Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Lifestyles

June 26, 2014

Adventure awaits at Fall Creek Falls State Park

CROSSVILLE — It's Tennessee's largest and most visited state park, has been listed among the top state parks in the U.S., and it's practically in Cumberland County's back yard.

Fall Creek Falls includes more than 26,000 acres, with four waterfalls, including the highest waterfall in the eastern U.S., a lake, rivers and swimming holes, more than 50 miles of hiking, a resort, restaurant and golf course. Just this summer, a new attraction was added with a zip line offering thrill seekers a variety of obstacles and adventures.

Fall Creek Falls offers a variety of hiking trails with different levels of difficulty, taking hikers to overlooks for the big falls, Fall Creek Falls, as well as Piney Creek Falls, Cane Creek Falls and Cane Creek Cascades. If you want to go to the base of Fall Creek Falls, it's only a .4-mile hike down and then back up, but don't let that short distance fool you. This hike is challenging, with a steep climb down over boulders, stairs and a rough footway, and then you still have to make your way back up. But the view from the bottom of the falls, from the shaded, rock-strewn pool will reward your efforts.

For those seeking something a little less strenuous, there is an easily accessible swimming hole at the base of the Cane Creek Cascades, with lots of rocks and cool, refreshing water calling to you on a hot summer day.

You can pick up trail maps at the Betty Dunn Nature Center, which also offers information on the region's unique geology and ecology, as well as cultural history. Interpretive rangers based at the nature center offer scheduled programs throughout the year, from hikes and canoe trips to spelunking and more.

The newest attraction is the zip line, with ArborTrek Canopy Adventures and The Adventure Guild LLC offering a two-and-a-half hour self-guided tour that explores the hardwoods overlooking the lake.

A grand opening is set for today, June 27.

Promoters say visitors ages 4 to 94 can enjoy the zip line. They simply step up to the platform, connect their full-body harness and follow their chosen path. There are six courses of varying difficulty, from easy to extreme. 

As visitors move through the obstacles of wood, rope, steel and cable, they use a "smart-belay" lanyard. The obstacles can include ladders and bridges, cargo nets, rope swings and more. With each obstacle, the visitor gains a little altitude, to a maximum of 42 feet.

Each person takes a "ground school" demonstration to know how to use the belay system and harness, and the attraction does have size and weight restrictions to ensure the safety of those participating. Visitors must be at least 40 pounds and properly fit the harness and protective equipment. There is a minimum reach of 66 inches while standing with both feet on the ground. Those unable to reach that height will be limited to a climbing adventure with an adult. Ages 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

In addition, the park also offers horseback riding in the trail, with Fall Creek Falls Stables in the park and two miles of trail. Bikers can enjoy the Upper Loop Trail, a 13.5-mile loop that will challenge bikers with a few rocky sections and nice climbs in tight quarters with open and flowing sections. There are also six- and eight-mile trails open to mountain bikes.

Those preferring a cement pond to the swimming holes can find those, too, with an Olympic-size pool and wading pool offered, with lifeguards on duty.

There is plenty of activity to keep you busy for more than just one day. If you wanted to turn your road trip into an overnight stay, there are accommodations ranging from campsites to cabins and the 145-room inn, which offers a view of the lake.

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