Paw Paw Trail at Fall Creek Falls

March 21, 2010 in Tennessee Hiking Trails by amylaree

Fall Creek Falls Cascades

Fall Creek Falls will always have a special place in my heart for two reasons: first, it was the first hiking excursion Nate took me on and second, it was the site of Ezra’s Epic Suspension Bridge Freakout.

Fall Creek Falls was one of the first places I heard of when I moved to Tennessee.  The redundancy of the name had always charmed me, but never enough venture to it on my own.  So, on a warm September day, Nate took Ezra and me on our inaugural outdoorsy adventure.

Fall Creek Falls Bluffs

  1. Scenery: 3.5
  2. Difficulty: 1.5
  3. Distance: 2.6 miles
  4. Convenience: 1.5
  5. Dog Friendliness: 2.0
  6. Bonus Funtimes: 4.0

Scenery (3.5 out of 5):  We started out the day at the Base of Fall Creek Falls trail, which allowed Ezra to cool himself from 2 exhausting hours of careening his head out the window.  While I can’t speak to the views of the other trails (the trails on the other side of the bridge that Ezra dare not cross), the Paw Paw Trail did not disappoint.

Paw Paw Trail at Fall Creek Falls

Paw Paw Trail

While we were there in very late summer, a few trees had begun to change, but for the most part, the trail was generously shaded with bright green leaves.  Those leaves gave way for plenty of beautiful views of Cane Creek Gorge.  The views of the gorge were very impressive, as were the main falls.  However, you may want to check with the park office before heading out to FCF.  The weekend we were there the waterfalls were flowing at more of a roaring tumble rather than an massive fall.  Despite not seeing its full waterfalling glory, it still made for plenty of impressive views.

Difficulty (1.5 out of 5):  The Paw Paw trail provided great scenery while only requiring a modest amount of effort.

Distance: 2.6 miles

Convenience (1.5 out of 5): At 100 miles+ from Nashville, plan an entire day for this outing.

fall creek falls bridge

Ezra’s “Suspension Bridge of Terror”

Dog Friendliness (2.0 out of 5):  Ezra made this first outing “memorable.”  At 90 lbs and with a serious aversion to getting sprayed by water, Ezra can be a force to be reckoned when he so chooses.  Thankfully, he was keen on wading around in the calm pools near the base of the small falls.  That enthusiasm wore off a bit when Nate tried to get him within spray range of the falls and completely evaporated when we headed up to the bridge to begin our hike.

Starting across the mostly steady suspension bridge, Ezra did quite well, but with each step he unexpectedly became more apprehensive.  Views of the river peeking through the bridge slats coupled with a slight sway became his undoing.  At about the midpoint, he beared down, planted all fours and refused to take another step forward. Nate tried to coax him along only to have Ezra’s collar pop completely off his neck three times.

fall creek falls ezra

It was a taxing day for Ezra O.

At this point we realized crossing the bridge was a lost cause, and turned around.  His paws were unsteady, but Ezra was determined to get back.  Little did we realize, but his melt down caused a bit of a traffic back-up for other park visitors who needed to cross the bridge.  Thankfully, everyone seemed to find the 90 lbs pup’s bridge freakout amusing and he received a big round of applause once all fours returned to solid land.

Since we couldn’t cross to the trails on the other side of the river, we headed up and caught the Paw Paw Trail.

Bonus Funtimes: If you’re down with pulled pork, there’s a great BBQ stand on the highway into the park.  As one of the most popular state parks in Tennessee, there are plenty of swimming holes and camping spot galore within the park grounds.  Additionally, we took the scenic route back to Nashville and made a stop in Cookeville for delicious Mama Rosa’s.  I highly recommend the spinach and garlic calzone.

me at fall creek falls

I fared much better than Ezra.

(note: didn’t have my camera on this one, most pics are from online sources like this great FCF photostream on Flickr.)






For other hikes like this one, check out Hiking Tennessee, get your own copy now from