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9+ Unique Waterfalls Near Chattanooga

Itching to explore some of the many waterfalls near Chattanooga? We can’t blame you!

The Scenic City is renowned for its abundance of outdoor activities, including hiking (i.e.; waterfall chasing!), biking, rock climbing, kayaking, and so much more.

Its location in the very heart of Tennessee provides convenient access to the Cumberland Plateau, Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee River, Appalachian Mountains, and countless state parks and forests. 

It comes as no surprise that Chattanooga’s surrounding areas are filled with beautiful waterfalls, just waiting to be explored.

In fact, some of the best waterfalls in Tennessee are just a short drive from Chattanooga. Some are just minutes from downtown!

In this guide, we detail nine unique waterfalls near Chattanooga, each offering something totally different.

Most of these falls require hikes, but you can drive right up to others. Some are tall (really tall!) and flow year-round, and others you have to catch at just the right time. 

For more details, read on! Here is our pick of Chattanooga’s best (and closest) waterfalls.

9 of the Best Waterfalls to Visit Near Chattanooga, Tennessee

1. Ruby Falls

  • Distance from downtown Chattanooga: 10-15 minutes
  • Height: 145 feet
  • Hike required? Yes
  • Ticket required
Ruby Falls in Chattanooga illuminated in purple light.
Ruby Falls

You simply can’t talk about waterfalls near Chattanooga without mentioning Ruby Falls. Not only is it the tallest underground waterfall in the US, but it’s also the deepest underground (that’s open to the public). 

The cascade stands at about 145 feet tall, and it’s situated over 1,100 feet underground. To reach it, you’ll descend 26 stories (260 feet) in an impressive glass elevator. 

Ruby Falls is part of Lookout Mountain, one of the most popular things to do in Chattanooga year-round. Because of that, the only way to see Ruby Falls is to buy a ticket

Visitors have a choice of several guided tours, ranging from an “express” option that essentially goes right to the waterfall up to a Friday night lantern tour. The shortest tour involves a one-mile round-trip walk. 

Bonus: Ruby Falls is exceptionally dog-friendly. Dog owners can take advantage of four complimentary kennels (!!), each one open-air, covered, and well-shaded. The kennels are available on a first-come, first-served basis. 

2. Falling Water Falls

  • Distance from downtown Chattanooga: 20 minutes
  • Height: 110 feet
  • Hike required? Technically yes, but it’s VERY short
That dramatic drop! (Credit: Buddy S., AllTrails)

Of all the waterfalls near Chattanooga, Falling Water Falls is one of the most unique. You view it from the top down, rather than from the base.

In fact, there’s actually no way to see the waterfall from the bottom. No safe or legal way, anyhow. 

This Chattanooga waterfall is inside the Falling Water State Natural Area, and you’ll do a short “hike” from the parking area. We put quotation marks around hike, because it’s more of an easy walk and it’s only about 1,000 feet. 

The hardest thing about hiking to Falling Creek Falls is finding a parking space.

The lot holds just three vehicles (yes, seriously), and everything surrounding it is private property, complete with No Trespassing signs. People do regularly get towed, so don’t chance it!

Instead, just assume you’ll have to wait and be patient, waiting for someone to leave. Thankfully, since the walk to the falls is short and you can’t get to the bottom, turnover is usually pretty quick. 

Note that Falling Creek Falls does NOT flow year-round.

It’s usually dry by late summer and throughout fall, but flows after major rain. And speaking of rain, if you can time it to visit right after a storm, the falls throw off magical mist. 

3. Blowing Wind Falls

  • Distance from downtown Chattanooga: 20 minutes
  • Height: 30 feet
  • Hike required? Yes
Blowing Wind Falls (Credit: Tennessee River Gorge Trust)

Blowing Wind Falls itself is of course not new, but the trail to reach it is. Ritchie Hollow Trail was established in 2018 as part of the Tennessee River Gorge Trust. 

Notably, Blowing Wind Falls is 1.8 miles in on a 2.7-mile-long trail.

You can absolutely hike to the end, but if you turn around at the waterfall, as most people do, your total distance will be about 3.5 miles. 

