Chasing Chattanooga Waterfalls

An Adventurer’s Guide to Chattanooga’s Most Cherished Cascades

It’s no secret that the Chattanooga area has its fair share of waterfalls, many of which are easy to visit. While each of these spectacular falls has its own unique characteristics – some are tall, some boast a high volume of water, some tumble into shimmering pools begging for a swim – they’re all sure to impress adventurers of all ages.

Whether you’re doing it for the photo-op or you simply enjoy basking in nature’s beauty, chasing waterfalls is a fun way to spend a sunny weekend. See how many you can check off this list, featuring waterfalls within an hour’s driving distance of downtown Chattanooga.

Glenn Falls

Glen Falls

Driving Time: 10 minutes

Difficulty Level: Easy

Although it might not boast the impressive stature of many of the waterfalls on this list, Lookout Mountain’s Glen Falls is one of the most accessible waterfalls to downtown Chattanooga, and it’s absolutely worth the drive. To visit, find the small parking area on Ochs Highway – there should be a sign for Glen Falls. By taking the trail, you’ll arrive at the waterfall a short half-mile later. Once there, you can cross the wooden bridge that bisects the falls and continue walking until you see stone steps on your right. Take the stairs, pass through a small tunnel in the rock, and you’ll gain access to the creek above the falls, perfect for exploring alone or with the whole family in tow. Glen Falls is at its best after a big rain or in springtime, so plan accordingly!

Lula Falls

Lula Falls

Driving Time: 20 minutes

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Part of the Lula Lake Land Trust property, Lula Falls is one of the region’s greatest treasures. There are actually two falls – the Upper Falls and the Lower Falls – but at over 100 feet tall, the Lower Falls reigns supreme. While the falls flow year-round, a heavy winter rain will turn them thunderous as they smash onto the bedrock below. The shortest hike to the falls from the parking lot is 4.2 miles round-trip, so be sure to wear proper shoes and bring a bottle of water for the trek. Note that while you can hike to the base of the falls, the area is quite slick and should be explored with caution. The Lula Lake property is open to the general public on select weekends, and reservations are required. Make your reservation at lulalake.org/visit.

Falling Water Falls

Falling Water Falls

Driving Time: 25 minutes

Difficulty Level: Easy

Looking for little effort with a big reward? Then pay a visit to the Falling Water Falls State Natural Area, a small parcel of land with one of the tallest waterfalls around (110 feet!). A short hike – less than 1,000 feet – from the parking lot leads to the top of Falling Water, which cascades from the Cumberland Plateau’s edge to a rocky gorge below; after a big rain, the misting falls are especially dramatic. Visitors are also treated to a commanding view of the Tennessee Valley. Unfortunately, this spot is as far as most folks venture – there isn’t an accessible trail that paves the way to the base of the falls. Even still, the scene from the top might just take your breath away.

Cherokee Falls

Hemlock Falls + Cherokee Falls

Driving Time: 30 minutes

Difficulty Level: Strenuous

Georgia’s Cloudland Canyon State Park is full of gorgeous sites – from scenic overlooks offering jaw-dropping views of the canyon to glistening streams, massive boulders, and interesting trees. The Waterfalls Trail, featuring Hemlock and Cherokee Falls, is no exception. It’ll take a little work to see the falls, however. From the West Rim Loop Trail, follow the signs for the Waterfalls Trail. While only two miles round-trip, the Waterfalls Trail drops down into the canyon and features 600 metal stair steps – although it might feel like more as you’re making your way back up. The 60-foot-tall Cherokee Falls will appear first on your initial descent; this picturesque area makes a great picnic spot as you enjoy the falls, its plunge pool, and a grove of trees that surrounds it all. Another half-mile or so will bring you to the 90-foot-tall Hemlock Falls, which you’ll be able to view in all its glory from an observation platform. The flow of water varies weekly, but the winter and spring seasons are your best bets at catching the strongest flow.

Foster Falls

Foster Falls

Driving Time: 40 minutes

Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

The area surrounding Foster Falls is beloved by rock climbers near and far, but the 60-foot waterfall has also made a name for itself as one of the most scenic in the Southeast. Here, a single-drop cascade spills into a deep turquoise pool – in warmer months, it’s the ideal temperature for cooling off after your trek to the base. The hike from the parking lot isn’t long, but does involve another steep, stair-filled descent into the gorge. You know you’re close when you’ve reached the suspension bridge passing over Fiery Gizzard Creek. If you’re not feeling a hike, you can take advantage of multiple overlooks at the top of the falls to get a good glimpse of this babbling beauty.

DeSoto Falls

DeSoto Falls

Driving Time: 1 hour

Difficulty Level: Easy

A quick trip into Alabama will take you to DeSoto Falls, named after famed Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto. This waterfall is popular among residents and out-of-towners alike for both its accessibility and its sheer height, clocking in at 107 feet. After finding a parking spot at DeSoto State Park, you’re just a few hundred feet from the upper falls and historic A.A. Miller Dam, while viewing the lower main waterfall will require a brief walk down concrete stairs. While you’re here, make sure to explore all that this family-friendly state park has to offer, including activities like kayaking, fishing, and biking.

Savage Falls

Savage Falls

Driving Time: 1 hour

Difficulty Level: Moderate

This lesser-known locale, located in the Savage Gulf State Natural Area, should not be missed. If you’d like to get a good hike in, pack a snack and take the roughly 5-mile Savage Day Loop Trail. Along the trail, you’ll encounter Rattlesnake Point Overlook (offering a gorgeous view of Savage Gulf), as well as Savage Falls Overlook – although this viewing point falls short in comparison to experiencing the falls up close. That’s why you’ll want to take the short spur hike to Savage Falls; descending a set of wooden stairs leading down to the bottom of the falls will give you the full effect. While not the tallest of falls, Savage does get top marks for its serene setting and crystal-like waters. Grab a boulder, pull out your snack, and enjoy the striking scene.

Ruby Falls

BONUS: Ruby Falls

Driving Time: 15 minutes

Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

Sure, you’ll have to pay to see Ruby Falls, and it’s not exactly outdoors – this 145-foot waterfall is entirely underground. In fact, it’s the deepest and tallest underground waterfall open to the public in the United States, so if you’ve never made a visit to this Chattanooga icon, you really should put it on your bucket list. Not only will you get a photo-worthy view of the falls, you’ll also see plenty of ancient rock formations and fascinating cavern sites along the way. For tickets and more information, visit rubyfalls.com

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