This post was most recently updated on October 29th, 2022
Tennessee is very picturesque, with forests, lakes, winding rivers, country roads, gentle rolling hills, and lots of red barns. It is also known for its waterfalls — over 325 of them! While visiting family, I was thrilled to hike to some of the prettiest waterfalls near Manchester — just an hour south of Nashville.
1. Old Stone Fort State Archaelogical Park
Little Falls, Manchester, TN
These were the first waterfalls I visited in Tennessee, because they’re just a mile or so from my son’s home in Manchester. Old Stone Fort State Archaelogical Park includes ruins of an ancient stone fort, a campground and playground, hiking trails, and two arms of the Little Duck River. On one arm you’ll find the Big Falls, and on the other, Little Falls.
I prefer Little Falls, because there are actually several small waterfalls as the river gradually descends over shale stone ledges. The river is shallow here, and you can easily walk through much of it. My grandchildren were splashing in the shallow water and even hiding under the rock ledges, behind the water falls. They had a blast!
There’s no charge to enter Old Stone Fort State Archaelogical Park, and there’s plenty of parking. Hours are 8:00 am to 4:30 pm. It’s beautiful any time of the year, but especially in the summer because of all the shade, and in the fall when you’ll see fall foliage.
2. Rutledge Falls
To see Rutledge Falls, you get a package deal, because there’s a traditional red barn there, too. In fact, I learned about Rutledge Falls when I saw a beautiful photo card for sale in Manchester’s Foothill Crafts. The salesclerk told me how to find the red barn for photographing and then shared the secret, “There’s a waterfall there, too — be sure to check it out!”
And sure enough, there is! It’s a very short walk through privately owned land (but access to the falls is allowed). Parking is available across from Rutledge Falls Baptist Church. Amongst the trees as you make your way down to the waterfall, you may also spot the sculpture of a woman called “The Lady of the Fall.” Interestingly, this statue was originally a decoration on the state Capitol Building in 1859.
3. Laurel Falls, South Cumberland State Park
Great Stone Door, Beersheba Springs, TN
This is a park worth visiting for many more reasons than viewing Laurel Falls. But finding Laurel Falls was a treat, especially with fall foliage surrounding it. So don’t miss it! There’s an easy short loop trail beginning at the Ranger Station. You can access both the top and the bottom of the falls from this trail.
Then you can easily move on to see the Great Stone Door (a large gap with stone steps between towering stone walls) and some of the most incredible views overlooking Savage Gulf.
There are two good-sized parking lots near the Rangers Station, as well as restrooms and area information. No charge to park here.
4. Machine Falls
Short Springs Natural Area, Tullahoma, TN
I think this is my favorite waterfall of the list. First of all it’s in a beautiful hiking area — easy trails with beautiful foliage alongside pretty little Bobo Creek. Secondly, Machine Falls is quite impressive, as it is about three stories high and just as wide. It fills a curved arena-type bowl, with trees gently leaning over it. And lastly, there are even some instagram-worthy bridges spanning the creek.
You’ll find Machine Falls in the Short Springs Natural Area, as well as Adams and Busby Falls. If you hike the entire loop, it is about 5 miles. The trail is mostly level, but there are some up and downhill portions to it. The main trail takes you to the bottom of the falls, but you can also access a trail overlooking the falls — just be careful because there are no fences or barriers.
Parking is free at the trailhead parking lot, across Short Springs Road from the trail. Hours are 8:00 am to 9:45 pm. Bonus: Short Springs Natural Area is quite close to Rutledge Falls as well.
Visiting the Waterfalls Near Manchester
In case you’re not in the habit of “chasing waterfalls”, here are some tips for you:
- Wear good hiking shoes with closed toes. Trails can be slick with moisture.
- Even better are good waterproof sandals for warmer months, so you can walk in the water and explore more.
- During the summer, especially, remember to use bug repellent.
- Bring plenty of water to drink while hiking; do NOT drink the water in the streams.
- Plan to pack out what you bring as there are not always garbage receptacles. You won’t want to ruin the beautiful scenery here!
- Bring a camera, too — these waterfalls are so photogenic!
I hope you enjoy discovering these waterfalls near Manchester, TN. I need to thank my son and his family for satisfying my waterfall “itch” and leading my husband and I on the most fun hikes!