Hiking Burgess Falls in Tennessee

Logging Our Miles at Burgess Falls State Park

[shareaholic app=”share_buttons” id=”20872686″]

One promise I made to myself earlier this year was that we’d spend more time outdoors, both for Ella’s well-being but also our own. Tennessee is peppered with state parks—56, to be exact!—and natural areas for days. But health and a need for fresh air aside, there are also plenty of parks I’ve yet to take SVV to, and he can’t call himself a true Tennessean without having experienced these iconic spots.

Hiking Burgess Falls in Tennessee

The timing of our state park exploration was apt as it lined up with Nature Valley’s Summer of a Million Miles Challenge, an initiative designed to get families and couples across the country outside and into their local state or national parks. We’ve teamed up with Nature Valley to take you along with us as we hike.

Why I love state parks

We’ve always been the on-the-go types, and it just so happens our jobs take us all over the country (and the world), so when we’re home, both of us have trouble sitting still (who’s surprised?)—our natural inclination is to be out doing something, doing anything. And while my home state Tennessee boasts the most visited national park in the country, the Great Smoky Mountains, and it’s one that we visit a couple times of year, we are surrounded by so many nearby state parks that are easy to squeeze in on a whim.

Hiking Burgess Falls in Tennessee

Our Tennessee state parks are also a) free, b) don’t require a lot of advance planning and c) allow dogs (as long as they’re on leashes). Triple threat! Whereas a beach trip, for example, might require months of preparation—and usually means we have to leave Ella at home—hitting the park is easy to do with just a water bottle, day bag, some Nature Valley granola bars and other easy trail snacks, sunscreen, bug spray, a camera, a fur friend if you have one, and a swimsuit and beach towel if you’re headed to the falls.

Visiting Your Local State Park

Visiting Your Local State Park
Visiting Your Local State Park
Visiting Your Local State Park

Hiking Burgess Falls in Tennessee

Chasing Tennessee waterfalls

What many out-of-state folks don’t realize is that Tennessee is bursting with waterfalls—more than 300, in fact—and they’re usually gushing in summer months thanks to the ample rainfall we see in these parts. I often take for granted all the natural resources and lush, green foliage we have here.

Burgess Falls is one of Middle Tennessee’s most beloved treasures, a quadruple falls along the Falling Water River with views for days. I hadn’t been since I was wee, so it was like discovering it for the first time all over again—only with my favorite two hiking companions in tow.
Hiking Burgess Falls in Tennessee

Due to significant flooding a couple years back, the staircase down to the main falls is currently inaccessible. The overlook, however, is open for business and you can still hike to some of the other falls, just don’t go expecting to descend the stairs to the main falls as they’re closed indefinitely (a park ranger told us it could take five years to rebuild it!). It’s completely worth the trek, regardless of whether you can swim or not.

Hiking Burgess Falls in Tennessee
Hiking Burgess Falls in Tennessee

The River Trail/Service Road Loop is just a mile-and-a-half round-trip, and to reach the overlook only takes 15 minutes, so this is a good hike for those with kids in tow. The best part of all? Burgess Falls State Park is located right off of I-40 just south of Cookeville and is less than a 90-minute drive from Nashville and very accessible. Make it a twofer and hit up Cummins Falls while you’re there for some equally stunning scenery.

Hiking Burgess Falls in Tennessee

While the lower falls, which plunges nearly 150 feet into the gorge, is definitely the park’s centerpiece, there’s also a butterfly garden tucked away in a parking lot on the way out of Burgess, not to mention the newly-opened Window Cliffs State Natural Area, comprising rock arches that make for great Instagram fodder.

Butterfly Garden at Burgess Falls

Know before you go

During summer when the kids are out of school, we’ve found the sweet spot for avoiding crowds is the hour immediately following the park’s opening. We arrived at Burgess Falls State Park shortly after it opened at 8am and did not see any other hikers until nearly 10, but by the time we left at 11 the park was brimming with groups of tourists. This early-bird-catches-the-waterfall-shot mentality allowed us time to meander at our own pace and take photos from the lookout that weren’t crowded with people in the background.