The trail is moderately challenging, with a steady uphill the entire way and tons of large rocks to navigate. Also, those metal scraps you pass by at several points are remnants of moonshine stills. This area was popular for bootlegging before distilleries were legal in Tennessee.

Before starting your hike, admire the historic Pot Point Cabin, built in 1835 from hand-hewn logs. Be respectful, as the trust rents the cabin out (if you’re curious, a weekend stay runs about $800, but it’s huge, so you can accommodate several couples or a few families). 

Also Read: 15 Best Cabin Rentals in Chattanooga, Tennessee

4. Lula Lake Falls

  • Distance from downtown Chattanooga: 30 minutes
  • Height: 120 feet
  • Hike required? Yes
Credit: Lula Lake Falls by Fernando R., Google Maps

The Lula Lake Land Trust is home to not only the waterfall, but also the namesake lake. And, technically, Lula Lake Falls is two cascades, one upper and one lower.

The much smaller upper falls flow directly into the lake, while the 110-foot-tall lower falls are the star attraction. 

The out-and-back hike to the falls, which flow year-round, is 4.2 miles round-trip. 

Lula Lake Falls is by far one of the best waterfalls near Chattanooga (it’s actually located in North Georgia on Lookout Mountain!), but visiting is anything but easy. 

The land trust where the waterfall sits is only open to the public on the first and last weekends of every month (referred to as ‘Open Gate Days,’ or ‘Public Access Days’). On top of that, all visitors must have advance reservations and pay a $16 Conservation Fee. 

Each reservation covers one vehicle, rather than individuals, and large vehicles such as passenger vans and buses are prohibited. The land trust releases reservations two months in advance. 

These extra steps may seem like an inconvenience, but they truly help manage the number of visitors. Many other popular waterfalls and trails get overcrowded on weekends and sunny days, detracting from the overall experience.

Another option for Lula Lake Falls is to join a guided group hike. You still need a reservation and the process for getting one is identical, but there’s a slightly higher fee for the tour.  

5. Cherokee Falls & Hemlock Falls (via Waterfalls Trail)

  • Distance from downtown Chattanooga: 30 minutes (in Georgia)
  • Height: 60 feet (Cherokee) and 90 feet (Hemlock)
  • Hike required? Yes
Cherokee Falls (Credit: Steve Grundy, Flickr)

Crossing the border into Georgia also brings you to not just one but TWO waterfalls near Chattanooga. 

Located on the edge of Lookout Mountain, Cloudland Canyon State Park is home to multiple waterfalls.

However, Cherokee Falls and Hemlock Falls are by far the most popular. Both are accessible via moderate hikes and offer stunning viewpoints. 

Luckily, you can see both of these Chattanooga waterfalls on one trail, the aptly-named Waterfalls Trail

The trail is just two miles round-trip, but it’s quite steep, descending 400 feet down into the canyon…which means, of course, that you have to climb back out. In total, you’ll climb a whopping 600 metal steps! Remember, the hike is short, so the effort is well worth the reward. 

Hemlock Falls, the taller of the two and the one you’ll see second on your hike, has a dedicated viewing platform. Cherokee Falls flows into a picture-perfect plunge pool, and you’ll see it first on your hike down into the canyon.

6. Foster Falls

  • Distance from downtown Chattanooga: 40 minutes
  • Height: 60 feet
  • Hike required? Yes
Foster Falls (Credit: Andrew Bryan, Google Maps)

Part of the massive South Cumberland State Park (it spans three counties!), Foster Falls is a popular destination in the Sequatchie, Fiery Gizzard area.

It’s easy to see why: the rare single-drop waterfall tumbles perfectly over the edge of a crescent-shaped rock cliff, into a mirror-still pond. 

On hot days, yes, you can take a dip in the pool below the waterfall! Interestingly, that’s not as common as you might think among waterfalls near Chattanooga. 

A short, easy hike takes you to a viewing platform above the falls. From there, you’ll descend into the canyon via a series of staircases (it’s reminiscent of Cloudland Canyon State Park, but not nearly as steep).

