Eastern Tennessee Waterfall Road Trip Itinerary

eastern Tennessee waterfall road trip.jpg

I’ve gotten a lot of emails/messages from y’all asking about our itinerary for this trip, where to book the campsites we stayed at, how we hit so many different places in only a few days, etc. SO this post will be answering all your questions in detail by providing you the itinerary I made for this specific “Road Trip.” (Like I haven't done enough posts about this trip already right?) I'm going to give you the straight itinerary per day and each location/waterfall will have the link back to my posts so you can see more pictures/get more details. After that I have a very general outline of two options for this trip, one is for three days, one is for four days.


Thursday Night: Check into Rock Island State Park Campground

We left Richmond, Virginia at noon and drove straight to Rock Island State Park Campground; it took 8 and a half hours. When we got there, we backed the Wrangler right into our campsite, set up the tent, and went to bed. Our check-in time for this campsite started 1500 but you can check in any time after this, but if you're not occupying your campsite by noon the next day, you lose it. A link to book this campground is here. We stayed at the tent only campground at site 55. If you get to the campsite earlier in the day, you can add on Rock Island Twin Falls from Friday (see below)

Rock Island State Park Address: 82 Beach Rd, Rock Island, TN 385811

Price for campground in April: $16 a night

Site Features: grass lot, BBQ grill, fire pit, hot showers & bathroom, fresh water, electrical hookup


Friday: Fall Creek Falls State Park & Rock Island Twin Falls

Fall Creek Falls State Park

Rock Island State Park

Friday we woke up early, made breakfast and headed out to Fall Creek Falls State Park. From our campground the drive took 50 minutes.
Park at the Betty Dunn Nature Center. From here hike the Paw Paw Trail to the Cable Trail (it will take you to the base of the falls in the second picture above). Once you've enjoyed that, hike back out to the parking lot and take the Woodland Trail Loop. This will take you across a swing bridge and then to a bunch of different waterfall outlooks. After you've hiked, jump back into your car and drive the Scenic Loop. Be sure to stop at any overlook you like!
From Fall Creek Falls grab lunch at one of the many country stores you pass on your way back to Rock Island State Park. Swing by Rock Island's Twin Falls and enjoy lunch on one of the huge rocks under the falls. Spend as much time here before driving 10 minutes back to your campsite for the night. There is a two mile trail down to a smaller set of falls from the parking area as well.
Website for Fall Creek Falls State Park: http://tnstateparks.com/parks/about/fall-creek-falls
Website for Rock Island State Park: http://tnstateparks.com/parks/about/rock-island

Saturday: Burgess Falls, Virgin Falls State Natural Area & Check into Edgar Evins State Park Campground

Burgess Falls State Park

Virgin Falls Hike

Edgar Evins State Park Campground


Saturday wake up, pack up camp and then head to Virgin Falls State Natural Area. The drive to Virgin Falls Parking area took 50 minutes. Do the 8.5 mile hike out to see Big Branch Falls, Big Laurel Falls, a few caves and Virgin Falls. If you are not an avid hiker allow yourself the whole day to take the trail at your own pace and enjoy the many waterfalls along the hike; while the hike is hard, it's NOT impossible, just take your time!
Optional after Virgin Falls: Drive 45 minutes to Burgess Falls and do the short walk along the river to see the different waterfalls
Drive to your next campsite at Edgar Evins State Park. From Burgess falls it takes 40 minutes, from Virgin Falls it takes 1 hour 15 minutes. This campsite is "primitive" meaning you will have to carry your gear a whole 200ft to set up camp. There is a small parking lot close to the site that you can back the car into. I chose this site because it was lake-front. A link to book this campground is here. We stayed at 6P.

Edgar Evins State Park Address: 1630 Edgar Evins State Park Rd, Silver Point, TN 38582

Price for primitive campground in April: $8 a night

Site Features: must walk into campground and carry your gear, you cannot drive your car up to this campground; gravel lot, fire pit, hot showers & bathroom

Website for Edgar Evins State Park: http://tnstateparks.com/parks/about/edgar-evins
Website for Virgin Falls: http://www.tennessee.gov/environment/article/na-na-virgin-falls
Website for Burgess Falls State Park: http://tnstateparks.com/parks/about/burgess-falls

Sunday: Cummins Falls State Park


We woke up early, had breakfast and packed up camp, then headed to Cummins Falls State Park. The drive took 40 minutes. We stayed at this park for about 2 hours before heading home to Virginia. It's a really good idea to get to Cummins Falls early in the morning because during the afternoon hoards of people show up to swim in the falls. If you don't head home this day, drive back to Edgar Evins and take a hike around the lake or go swimming!
Website for Cummins Falls State Park: http://tnstateparks.com/parks/about/cummins-falls

Itinerary #1 (What We Did)

Check into Rock Island Campground
Enjoy afternoon/evening, set up camp, etc.

Visit Fall Creek Falls State Park
Grab lunch
Visit Rock Island, Twin Falls
Relax at campground for early evening & cook dinner

Pack up camp
Drive to Virgin Falls & hike
Visit Burgess Falls (if lower waterfall is open)
Check into Edgar Evins State Park, set up camp, relax, have dinner, etc.

Wake up early & pack up camp
Visit Cummins Falls State Park
Head Home!

Itinerary #2 (Add an extra day and/or get there early on Thursday)

Check into Rock Island Campground late morning/early afternoon
Visit Twin Falls in Rock Island State Park after you check in or if you have to wait for your campground to be ready
Hang out at camp in the evening, relax, go for walk, etc.

Visit Fall Creek Falls State Park
Head back to Rock Island State Park and visit the beach/relax
Head back to campground, relax, cook dinner, etc.

Pack up camp
Drive to Virgin Falls & hike
Stop by Burgess Falls (if lower waterfall is open)
Check into Edgar Evins State Park, set up camp, relax, have dinner, etc.

Wake up early and drive to Cummins Falls State Park
Head back to Edgar Evins Campground and take a hike in the park or go swimming

Wake up, pack up camp & head home

Food Options
There are a few options for food.

  • We brought backpacking food to eat for various meals (mainly dinner), peanut butter, bread, bananas, apples, trail mix, chips, etc. (for breakfast & snacks), and then ate out for lunch while we were on the road during the day- usually at a local country store.

  • Bring a cooler. There is a local country store a few miles up from the first campground and a convenience store a few miles down the road from the second campground where you can buy ice daily. Bring hotdogs, hamburgers, buns, beans etc. to make at the campsites for dinner and then lunch meat for sandwiches and whatever you want for breakfast.

  • Eat out. You're definitely going to be within driving distance of restaurants so technically you could eat out every meal although this tends to add up even for a few days. Pop each state park into Google Maps and research what restaurants are near you before hand and make sure that they will be open during the times that you would want to go.

Another Note: Do NOT bring firewood to the campsite with you unless you are a local/bringing it from Tennessee. Bringing foreign wood into new areas brings invasive species, diseases and can wreak havoc on ecosystems in the area. There is firewood for purchase at stores near both campsites listed and you are also permitted to burn any dead/downed sticks on the ground

Make sure to bring a pair of water shoes (chacos, tevas, keens, etc.) and have them in a backpack in case you find yourself in situations where you need to cross rivers, want to swim, etc.! It is a waterfall road trip after all :)