Hiking Burgess Falls in Tennessee

And don’t worry, if you’re going to a state park where swimming is allowed, you’ll still be plenty warm and ready to take a dip by 10am! It’s so humid here right now, we were drenched in sweat by the time we made it back to the parking lot, and you’d think we’d jumped straight off the waterfall.

Hiking Burgess Falls in Tennessee

Planning a summer jaunt to a national or state park? From now through August 31, you can join in on the Summer of a Million Miles Challenge; Nature Valley has pledged to donate $250,000 to help preserve and restore our National Park trails, once one million miles have been collectively logged on the MapMyHike app.

Hiking Burgess Falls in Tennessee

Hiking Burgess Falls in Tennessee
Hiking Burgess Falls in Tennessee

Ready, set, let’s hike!

This post is sponsored by Nature Valley. All opinions are our own. Qualifying Hikes can earn entry into the sweepstakes for chance to win various prizes. Must be U.S. resident 18+ to enter. No purchase necessary; void where prohibited. Max 2 entries per person per day. Sweeps rules, prize description, and alternate entry info here.

 

PIN IT HERE

Hiking Burgess Falls in Tennessee
Hiking Burgess Falls in Tennessee
Hiking Burgess Falls in Tennessee
COMMENTS
  • July 9, 2018

    Amazing! Wonderful photos! We are planning an escape for the next weekend!

    • July 10, 2018

      Awesome, Shani! Where are you off to?

  • July 9, 2018

    What a great initiative! Not only is getting out into parks good for you – and I agree state parks are awesome – but you get rewarded and possibly win a prize. I grew up on Nature Valley bars and they still hold a sweet spot in my heart!

    • July 10, 2018

      Me, too! My mom used to buy the value packs at Sam’s, and I’d immediately gobble down the cinnamon ones before anyone else got to them. A friend and I were just discussing how we don’t think they make the cinnamon ones anymore (or at least neither of us have seen them), which is sad as those were our favorites!

  • July 9, 2018

    This is an adventure tripe. It such a wonderful place to explore and to do something. And thanks to Nature Valley launched such a great competition. Summer of a Million Miles Challenge is an adventure type challenge. I also join this to explore myself. I wish that you won this prize.

    • July 10, 2018

      You should definitely join the challenge, Jon! Any parks in your immediate future?

  • July 10, 2018

    Gorgeous waterfall! I love the use of the world “wee” – brings me back to my time in bonnie Scotland 🙂

    • July 12, 2018

      That’s exactly when I started using it—when I lived in Edinburgh 15 years ago! LOVE.

  • July 11, 2018

    haha can’t get over looking at your doggie, he seems to be smiling 😀

    • July 12, 2018

      Oh, she has a constant smile plastered on her face anytime we’re outdoors!

  • July 12, 2018
    Pan

    Kristin, I had the chance to take several trips to Cummings Falls before it became a state park (we used to live in Nashville). Several years ago we went back for a visit and had no idea it had been turned into a state park! It’s still just as beautiful but with many more people;-)

    • July 12, 2018

      I definitely want to go to Cummings! I’ve still never been—how crazy is that? Waiting until August when the schools are back in session and the crowds are fewer 😉

  • July 12, 2018

    I’ve been to a few of Tennessee’s State Parks but I’ve never even heard of Burgess Falls. Thanks for the info – and gorgeous video!

  • July 15, 2018

    It’s a great trip, You have spent some wonderful time here. Thanks for sharing your experience because we can gather much important knowledge about traveling. Its an inspiration for our beginner. You just took some stunning pictures of your trip. I am excited to explore this place and the waterfalls. 🙂

Leave a Comment

GET MY POSTS DELIVERED DIRECTLY TO YOUR INBOX
+ Sign up and receive your free copy of my eBook