3-Day Winter Waterfall Getaway in Middle Tennessee
December 1, 2021 | Permalink
Nestled in the rolling hills of middle Tennessee, Edgar Evins State Park sits in Silver Point, 30 minutes west of Cookeville and 1 hour east of Nashville. The park runs along the shores of Center Hill Lake, close to the Caney Fork River that sits below the lake’s dam. The park offers a campground, cabins, visitor center, aviary, gift shop, lookout tower, boat ramps, and an abundance of outdoor activities.
Day One - Travel & Settle In
The first day is a classic road trip to the park. As you approach Silver Point, you’ll begin to glide over the rolling hills that are iconic to this area of middle Tennessee. If you’re traveling from the west along I-40, you’ll cross the Caney Fork river five times in under 4 miles right before exiting the interstate. Once you're off the interstate, the following five miles to the park entrance are filled with gorgeous views of farmland and rolling hills in the distance. If you’re nearing the park around sunset, this drive is especially picturesque.
Tip: If you’re traveling from the east, grab a bite to eat in Cookeville before finishing your journey to the park. There are tons of great restaurants, breweries, and sweet treats to choose from. Learn more about Cookeville.
Once you arrive at the park, stop at the visitor center to grab your cabin keys, explore the gift shop, or climb the lookout tower for your first glance at Center Hill Lake. If you’re arriving at the park early enough to fit in some activities, check out:
- Check out the Dunham Cemetery Trail – 0.10 miles. View trail on the map.
- Explore the playground and picnic area near the marina. View area on the map.
- Catch the sunset from the Courtesy Dock parking lot. View on the map.
The wooden-platform campsites provide a unique experience for RV and text campers with the comforts of water and electric hookups. Some sites are nestled in the trees, while others are on the lakeshore with incredible water views. There are also nine primitive campsites without water or electricity, nestled in the woods with some sites offering lake views. The camp store is open from March – October.
The cabin rentals sit on the shoreline overlooking Center Hill Lake. Like condos, they have a split-level design with the kitchen and living area on the upper level and the bedroom on the lower level with the bathroom by the entrance foyer. Each suite can accommodate six adults with two double beds in the bedroom and a sofa sleeper in the living room. A pool is open to cabin guests in the summer, and a courtesy dock is available year-round.
Day Two - Cummins Falls
Bundle up, grab a thermos of something hot, and go for a morning walk by the lake before the rest of the park wakes up. If you’re staying in a cabin, you can take the short trail down to the Courtesy Dock for great views of the lake. If you’re staying in campsites 1-60, you can walk down from your site right to the lakeshore! Then head back to your cabin or campsite to enjoy a hearty breakfast and grab your hiking gear.
Today you’re headed 30 miles northeast to explore the 75-foot waterfall at Cummins Falls State Park*. This park is known for its refreshing swimming hole in the summer, but fewer crowds in the winter make it the perfect time for introverts, families with young kids, and photographers who don’t want people wandering into their shots to visit.
Take the Falls Overlook Trail that begins at the trailhead behind the visitors center down to the overlook. This trail is .45 miles and ends with an incredible view of the falls. After soaking in the sites and sounds at the overlook, head back to the visitors center to warm up and explore the gift shop.
Want to hike to the base of the waterfall? If you want to enter the gorge and hike to the base of the falls, you should note that the hike does require multiple stream crossings, and a Gorge Access Permit is required. These stream crossings and the water levels can make the hike uncomfortable, dangerous, or inaccessible. Stop by the visitor center before attempting to enter the gorge and speak with staff about the accessibility of the hike and the conditions of the day.
*In the winter, the park is open from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm.
If you’re still in the mood for some hiking, check out the park’s newest 3-mile Delia Bell Meadow Trail that allows access to an overlook of the Blackburn Fork River. For lunch, head 20 minutes southeast to Cookeville and grab something tasty!
Back at Edgar Evins, head to the interpretive center and check out the resident birds at the park’s aviary. The aviary birds, such as owls and hawks, are brought to the park when they have been found by the public or injured in the wild. The hope is to return them to the wild, but birds with permanent injuries often become residents at the park aviaries and are cared for by trained park staff.
Head back to your home base cabin or campsite and start whipping up some dinner. You’ve earned it after all that hiking! There is a grill and firepit at each campsite, and the cabins offer full kitchens and three outdoor bbq grills. Enjoy your meal around the warm campfire or from the kitchen table of your cozy cabin.
Day Three - Burgess Falls
Henry David Thoreau said, “An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day," and we’re about to prove him right. This morning you’re headed out to explore one of the park’s hiking trails. Choose one that fits:
- Up & at ‘Em: Highland Rim Trail, 1.35 miles
- Kid-Friendly: Storybook Trail, 0.40 miles
- Slow and Steady: Edgar Evins Ridge Trail, 0.60 miles
Hop in the car and drive 25 miles southeast to Burgess Falls State Park. This park is home to four waterfalls that cascade down from over 250 feet in elevation. The fourth and most spectacular waterfall plunges more than 130 feet into the gorge. Start at the River Trail trailhead and hike 0.50 miles to the Burgess Falls overlook, or hike on the road to access the overlook. The road starts at the parking lot and is only open to pedestrians. It’s an ideal option for those with strollers or accessibility needs.
You and your crew are probably feeling up for a little more adventure, but some food and drinks might not hurt either. Head over to Happy Trails Brewing and Taproom to warm up and relax with a burger and maybe a cold beverage. The Trailhead Grub restaurant inside the brewery serves handcrafted sandwiches, burgers, wraps, salads, smoothies!
The sun disappears early in the winter, and today you’re going to catch the sunset, so head back to the park in time.
Tonight we’re watching the sunset over the lake. A great spot to catch the show is from the parking lot above the courtesy dock. You can grab some blankets and stay cozy in your car (just please don’t idle) or bring some lawn chairs to enjoy the show. If you’re camping from a site on the lakeshore, you can enjoy the sunset from your site.
Later in the evening, after you’ve changed and eaten, head outside on your final night to do a bit of stargazing. End the night with something warm to drink, chatting about your favorite parts of the trip as you prepare for your departure the next morning.
Ready to Go?
Edgar Evins State Park | Specs
Things to Do
- Fishing on Center Hill Lake and the Caney Fork River (known for Trout)
- Kayaking on Center Hill Lake
- Kayaking on the Caney Fork River
- Dining - The Marina Restaurant is open seasonally
- Shopping at the Gift Shop
- Lookout Tower
- Picnic Area
- Park Programs (Free or at Minimal Cost)
- Close to waterfalls at Cummins Falls and Burgess Falls State Park
Places to Stay
- Camp Store
- Certified Heat Treated Firewood for Sale Onsite
- Free Boat Ramps
- Courtesy Dock for Cabin Guests
- Cable TV – Cabins