Cummins Falls State Park is an idyllic, but rugged, 211-acre day-use park located nine miles north of Cookeville on the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River on the Eastern Highland Rim. Located in the Cordell Hull Watershed, the area has been a scenic spot and swimming hole for local residents of Jackson and Putnam counties for more than 100 years. Cummins Falls is Tennessee’s eighth largest waterfall in volume of water and is 75 feet high.
The gorge area of the park is a natural feature unaltered by man, as is most of the park. Therefore, there are inherent hazards. While very beautiful, this is a rugged area.
The gorge and waterfall are not easily accessed and can only be reached by foot. There are two routes that descend into the gorge. One is approximately one mile and the other is approximately 1.5 miles. Both routes are steep with uneven terrain and have significant elevation drops. Natural trail surfaces are varied and include water crossings, boulders and other obstacles.
Trails and rocks at the waterfall and gorge area are often slippery, so wear sturdy shoes and remember safety first. Keep in mind the weather when planning your visit. Sudden heavy rainfalls can result in flash floods and streams can become very dangerous.
What to Know Before You Go
The main parking area, restrooms, trailheads and a designated picnic area are located above the falls. The overlook is nearby and can be accessed by foot. ADA access is available upon request.
To make your visit to our park as safe and enjoyable as possible, know the risks. Use good judgment and common sense when deciding whether you should hike down to the waterfall or view it from above, at the overlook. If you decide to hike to the bottom of the waterfall please use caution and follow these guidelines.
- The hike to the gorge is not an improved trail. This is an adventurous hike and is not suitable for small children.
- USCG approved life jackets are advised if you plan to get in the water below the falls. While some life jackets are available at the park, we recommend bringing your own.
- The less you take to the bottom of the waterfall 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. Flipflops are not recommended.
- Rather than try to take a picnic to the gorge area, plan to eat in the designated picnic area and just take snacks and water to the gorge.
- Alcoholic beverages are not allowed in the park.
- Coolers are not allowed in the gorge.
- Pool floats are not allowed in the plunge pool.
Cummins Falls’ rich history includes a time when Indians used the area to track the numerous buffalo that wallowed in the river’s shallow areas. In the 1790s, Sergeant Blackburn, a veteran of the Revolutionary War and for whom the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River was named, was awarded the land in lieu of a pension. The land was acquired by John Cummins in 1825, and he used the land to build the first of two mills. Because of his growing clientele, a larger second mill was built in 1845. Local residents would visit the mills and the falls for both commerce and recreation.
The mill was washed away during the great flood of 1928, but cars and paved highways had already begun to make the trek to Cummins Falls more accessible. The land was not rebuilt, but stayed with the Cummins family for more than 180 years until efforts by the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation to purchase the land through private and public donations for resale to the state of Tennessee.