The 10 best hikes near Nashville, TN

Want to see what Tennessee has to offer for outdoor fun? Here are some great hiking and swimming holes the locals love within a two-hour drive of 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 good ol' honky tonk bars. You may not know that Nashville is also within a short drive to some of Tennessee's most beautiful outdoor spaces that many of those country songs are written about. 

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 outdoor fun? Here are some of the best places for hiking, swimming, and an outdoor getaway, all within 30 minutes to two hours from Nashville.

In no particular order...

10 Hikes near Nashville, Tennessee

1. Hike to Cummins Falls

A wide waterfall cascades over rocks and into a teal blue pool near Nashville, Tennessee.
Photo: Matthew Ady

Bring snacks, swimming clothes, and water shoes to visit this beautiful falls - the 8th largest in the state! This is one popular swimming hole, so be sure to come early to hike in and enjoy some solitude before the crowds. Be ready for a little rock scrambling to get there. The trail is dog-friendly so long as your pup is wearing a leash. 

2. Fall Creek Falls

A wide, shallow, waterfall surrounded by green trees lit up by the sun near Nashville, Tennessee.
Photo: Katie Yarborough

This park hosts several waterfalls, including one over 256 feet tall, and an abundance of hiking trails. There are rock climbing spots, swimming holes, campsites, lodges, pools, learning classrooms for kids, and more adventure opportunities spread over 26,000 acres of land.

3. South Cumberland State Park

A misty waterfall surrounded by rocks. Driftwood fills the bottom third of the image as it sits at the edge of the waterfall pool near Nashville, Tennessee.
Photo: Katie Yarborough

This state park is divided into two sections; Savage Gulf and Fiery Gizzard. Visit both for waterfalls, trails, and camping. Rock climbing is popular here, too. The Fiery Gizzard Trail is a 12.5-mile 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. Backpacker Magazine rated this trail as one of the Top 25 in the country!

4. Short Springs Natural Area

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

Only have one free day? Stop by this natural area with around five miles of trails. Here, you can see  four to five waterfalls (depending on the season and water levels), a swimming hole during good rains, and some wildflowers! 

5. Ozone Falls

A very tall waterfall near Nashville, Tennessee.
Photo: Katie Yarborough

Ozone Falls is a 110-foot plunge waterfall bound to inspire awe with its intensity. You can even walk behind the falls for a closer look! 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, so bring your swimsuit or clothes you're ok with getting wet!

6. Stillhouse Falls

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

Stillhouse Falls is a great short hike that takes only an hour or two. This 1.1-mile round trip hike showcases a 75-foot waterfall that is a nice hangout spot. Bring your hammock, book, dog, and kids!

7. Rock Island

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

The Caney Fork River Gorge 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 available at the park for all size groups. 

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 near Nashville, Tennessee.
Photo: Katie Yarborough

Plan to visit Welch's Point and Virgin Falls for a nice long day to spend hiking and end with a picnic and sunset. You could also camp for a day or two! Virgin Falls State Natural Area hosts a 9-mile round-trip hike with three waterfalls and a beautiful forest trail to the incredible 110-foot drop at Virgin Falls. This area hosts the Caney Fork River, Scott's Gulf, swimming holes, and camping! 

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 near Nashville, Tennessee.
Photo: Katie Yarborough

Want to get in a kayak or canoe for a day trip? This park is your place! There are plenty of parking areas around the drop-off points at the water for people to launch canoes and kayaks. The park is quite a popular place for swimming and floating the river in the summer, so come early to avoid crowds! Begin or end your trip with a quick hike up the Bluff trail and see the historic window waterfall spot! There's also camping at this great park, so check that out if you have a couple of days free.

10. Burgess Falls

A wide waterfall surrounded by green trees near Nashville, Tennessee.
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 of rock faces. 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 has picnic tables perfect for eating 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 due to storms destroying the staircase. Don't let that stop you from viewing this pristine waterfall!

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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