When I was researching places to visit in TN before I moved there, Fall Creek Falls got rave reviews. Other RVers I’ve met recently confirmed that this was one of their favorite places to camp, hike, and swim. So Fall Creek Falls State Park was next on my list to visit.
The drive in along the Ocoee River in TN was an unexpected gift. Busloads of whitewater rafters and kayakers assembled at the river’s put-ins along a winding two-lane road. Now I knew why famous painter, Richard Lowe Evans, painted so many scenes of kayakers battling the currents of the Ocoee. It is a spectacular stretch of rocks, rapids, waterfalls, and eventually, an expansive lake embellished with forested mountains of breathtaking proportion.
Driving through Cleveland, TN, my GPS tried to route me under a train trestle that looked suspiciously low. In the 5 seconds I had to check my left mirror, change lanes and detour along a truck route, I spotted an enormous Class A RV that must have had the same idea, without my good luck. Their RV had turned just before the train trestle, with the nose of the vehicle parked way up on the grass, as far as it could go. The body blocked both lanes of traffic, while the owner frantically tried to unhitch his toad in order to detach and make the turn. Oy vey.
The rest of the trek was uneventful, except for the last 20 miles up and down mountain roads that were like warped ribbon candy that had melted in the sun. I’d forgotten that there are so many unexpected turns in the hills of Tennessee that they don’t bother with warning signs except for the very worst. You just had to expect them. By the time I’d plummeted down the mountain in one piece, I had to remind myself to breathe.
Rattled, there was no one at the Check-In station after 15 minutes of waiting, and I’d pre-registered, so I drove myself to my site. Missed the signpost, so had to back Gypsy in from a road that was less than a 90 degree angle. Fortunately, a passerby offered up her husband to finish the task, which I was grateful for.
I was really questioning my decision to camp here, but the next day’s explorations settled the question. This is one of the most restorative, well-maintained natural places I’ve ever been to. Thousands of other people agreed with me, since the park was nearly full to capacity with families who looked like they’d lived here a year in their fully decked-out campsites, however, there is a two week turnaround at Fall Creek Falls State Park. I’ve never seen so many babies and youngsters before. This is definitely a family friendly park.
After a two mile hike starting at the Nature Center, winding through the woods and along overlooks, I ended up at the Cascades, which were a two minute walk from the Nature Center.
This is what all those kids came here for! Sliding down the rocks, treading water in the deeper spots, sliding ankle deep across the algae covered flat stones of the creek, it was all fun. I hung out in the lower rapids, lounging in the shallow waters with the toddlers and leaving the rock sliding to folks with better backs. The Cascades called me back every day I stayed here, and after a torrential rainstorm the night before, were wild, wooly, and all mine to enjoy for half an hour the last day.
In addition to another swimming hole at Fall Creek Falls itself, down a challenging sharp-rock trail, there is an easily accessible, shallow swimming hole at George’s Hole just before the Nature Center. There were plenty of recreational pursuits for those who wanted to spend a little more, like a huge, rolling golf course, horse stables, tennis courts, boat rides, fishing, zip lines and more.
The campsites were generally large enough to park several vehicles in, but not all had full hookups. Be careful to specify what you want when you register. There were 2-3 bars of Verizon cell service, but no data connections. For tent campers there are improved campsites and primitive sites. Across Fall Creek Lake there is a mid-sized resort and conference center.
The guide at the Check-in station later told me there were six waterfalls within the park. I made it to five of them, but am not sure which was which for photo labeling. They were all unique, and gorgeous though, and well worth the drive.