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  • Writer's pictureDan Wagner

Explore Tennessee's Twin Falls

Tucked away in the middle of rural Tennessee, at the confluence of the Caney Fork, Collins, and Rocky Rivers, sits Rock Island State Park's eighty foot Twin Falls, one of the more unique waterfalls in the Southeast. What makes Twin Falls special is that they actually seep out of the Caney Fork River Gorge wall not over it. While exceptionally beautiful and massive in size, they're not naturally formed waterfalls, rather a coincidental byproduct of the 1925 damming of the Caney Fork River. After the dam's construction, an increase in pressure began forcing water outward and cracks in the gorge's limestone provided an escape route for the water. Those cracks eventually led out to the gorge wall creating Twin Falls.


Twin Falls Tennessee

Trailhead elevation 745'

Water All along the Caney Fork River

Don't miss Scrambling down to the shore past the main viewing area, nearby Blue Hole Trail


Hiking to Twin Falls

Viewing the falls is super easy. Simply park at the Downstream Trailhead, walk down a short flight of stairs, and you're there. Parking at this trailhead however is limited and can be tough to get on the weekends. The photo below was taken about 200' from the trailhead not far from the staircase.


Twin Falls Tennessee

The official trail runs about thirty feet above the Caney Fork River and is clearly marked. Once you're on it you'll find that there are no established spur trails leading down to the river, but you can make your way down really at any point. We recommend scrambling down to the river shortly after the falls to get a view similar to that in the photo below. There are generally far fewer crowds after the falls.


Twin Falls Tennessee

The trail continues for another half mile or so before forming a small lollipop loop, but there's not much in terms of views. If you turn back shortly after the falls you're not missing much.


Another popular trail in the park, the half mile round trip Upstream Trail, can be found on the far side of the parking area from the Downstream Trailhead and leads to two fairly popular swimming holes known as Ice Hole/Cold Hole and Warm Hole. Neither are marked on any map, but are easy to find. Cliff jumping is prohibited here, but there were plenty of people jumping when we were there. If you were to continue along the rocks after the trail ends you'd reach Great Falls a bit further down. The best view of Great Falls is on the opposite side of the Caney Fork, so you'd have to cross over at some point. Like Ice Hole/Cold Hole and Warm Hole, swimming is permitted at Great Falls. This is also the best swimming hole in our opinion. Fewer crowds and taller ledges for cliff jumping. From the top of Great Falls you can see the Great Falls Dam a bit further upstream. Pretty simple to get to all of the swimming holes, but there's one thing to keep in mind. You absolutely do not want to be in this area or along the shore of the Downstream Trail when the Great Falls Dam is let out. The park periodically does this and being in these areas when it happens is no bueno. A deafening siren is sounded prior to the dam release, but we recommend checking with the park prior to your visit to see if there's a scheduled release. If you're not interested in swimming holes you're better off skipping this one as that's the main draw here.


About fifteen minutes from the Upstream and Downstream Trailheads, on the opposite side of the gorge, you'll find the trailhead for Blue Hole, another very popular trail. The short, but steep trail winds down multiple staircases eventually leading to the shore of the Caney Fork River. During the descent you'll pass by several cascades and small waterfalls that almost give off a tropical vibe. At the bottom of the trail you'll find the area in the photo below, usually about ankle deep.


Blue Hole Rock Island State Park

From here, we highly recommend exploring the area in both directions as there are many waterfalls that you can walk behind, through, and in front of like the one below.


Blue Hole Rock Island State Park

You're not going to come back dry on this one, so a Ziploc for your phone and water shoes are highly recommended. Due to strong currents swimming is off limits at Blue Hole. Super fun trail that's more about exploring than hiking.


If you're looking for more things to do in the general area, Burgess Falls State Park is about thirty minutes north and features one of the state's most beautiful waterfalls, Fall Creek Falls State Park, home to the state's tallest waterfall is about forty-five minutes southeast, Greeter Falls is forty-five minutes south, and our favorite waterfall in Tennessee, Foster Falls, is a little over an hour south. Big Bone State Natural Area and Big Bone Cave are only fifteen minutes away and worth checking out as well.

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