Tennessee’s Cumberland Mountains are filled with surprises. Tucked among the rolling hills and green peaks are countless misty cascades, hidden swimming holes, and quaint mountain communities. Here, you get all of the beauty of the Smokies minus the crushing crowds, and you’ll be closer to the hustle and bustle of Nashville. But once you fall in love with the waterfalls and wineries that dot the region, you might not ever want to leave the mountains.
Here are 10 must-see stops in this Tennessee region.
1. Fall Creek Falls State Park
Fall Creek Falls features many waterfalls, including one of the highest on this side of the Mississippi, and stunning panoramic views of streams and gorges. You can even swim below some of the waterfalls, like Cascade Falls, and hike to the base of the titular Fall Creek Falls. The park also features a spacious inn, an 18-hole golf course, and acres of hiking opportunities. If you’re feeling adventurous, Fall Creek Falls offers an obstacle course featuring zip lines and rope swings. Grab a guide upon arrival, so you can take advantage of as much of the state park as possible, and not get lost in its vast 20,000-plus acres.
2. Cumberland Mountain State Park
After a day or two of fun among the waterfalls, mosey on over to Cumberland Mountain State Park to continue your adventure. Located atop the forested Cumberland Plateau alongside Byrd Lake, there are countless opportunities for adventure and relaxation here, including a variety of trails, park events, and kayak and boat rentals. Enjoy the crisp mountain air and lush forests, and cool off with a dip.
3. Ozone Falls
Standing at more than 100 feet tall, Ozone Falls and all of its natural beauty can be easily reached by even the novice hiker. The falls are definitely worth the quick stop—it’s possible to see every side of them and get back to your car in under an hour. Feeling extra daring? Hike to the bottom and swim in the pool beneath. Parking here is easy, but limited.
4. Crossville / I-40 KOA
After an afternoon underneath the falls, a quick 10-minute drive west will take you to a camping experience for every kind of Tennessee adventurer. Conveniently accessible from the interstate, the Crossville / I-40 KOA offers fantastic amenities, whether you want to kick back and take in more of those gorgeous mountain views, or continue hiking, biking, and fishing. Lodges come with kitchen amenities and a TV, and the Deluxe Cabins and Camping Cabins offer similarly cozy accommodations. The KOA also offers a dog park, playground, volleyball court, and playroom for pool and games that everyone can enjoy.
5. Stonehaus Winery
One of the most well-known wineries in Tennessee, Stonehaus Winery welcomes guests with a free tasting of its delicious assortment of beverages. The decades-old winery offers quality wines in a friendly and sophisticated environment. For the wine aficionado, the occasional sipper, or anyone simply wanting to try something new, Stonehaus is a must-see stop on any trip through the mountains.
6. Virgin Falls State Natural Area
Virgin Falls State Natural Area features a stellar hike with multiple gorgeous waterfalls, caves, and waterways. Explore the area, take a dip under the falls, and walk the trail up some bluffs for additional views and a harder workout. Cool mists from the waterfalls are a refreshing reward throughout the trek, but bring water and prepare for a solid day of activity.
7. Burgess Falls State Park
Four waterfalls grace the strikingly beautiful Burgess Falls State Park. The trek is a little bit strenuous but you’ll be rewarded for your hard work. Or you can just take the quick trail to the main Burgess Falls; there are even stairs down to the base if you want to swim. Pictures don’t come close to doing these falls justice, so get out there and experience them all in person.
8. Cummins Falls State Park
The short but challenging hike to one of Tennessee’s largest falls is well worth the climb through the rocks and water. Cummins Falls State Park, an easy stop on the way to or from Nashville, spans more than 200 acres, so there is plenty of room to spread out and breathe in fresh air without feeling crowded. Take your time, stay cautious (if you climb down to the base of the falls, you’ll be navigating using guide ropes), and most importantly, stop and appreciate all the beauty in this natural wonderland.
9. Cellar 53 Winery
Cellar 53 Winery is a unique, small-scale, family-run farm that welcomes you with a variety of wines that change on a monthly basis. For more than a decade, the farm has grown wine grapes, and in 2015, the Paschal family opened their doors to the public. The family offers quality products using their own grape and blackberry vines, creating wines and local cheese pairings that you won’t find anywhere else. Live music and special events add to the intimate and homey setting.
10. Nashville East / Lebanon KOA
Get out of the city without going too far at the Nashville East / Lebanon KOA. Visitors have the opportunity to stay away from the crowds and enjoy the peace and quiet of nature, or camp here and still experience The Grand Ole Opry or any other Nashville treasure with a quick, 20-minute drive into the city. Great staff and clean amenities will make your stay an easy, relaxing one, and cornhole, basketball courts, and plenty of other activities offer fun for the entire family.