Jan. 16, 2018: Burgess Falls State Park and Window Cliffs State Natural Area are closed due to dangerous road conditions.
Public Notice: The staircase at the main falls is inaccessible. The overlook is accessible, but the stairs down to the main falls will remained closed until further notice.
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 area was originally populated by Native Americans of the Cherokee, Creek and Chickasaw tribes. These tribes used the land as a hunting ground until the late 19th century when a gristmill and sawmill began operating on the river. The Falling Water River was used to generate hydroelectric power for the city of Cookeville from 1928-1944. In 1973, the territory became a designated Tennessee State Natural Area, protecting the diverse forest and aquatic habitats.
The park offers several activities for family and friends to enjoy year-round. Fishing is popular below the dam and the main waterfall along the bank and at the fishing pier. There are no public boat ramps or canoe/kayak access areas in the park. A large covered pavilion equipped with grills and tables can be reserved for large groups and has a scenic view of the river. Additional picnic areas, most with grills, are conveniently located to restrooms and a playground is nearby. None of the picnic tables are equipped with water spigots and all are available on a first come, first serve basis.
The 1.5-mile round-trip River Trail/Service Road Loop is a moderately strenuous hike taking visitors past the waterfalls and into the gorge. The waterfalls are 20’ cascades, 30’ upper falls, 80’ middle falls, and 136’ lower falls in height. A steep trail leads to the edge of the falls, and a rustic stairway leads into the gorge. This is not an easy hike; the trail from the main overlook to the bottom of the main falls is very strenuous. Most people prefer to hike back to the parking lot along the service road. The half-mile Ridge Top Trail is very scenic with views down the main canyon of Falling Water River. All trails are foot trails.
While the park is popular for its waterfalls, wildlife and wildflower viewing, the Native Butterfly Garden, adjacent to the upper parking area, is easily accessed and provides striking native wildflower displays. The annual Butterfly Garden Celebration is a family-friendly event featuring staff led educational programs, hikes, butterfly identification, creek studies, landscaping with native plants and more hosted each summer.
During the summer, Burgess Falls offers Junior Ranger Camps to local youth. Each week-long camp is geared toward specific age groups and led by park rangers. The camps are a fun, hands-on way for kids to learn environmental education and experience the park’s many natural resources.
Burgess Falls is a day use park with spring through autumn being the most popular time to visit. Guests may want to consider visiting on a weekday, when the park may not be as busy.
Window Cliffs State Natural Area
Window Cliffs is a 275-acre state natural area that opened for public access in April 2017. This day-use area is located in southern Putnam County approximately 18 miles south of Cookeville; it is managed by Burgess Falls State Park. Window Cliffs is a prominent geological clifftop feature that consists of a very narrow, elongated ridge that lies in the neck of an incised meander of Cane Creek.
Need to Know Before You Go
- The area opens at 8:00 AM and closes one hour before sunset, year-round. Window Cliffs is a day-use area.
- There is a 2.7 miles trail open for hiking. Please allow at least two and a half hours to three hours to complete the 5.4 mile roundtrip. Start your return hike one and a half hours before sunset. This trail is considered difficult to strenuous.
- A round trip requires 18 creek crossings which can be challenging or impassable during high water as there are no bridges, only cables and rock crossings. Water can, at times, begin to rise in the creek unexpectedly due to rain in the watershed. There will be times that the area is closed due to high water. Always check the weather reports before heading out.
- The less you take on the hike the better. It is best to limit belongings to items that will fit in a small back pack. Keep your hands free.
- Wear sturdy shoes that can get wet. Flipflops are not recommended.
- Pets are not allowed within Window Cliffs State Natural Area for safety reasons,.
- No camping is allowed, however cabins and camping are offered at Standing Stone State Park, Rock Island State Park, and Edgar Evins State Parks. Nearby Cookeville offers a variety of lodging options.
- DOWNLOAD WINDOW CLIFFS MAP
For more information about Window Cliffs State Natural Area, click here.
Park Trail Maps
Looking for a trail map? Click the link below to see a list of the maps available at this park. The page includes all the trail maps we have available, organized by park. We have free and paid options that provide you the details you need to have your next great adventure in Tennessee.