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The 10 Best Hikes near Nashville, TN

Want to see a little bit of what Tennessee has to offer for some outdoor fun? Here are some great hiking and swimming holes all the locals go to that are within a 2 hr drive from the Music City!

By: Katie Y + Save to a List

Welcome to Nashville! We are home to some of the greatest musicians, national sports teams, and some good ol' honky tonk bars. What you may not know is that Nashville is also within a short drive to some of Tennessee's most beautiful outdoor scenes that many of those country songs are written about. In fact, Tennessee has 56 state parks, one national park, and over 500 waterfalls, most of which are in the eastern part of the state. Want a peek at what the Nashville locals do for some good outdoor fun? Here's a list of some of the best places for hiking, swimming holes, and an outdoor getaway that's all within 30 minutes to a 2 hr drive from Nashville.

In no particular order...

1. Hike to Cummins Falls

Photo: Matthew Ady

Bring some snacks, swimming clothes, and water shoes. This is one popular swimming hole, so be sure to come early to hike in and enjoy a little bit of it before the crowds. 8th largest waterfall in Tennessee. Be ready for a little rock scrambling to hike to this place. Dog-Friendly with a leash :) You'll love it! Learn more

2. Fall Creek Falls

A wide, shallow, waterfall
Photo: Katie Yarborough

This park hosts a waterfall that is over 256 feet and an abundance of hiking trails with other waterfalls included. There's rock climbing, swimming holes, camping, lodges, pools, learning classrooms for kids, and more spread over 26,000 acres of land. Learn more.

3. South Cumberland State Park

A misty waterfall surrounded by rocks.
Photo: Katie Yarborough

This state park is divided into two sections, Savage Gulf and Fierry Gizzard. Visit both for waterfalls, trails and camping. Rock climbing is popular at this park as well. The Fiery Gizzard Trail is a 12.5 mile long one-way trail that connects the Grundy Forest and Foster Falls. Here you will see spectacular rock formations, cascading streams, waterfalls, rocky gorges, panoramic overlooks and lush woodlands. This trail has been rated by Backpacker Magazine as one of the Top 25 in the country and should not be missed. Learn more.

4. Short Springs Natural Area

A young person sitting on a rock at the base of a tall series of waterfalls.
Photo: Katie Yarborough

This is a short trip that is great for only having one day free. About 5 miles worth of trails. You are able to see 4 to 5 waterfalls, a swimming hole during good rains, and some pretty wildflowers! Learn more here and here.

5. Ozone Falls

A very tall waterfall
Photo: Katie Yarborough

Ozone Falls is a 110-foot plunge waterfall that is bound to awe you with the intensity, when you walk behind the falls. Because of its picturesque beauty and easy access, Disney selected Ozone Falls to film scenes for the live action movie "The Jungle Book." This is also a nice swimming hole during the summer months. Learn more.

6. Stillhouse Falls

A long-haired person sits next to a misty waterfall.
Photo: Katie Yarborough

Another great, short hike to squeeze into half a day is Stillhouse Falls. It is only a 1.1 mile round trip hike and showcases a 75 feet waterfall that is nice hangout spot to bring your hammock, book, dog, and kids! Learn more.

7. Rock Island

A wide waterfall with thin, misty falls over rocks.
Photo: Andrew Conaway

The Caney Fork River Gorge here at Rock Island State Park contains scenic overlooks, waterfalls, deep pools and limestone paths perfect for hiking, swimming, fishing, kayaking, and exploring. It also features a natural sand beach and boating access on Center Hill Lake. Camping and lodges are also available at the park for all size groups. Learn more here and here.

8. Welch's Point and Virgin Falls

A long-haired woman is sitting on the edge of a rock tower. There are green and blue-tinted mountains and the sun is setting in the background.
Photo: Katie Yarborough

Have a nice long day to spend hiking and ending with a picnic and sunset or able to camp a day or two? Virgin Falls State Natural Area hosts a 9 mile round trip hike with 3 waterfalls and a beautiful forest trail that is going to end with the incredible Virgin Falls 110 foot drop. This place includes the Caney Fork river, Scott's Gulf, swimming holes, and camping! Learn more here and here.

9. Harpeth River State Park

A long-haired person perched on a rock cliff over misty rocks and mountains below. The sun is setting in the background.
Photo: Katie Yarborough

Wanting a place to get in a kayak or canoe for a day trip? This is your place! There's a couple companies that let you rent kayaks and canoes and will carry you out and pick you up! The rates range $29-$34 per kayak and canoe depending on how long of a trip you want to go down the river. Bringing your own kayak or canoe? No problem! There's plenty of parking areas around the drop off points. This is quite the popular place in the summer for swimming and floating the river, so come early! Begin or end your trip with a quick hike up the Bluff trail and historic window waterfall spot that is short and sweet! There's also camping at this great park, so be sure to check that out if you have a couple days free. Learn more.

10. Burgess Falls

A wide waterfall surrounded by green trees.
Photo: Jeremiah Yoak

Burgess Falls State Park, located on the Falling Water River, is a day use park, noted for its natural beauty and four waterfalls that cascade down from over 250 feet in elevation. The last of these falls is the most spectacular, plunging more than 130 feet into the gorge. The state park allows fishing near the dam and picnic tables for a nice pit stop for lunch! There is a 1.5 mile moderate trail that leads past waterfalls and a gorge. Unfortunately, unless you kayak in, the bottom of the falls is inaccessible from storms destroying the staircase down. Don't let that stop you from the great overlook you still can view this immaculate waterfall, swimming holes, trails, and fishing! Learn more.

Head to Visit Nashville for more great travel and lodging recommendations.

Cover photo: Katie Yarborough

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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