Upper Piney Falls

Cumberland Mountain State Park, Tennessee, USA

About Upper Piney Falls

Hiking Distance: 3-4 miles round trip (both falls)
Suggested Time: 90 minutes (both falls)

Date first visited: 2012-10-24
Date last visited: 2012-10-24

Waterfall Latitude: 35.73105
Waterfall Longitude: -84.86353

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Upper Piney Falls was a pretty 80ft waterfall that we got to walk behind. In an effort to avoid confusion, we’re sticking with designating the main waterfalls on this page the Upper and Lower Piney Falls (yes there’s a second waterfall here) because there happened to be another Piney Falls in Falls Creek Falls State Park further to the west near Spencer.

There seemed to be a bit of confusion regarding how dangerous visiting the falls was, but after our experience, those claims were either exaggerated or they were describing the conditions prior to improvements (especially regarding the signage) that we benefitted from.

From the small car park and trailhead (see directions below), we followed a wide trail that made a curve around what appeared to be a sign board except there was no sign on it. Instead, there were etchings (graffiti, if you will) on the wooden foundation with conflicting claims of how dangerous the descent to the base of the Upper Piney Falls was. While such messages planted seeds of doubt about whether we could visit the falls or not, we proceeded nonetheless.

Lower Piney Falls
This part of the hike was pretty straightforward as it meandered on what appeared to be an old unpaved road beneath tall trees (said to be old growth) with plenty of Fall colors to boot. Along the way, we passed by what appeared to be a small wire rope barricade though we weren’t sure what it was for. Eventually, we reached a junction where clearly-marked signboards on trees pointed the way to either the base of Upper Falls (left) or the top of Upper Falls (right). Since we weren’t interested in going to the top of the falls, we went left.

At this point, the trail got a bit narrower with one short steep part that I’m sure would be easy to miss on the return if not for the trail markings. Eventually, we’d reach another junction where going left descended steeply for the Lower Piney Falls (we came back here later) and the right went continued to the base of Upper Piney Falls.

At this point, the trail started to hug the escarpment responsible for the plunge of Little Piney Creek over Upper Piney Falls. We happened to chance upon a dead deer by the trail during our hike, which we suspected were due to illegal hunting (as signs indicated this place prohibited such acts).

Eventually after roughly 1.5 or 2 miles (just a guess), the trail reached the Upper Piney Falls and even continued behind the falls as well as a little beyond it for a different angled view. Unfortunately, the late morning sun was against us from that different angled view, which made photography from there a bit difficult.

However, we did notice that the cliff wall adjacent to the trail here exhibited what appeared to be faintly discernable basalt formations (not sure if it is indeed basalt or not though). Whatever the case may be, it clued us in that this cliff was probably volcanic in origin and this layer of hard rock was why the creek plunged the way it did. This cliff also dripped water attesting to the amount of upstream moisture that spread from the creek and into the soil and vegetation.

Returning back to the junction with Lower Piney Falls, I made a very steep descent (might be even trickier if the ground was muddy and wet) towards a top down view of the smaller 40ft waterfall itself. I don’t think there was a safe way to get to the bottom of this one and I didn’t feel like trying. Plus, the sun was totally against me while most of the falls was in shadow so I didn’t linger here too long.

Just to give you an idea of time, we spent about 90 minutes to do all the hiking and photo taking for both waterfalls.


Since we drove here from Ozone Falls, we’ll describe the route going from there to the trailhead for the Piney Falls. Perhaps Ozone Falls visitors in the mood for another adventure might also do as we did. At least that’s my thinking. Anyways, for directions to Ozone Falls, see the directions on that page. Logistically speaking, Ozone Falls was 48 miles (under an hour drive) east of Cookeville and 57 miles (about an hour drive) west of Knoxville.

Leaving Ozone Falls, we drove about 5.5 miles west on Hwy 70 before turning left onto the rural (but paved) Cox Valley Rd. Continuing another 3.4 miles on Cox Valley Rd, we eventually connected with Hwy 68.

Turning left onto Hwy 68, we then drove another 11.7 miles into the unincorporated town of Grandview. While in town, we turned right onto Firetower Rd (though Emergency Rd just before it also connected to Firetower Rd and was less rougher) and followed this unpaved road for about 1.6 miles. The limited car park and trailhead was on the right.

To give you some geographical context, Cookeville was 81 miles (90 minutes drive) east of Nashville, 102 miles (over 90 minutes drive) west of Knoxville, and 99 miles (2 hours drive) north of Chattanooga.

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L-shaped bottom up sweep of the Upper Piney Falls' profile

Top down sweep panning up at the overhanging cliffs before doing a top down sweep of the falls then panning to the right at the plunge pool

Right to left sweep looking down at Lower Piney Falls in its shadowy gorge

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Tagged with: cumberland, mountain, state park, rhea county, knoxville, tennessee, waterfall, jungle book, mcnair falls, ozone

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