The 75 foot high falls and nearby swimming hole at Cummins Falls State Park, one of Tennessee’s newest state parks (opened in 2013), have drawn visitors for decades. The majestic falls are enough of an attraction that 250,000 people visited the park in 2015 despite the fact that getting to the swimming hole is not the simplest of tasks. It has undoubtedly become worse since then. On Labor Day weekend, I wouldn’t go near this location, but on a Monday in May, it was a lovely rest area on a trip along I-40 between Nashville and Knoxville. On this Cummins falls camping guide, we will share few tips with you on how to get the maximum experience coming on your way.
What to know about visiting Cummins Falls State Park
From any exit in Cookeville, Tennessee, it takes around 15 to 20 minutes to get to Cummins Falls State Park off of Interstate 40. The shortest path is to go north on Highway 56 from exit 280. Turn left onto Cummins Mill Road after turning right onto 290 E. Along the route, there are signs for the state park, and the entry to the park off Cummins Mill Rd. is well marked.
Because you must enter Cummins Falls State Park as your destination rather than simply Cummins Falls, using Google Maps might be a bit hard. The latter will drop you out on Cummins Mill Rd, but not at the state park gate, which Google determines is geographically closest to the falls. You will locate the state park entrance after you are on Cummins Mill Rd, so don’t worry. It is properly signed, as I mentioned.
If you’re going from the east, there are alternative, somewhat shorter routes that can get you to the park, but they contain a lot of twists and cut the travel time by just a few minutes. Highway 56 is a lot more straightforward, in my opinion.
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Visiting Cummins Falls State Park
Even though the climb to the falls is difficult, it is just a mile each way if you follow the shortcut route. The Blackburn Fork Scenic River is where the majority of the trip is located, necessitating considerable wading, and climbing over big boulders. In order to descend to the river gorge, the route also contains several steep steps at the beginning.
I would think that children over 5 who are strong swimmers and have a parent who can remain close by them to aid them through the hard parts can complete the path. Even though it doesn’t seem to be deep in certain places, the current is swift. In addition, I would insist that they always wear life jackets.
This is the well-known trailhead for the viewpoint and the short cut route. Just off-camera to the left is the second trailhead that connects to the John Cummins Trail.
There are two primary trailheads after you arrive in the park’s parking area. One follows the John Cummins Trail, which takes them to a location upstream of the falls before they continue to the falls’ viewpoint.
Important things to keep in mind
A lot more people use the other trailhead. Before turning around to reach the steps leading to the river on the Blackburn Fork River Trail, you may opt to first take the Viewpoint Trail to the overlook. Alternately, you may choose a shortcut route that leads directly to the steps leading to the river. I just used the shortcut route to get to the river since I was short on time. The Blackburn Fork Scenic River is reached by a steep descent from the first section of the shortcut path, which begins with a pleasant stroll through the woods. For a while, you can stay on the riverbank, but eventually, if you want to reach the Falls, you must all enter the water. Across the river from you is a lovely two-tiered waterfall, but it is challenging to reach the top part due to the steep slope.
Before reaching the Falls and the sizable swimming hole at the end, you must cross Blackburn Fork a number of additional times. There is additional rock climbing necessary as you go nearer.
You are rewarded with a breathtaking view of the 75 foot falls if you manage to make it all the way to the falls. Swim up to the waterfalls and have fun on the huge granite ledges at the base. I didn’t want to enter the lake since it was 55 degrees outdoors when I went hiking in late April. My feet were already too chilly from wading. But on a hotter day, it’s definitely a possibility.
What to bring for Cummins falls camping?
suitable water shoes. Flip-flops are not appropriate. Leave the flip-flops at home since the water is swift and the pebbles are slick. This path requires Chacos, Tevas, or an old pair of shoes.
- A water resistant bag – You should bring your camera to the falls since I saw a hiker in front of me fall directly off a rock and into a deep pool of water, sopping his bag in the process. On this path, a dry bag or Ziplock is highly recommended.
- Swimwear and life jacket – Why not take advantage of the swimming hole at the trail’s end? If you want to go swimming, life jackets are advised for everyone, not just little children.
- Water and food – Enjoy the scenery while sitting for a bit and snacking on an apple or granola bar. Just keep in mind that there are no garbage cans at the Falls, so bring it out with you. Styrofoam cups and broken plastic water bottles littering the route really irritated me, so I tried to pick up what I could. Don’t act in that way.
What Not to Bring
Swimming pool floats of any type, noodles, and inflatables. They are not allowed. There are too many people for it, and some people, as we’ve previously shown, don’t do what they bring with them. Alcohol. Because drinking beer while swimming and climbing slippery rocks does not guarantee favorable outcomes.
The Park requests that visitors picnic at the tables beside the parking lot rather than bringing coolers and lunch spreads upriver due to the restricted space on the riverbanks. Simply said, there is nowhere to expand out.
Cummins Falls is an unimproved track after you reach the water, therefore hazards have been left in their original form. You should be realistic about your capacity to trek and enjoy this path since swimming in cold water has its own risks. Out of 250 000 visitors, the park saw 36 rescues in 2015, which isn’t awful, but rescues are difficult since someone has to carry you out.
Because the Blackburn Fork Scenic River is in a canyon, this trek may experience flash floods. To avoid risking it if there is heavy rain elsewhere in the region, please notice the weather, even from several counties away, before you go on the trek.
Follow these tips and learn how to get the most out of Cummins falls camping. Check out the adjacent state parks of Standing Stone and Edgar Evans if you’re interested in camping in the area—preferable it’s if you want to reach the Falls early in the morning before the crowds. Cummins Falls is a 25-minute drive for both of them.