6 Reasons To Visit Cummins Falls State Park: Complete Guide With Photos

A 200-foot gorge that a waterfall spills into with a large swimming hole at the bottom?

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If you raised your hand and said “me two” or “me three”, the hidden gem of a destination we’re talking about here is called Cummins Falls State Park.

Cummins Falls State Park is nestled in the middle of Cookeville, Tennessee…about 80 miles east of Music City…AKA Nashville.

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It’s not all that big by state park standards at around 306 acres, but it punches above its weight class in terms of recreation thanks to its 75-foot waterfall and epic swimming hole that offers about as unique an experience as you’ll find in the southeast.

In this guide to Cummins Falls State Park, we’ll detail the six reasons you have to plan a visit here…along with a number of things you’ll really want to know before visiting.

6 Reasons You Have To Visit Cummins Falls This Year

Waterfall Adventures

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The park’s centerpiece is the magnificent Cummins Falls, Tennessee’s eighth-largest waterfall by volume.

Visitors are drawn to the breathtaking views of the cascading water and the opportunity to hike down to the base of the falls for swimming in the natural pool and hanging out directly under the waterfall.

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Hiking Trails

With several miles of trails winding through the park, hikers can explore the scenic beauty of the area. 

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The trails offer varying levels of difficulty, making it accessible for beginners as well as challenging for experienced hikers. 

These paths provide stunning views of the gorge, river, and surrounding woodland.

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Swimming Below The Falls

The pool at the base of Cummins Falls is a natural swimming hole that attracts visitors looking to cool off on hot summer days. 

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You can wade in most areas, but some areas are deep enough to tread water in.

Swimming here, with the waterfall as a backdrop, is a unique experience that combines the thrill of adventure with the beauty of nature.

Sitting Under The Falls

The natural rock formations that the waterfall spills onto form natural bleacher style seating areas where you can sit under the falls.

You can sit directly under and let the waterfall spill onto you, or you can find a seat behind the falls for a unique look at the water cascading down while looking out over the natural pool.

Picnics, Ice Cream & Souvenirs

 Visitors can enjoy a picnic in designated areas with the soothing sounds of the waterfall and the beauty of the surrounding nature. 

There’s even ice cream and souvenirs for sale at the Old Mill Camp General Store, a little shop just at the head of the park.

It’s a perfect way to relax and enjoy a meal after exploring the trails or swimming.

Photography Opportunities 

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For photography enthusiasts, the park offers endless subjects, from the dramatic waterfall and lush landscapes to wildlife and wildflowers. 

The natural beauty of the area, especially during sunrise or sunset, creates perfect conditions for capturing stunning photographs.

Fun Facts About Cummins Falls

  • Cummins Falls is one of the newest state parks in Tennessee, only established as of 2011.
  • Cummins Falls won the award for State Park of the Year in Tennessee in 2021.
  • The gorge that Cummins Falls flows down into is around 200 feet deep.
  • Cummins Falls is the eighth-largest waterfall in Tennessee by water volume.

What You Need To Know About Cummins Falls Before Visiting

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  • You have to get a permit to enter the gorge and hike to the base of the waterfall.
  • Only 200 people are able to get a permit each day, so you need to plan ahead of time and reserve yours well in advance.
  • You can purchase a maximum of 12 permits at once, and they cost $6 each.  You can obtain permits here.
  • Rangers check permits at the trailhead down to the base of Cummins Falls, so you won’t be able to make it down without one.
  • You’ll need either a printed or digital (on your phone) copy of your dated permit to show the rangers.
  • One permit is required per person.
  • The gorge area of Cummins Falls State Park closes at 5 PM every day in season, so that everyone at the base of the falls can make their way to exit the park by its closing time of 6 PM.
  • The gorge will only open on days the weather is decent, and will remain closed during inclement weather.
  • Leashed pets are allowed in the park and at the base of the falls in the swimming area.
  • No coolers, alcohol, or floats are allowed in the gorge or at the falls.

What To Bring To Cummins Falls

  • Water shoes or shoes with good grips are highly recommended.  You’ll be walking over slippery rocks at the base of the falls and around the swimming area.
  • Life jackets if you have children under the age of 13 with you.  Kids 12 and under are required to wear a life jacket in the gorge area.  Some life jackets are available at the falls, but they may run out.
  • A water protective phone carrier or holder if you plan to swim or hang out at the falls.
  • Your permit(s) and money if you’d like to take advantage of the ice cream for sale in the park.

Two Different Routes Down To the Falls

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There are two different routes you can take down into the gorge to the waterfall and swimming hole.

One is around two miles out and back, with the other being around three miles out and back.

Both routes take you through steep, uneven terrain with pretty significant elevation drops.

Both trails include shallow water crossings, scrambling over boulders and various other obstacles.

Route One 

  • Only two miles out and back, it’s the shortest route to the falls.
  • While shorter, it offers no overlook area to see a view of the falls on your way down.

Route Two

  • Three miles out and back, it’s the longer of the two routes to the falls.
  • While longer, it’s the more scenic route and offers a beautiful overlook view of the falls below as you head down the trail.

Final Word

Cummins Falls State Park makes for a fun and unique experience, but you’ll have to get in a little exercise to experience it.

And you’ll want to plan ahead, as this hidden gem does get a little popular during the summer months…especially on the weekends.

But being capped at 200 visitors per day, you can usually avoid any crowds if you come early.