Take a short hike to burgess falls near Cookeville, Tennessee

Burgess Falls State Park is located in Sparta, TN which is just south of Cookeville. I’ve personally done this hike a dozen or more times and I enjoy it every time. The scenery is beautiful and there are some wonderful opportunities for photos. Sometimes I’ll just take my time and spend a few hours on this hike taking pictures around every corner of random things.

Distance: 1.5 miles round trip
Difficulty: easy/moderate
Features: waterfall
Falls height: 135′
Time to complete: about an hour

Location: 
Sparta, Tennessee

It’s a pretty short hike to the falls through the woods and down a bunch of steps. On the way, you will cross over a little wooden bridge and pass some cascading waterfalls on the hillside (nothing impressive). We usually just take our time and take in the sites. You will pass a lot of people along the way if it’s a nice day and see many with their dogs. Because my girls are obsessed with dogs they usually have to stop and pet each one for 5 minutes!

You will first come to a little lookout where you can get a good view of the falls from above and the side of the mountain surrounding the river and falls. This can be crowded and it may be tough to get a picture. Many people do not go past this point because this is where it starts to get steep and there are lots of steps going forward (see picture below).

lookout over the falls

From there you can choose to go down the stairs to the top of the falls, you can walk around on the rocks and side of the river here. I always get good pictures in this area, and my kids got some pics last trip as well. If it’s warm out, take off your shoes and walk around in the water as it’s very shallow through here.

From here there is another staircase leading down to the bottom of the falls but the last 2 times I have been here it has been closed. I think it’s due to some storm damage or something, I’m hoping it’s open on the next trip. I love going down to the bottom of the falls and feeling the mist and hopping around on the rocks.

falls closed
sign telling you the stairs to the bottom of the falls are closed due to damage

The way back up

You just go back the way you came. Just as you pass the lookout point there is a another trail that forks off to the right that is kind of a shortcut back to the parking lot. We always go this way. As you go this way you are presented with a couple of offshoot trails like the ridgetop trail.

If you choose to take this trail you’ll come across a few other lookout points with some great, expansive views of the falling water river. Honestly I usually skip this part of the hike and head on back to the parking lot.

Assuming you skipped ridgetop and just want to head back to the car you will come to a gravel road that will take you straight back to the parking lot. We usually have a fun little foot race here (that I always win hehe).

Before you leave..

There is a nice little playground near the parking lot that I always let the kids play at for 15 minutes. I usually use this time to go through the pictures I took on the hike and just relax for a few minutes. It’s also a good bargaining tool, “if you guys are good on the hike I’ll let you play on the playground for 15 minutes”.

The whole hike, assuming you take your time like we usually do, is right around 2 hours. You can certainly do it much quicker though, it’s up to you. Just have fun and enjoy nature. If you are interested in other hikes in this area with waterfalls then you may want to have a look at this post I wrote on the top 5 waterfalls hikes near Cookeville.

Who is this hike suitable for, can I take a stroller?

The hike to burgess falls is suitable for all ages in my opinion, however it is not paved and does have some rough terrain in places. So strollers are a no go. Even though it’s a short hike, there are lots of stairs and just no way you are going to get a stroller down.

burgess falls stairs
stairs at burgess falls

However, if you have child carrier then you are good to go. I loved using a child carrier when my kids were younger. It lets them get out on the trails at an early age and enjoy nature with you. If you are interested in hiking child carriers then you should check out this article.

Is fishing allowed at burgess falls state park?

Absolutely you can fish at burgess falls. I have never fished here myself. However I would see guys fishing at the base of the falls occasionally along the river bank. According to the TN state parks website you can catch largemouth and smallmouth bass.

Are dogs allowed here?

Indeed they are! We see many dogs on our hikes and they either pay us no attention or are very friendly. You do have to keep your dog on a leash on this hike though so keep that in mind.

Directions to burgess falls

You can get to burgess falls state park by getting off of Interstate 40 at exit 286 in Cookeville, Tennessee. This is the Willow Ave. exit. Go south off the exit towards burgess falls state park. You will stay right at the fork a couple of miles down the road and Willow Ave. turns into Burgess Falls Rd.

Just follow the signs the rest of the way to the park. Find a parking spot, maybe use the restroom and fill up your water bottles. The trailhead is just a few steps away.

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