick to get your attention. It’s located just inside of the Tennessee line, between the towns of Roan Mountain, TN and Elk Park, NC.
This is probably the most popular, and arguably the most spectacular, waterfall in Northeast Tennessee. But it’s not necessarily the easiest to get to. The most popular route is to hike in from the top. It is a beautiful 1.2 mile trail that is level for much of the way with the first part actually following an old railroad bed. But the last quarter mile goes straight down. They’ve done a amazing job putting in stone steps all the way to the bottom, but it’s still a difficult descent and a strenuous hike going up. The 55′ waterfall (also known as Laurel Fork Falls) is powerful and stunning after some heavy rains.
Laurel Run Falls
Here’s a new discovery outside of Church Hill, TN called Laurel Run Park. It’s an absolute gem. It has to be one of the most scenic hikes in East Tennessee. If you love spring wildflowers, look no further. It’s not that there a few wildflowers scattered here or there, they’re everywhere!
Lower Higgins Creek Falls
This is a stunning waterfall in Unicoi County, TN, that not a lot of people seem to know about. Which in some ways is a very good thing when you are looking for a unique waterfall adventure. When you’re sitting at the base of this 100 foot waterfall you feel like you’ve stumbled onto something wild and pristine.
One of the most popular waterfalls to visit in Greene County, TN, is the spectacular, 60-foot-tall Margarette Falls (sometimes spelled ‘Marguerite’). The hike to get there is surprisingly beautiful, but also fairly strenuous. The trail snakes its way through impressive rock formations, over and around lots of small waterfalls and cascades, and across four creek crossings.. Even though it’s listed as a moderate/strenuous hike, it’s one of the most scenic hikes in our area. The waterfall itself is magnificent, and the combination of free-falling water and cascades makes this waterfall picturesque.
Pine Ridge Falls
Pine Ridge Falls is a 25 foot waterfall found in the beautiful Clark’s Creek area of Unicoi County, TN. The hike to Pine Ridge is about half a mile. It’s an easy walk, except for one creek crossing that can be tricky when the water is up. This scenic area is centrally located next to Greeneville, Jonesborough, Johnson City and Erwin on Clark’s Creek Road, off of Route 107.
Rock Creek Falls
These remote waterfalls are located on the side of Unaka Mountain in Unicoi County, TN. The way the water plunges 50 feet down its two tiers is unique and beautiful, and difficult to adequately capture. You’re surrounded by sheer rock walls on three sides that have been shedding fragments both large and small which have been washed down the mountain over the time.
Sill Branch Falls (lower)
If you’ve never visited the Clarks Creek area of Unicoi and Washington Counties, you should put it on your New Year’s list. Sill Branch is a favorite by the locals and surrounded by rock cliffs and steep hills on each side. Sill Branch Falls is nestled into the woods and referred to as very remote and tranquil.
Twisting Falls (also known as Compression Falls or Twisted Falls) is found in the Elk Mills area of Carter County near the border with North Carolina. This waterfall is a popular place to be in the summer for recreational activity.
South of Bristol, TN, and just below the South Holston Dam, this is a great place to take visitors to introduce them to the beauty of Northeast Tennessee. There’s fishing, picnic tables and a nice trail that makes a 1.5 mile loop around the island. But the real attractions are the weir dams. They were constructed in 1991 on both sides of this island to add oxygen to the Holston River when the TVA is not generating electricity.
Quick Trip Waterfalls
Little Laurel Branch Falls
Located on Wilbur Lake, you can almost drive directly to Little Laurel Branch Falls. It’s directly across the lake from the picnic area (which lies between Wilbur Dam and Watauga Dam).
Martin Creek Falls
Martin’s Creek Falls (sometimes referred to as Martin Creek Falls) is a beautiful waterfall (20 feet high) to visit if you’re ever in the Erwin, TN area. It’s located right outside of town, within the Cherokee National Forest. It’s not very well known, but what it lacks in terms of power and majesty, is made up for in peace and tranquility. It’s worth a visit, especially after some heavy rains. In times of drought this waterfall is reduced to a trickle.
Rocky Fork Falls
This Trio of falls is sometimes referred to as Rocky Fork Falls. The series of falls on Lower Higgins Creek are at the northern edge of the enormous 10,000 acre parcel of land known as Rocky Fork located in Erwin, TN.
Other Noted Waterfalls
*These waterfalls are considered difficult to get to and some are even located on private property. If you visit these noted waterfalls, you should do so at your own risk. But, we did feel that the falls deserve a special mention of Northeast Tennessee’s natural beauty.
Millstone Creek Falls
This 30′ waterfall is located on private property on the western side of Buffalo Mountain in Washington County, TN. It’s an easy hike (only 150 yards) from the road. Although it’s private property, one website indicates that owners don’t mind visitors as long as visitors respect the property and don’t leave trash. So if you visit, show your appreciation to the property owners by picking up any trash you find.
Located at the privately owned Buffalo Mountain Camp, Ramsey Creek Falls is listed as a twenty foot waterfall. In fact, there are a series of falls and cascades which seem to go on and on. It’s a fun area to explore.
Red Fork Falls
This is one of the most beautiful falls in our region, but while it’s a short hike from the parking area, it’s actually one of the toughest falls to view. The half mile hike is extremely steep and very slippery. You don’t so much hike to the falls as you actually climb down to them, with no steps, just rocks and tree stumps to hold onto. So while it’s an amazing waterfall, this trip isn’t for everyone. Red Fork Falls is actually a series of eight falls. The top is the main 60′ high falls and below is the corkscrew that the water enters immediately after the main falls. The water enters from the right and zig-zags through the narrow channel to another cascade. It’s an amazing place to visit, but with all the climbing, you’ll be sore the next day.
Pete’s Branch Falls
Pete’s Branch Falls is located in the beautiful Horse Creek Recreation Area in Greene County, TN. During high water this waterfall is quite impressive however, getting to it is a challenge. While it’s possible to drive in and park one mile from the waterfall, this option is only for those with extra-high clearance vehicles (jeeps) and a tinge of insanity.
Sill Branch Falls (upper)
Upper Sill Branch Falls is rarely visited, and for good reason. The trail to the falls is in horrendous shape with fallen trees and overgrown brush. What used to be a logging road is almost completely choked and impassable in places. So this isn’t a hike to take the kiddos on. But if you are up for a challenge, this hike would probably be best accomplished in the winter months when the vegetation is at a minimum.
Lower Spivey Falls
This series of falls is located on private property, which is really a shame because something this beautiful ought to be part of a national park. This is actually Lower Spivey Falls, as it is part of a series of four large waterfalls, all privately owned. There is a place to park, but visitors are not allowed beyond the gate. Even from this distance, the falls are impressive and it’s possible to zoom in and get a good shot.
For additional directions and more information on these waterfalls, Click Here.
NOTE: Please be cautious when hiking unfamiliar territory. The link above provides some insight to the terrain and level of difficulty but always be prepared. Some waterfalls are on private property. Please be considerate to land owners and obey property signs.