At the bottom of the gorge, cross a fun swaying bridge to get closer to the waterfall. The hike’s total distance is just one mile. 

One of the state park’s most popular campgrounds is near Foster Falls, and the area is also extremely popular with rock climbers. 

7. Greeter Falls

  • Distance from downtown Chattanooga: 45 minutes
  • Height: 15 feet upper and 50 feet lower
  • Hike required? Yes
Such a cool view of Greeter Falls! (Credit: Mike Ferguson, Google Maps)

Just 30 minutes from Foster Falls in the Savage Gulf State Natural Area (which overlaps South Cumberland State Park), Greeter Falls is especially scenic.

The cascade consists of distinct upper and lower falls, with the upper falls’ pool flowing directly into the lower falls.

A lot of people actually think lower Greeter Falls looks similar to Foster Falls, with its dramatic drop over an arced sandstone cliff. 

Also like Foster Falls, you can swim at the base of lower Greeter Falls.

Do not swim at the upper falls; between the strong current and it flowing directly into the upper falls, this is extremely dangerous. 

To get to both of these waterfalls near Chattanooga, you’ll need to go on a short one-mile (round-trip) hike. It’s fairly easy and definitely family-friendly. Leashed dogs are also welcome!

The trickiest things on the hike are the uneven trail surface and a spiral staircase descending to the base of the lower falls.

There are roots and rocks to navigate on the trail and the stairs at the end can be slippery (and nerve-racking!), but otherwise, the hike is very straightforward. 

Local tip: look for the spur trail to Boardtree Falls. It’s on park maps, but oddly, is rarely mentioned anywhere else!

8. Fall Creek Falls

  • Distance from downtown Chattanooga: 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Height: 256 feet
  • Hike required? Yes
Fall Creek Falls (Credit: Mike h, Google Maps)

Fall Creek Falls is the tallest waterfall in Tennessee and one of the tallest in the eastern United States.

That alone makes it one of the best waterfalls near Chattanooga! The stunning 256-foot cascade plunges into a lush pool below, and it’s quite a sight in any season. 

Because of its size, you can get a great view of Fall Creek Falls without doing much of a hike.

One of the best scenic overlooks is just a few steps from the main parking lot. 

However, to get a true appreciation for this impressive waterfall’s grandeur, hike one of the trails.

From the overlook we just mentioned, the Base Trail takes you down 300 feet, to the base of Fall Creek Falls. Although it’s steep, there are stairs (a common theme among these Chattanooga waterfall hikes!). 

You can swim at the base of the waterfall, but be aware there is no lifeguard on duty and the area can get extremely busy. 

While you’re at the state park, don’t miss the opportunity to check out other impressive waterfalls.

Short hikes will lead you to Cane Creek Falls, Cane Creek Cascades, and Piney Falls!

You can also enjoy other activities, including biking, rock climbing, camping, and even a golf course. 

9. Ozone Falls

  • Distance from downtown Chattanooga: 1 hour, 20 minutes
  • Height: 110 feet
  • Hike required? Yes, but it’s very short

Ozone Falls is so picturesque that it was featured in the Jungle Book movie.

It’s also unique in that it “disappears” once it drops into the pool below.

Of course, it doesn’t actually disappear; rather, it flows underground, then re-emerges just a bit farther downstream. 

Thanks to this disappearing act, the pool below Ozone Falls is remarkably calm and perfect for swimming. Just like Fall Creek Falls, there is no lifeguard on duty, ever, so swim at your own risk. 

Another unique feature of Ozone Falls is that you can actually walk behind it, into a little alcove. How many waterfalls near Chattanooga allow you to do that?! Pictures taken from here looking out at the falls make it look like you’re inside a cave!

You have a great view of the single-drop waterfall just steps from your vehicle. However, if you want to go down to the base and pool (which you should!), you’ll need to scramble down a short trail.

It’s only 0.25mi/a quarter-mile. While we don’t recommend it for people with mobility issues, it’s doable for most. 

If you’ve previously been to Ozone Falls, know that the park revamped the trail to the base in 2020. It’s MUCH easier to get down there now!

Because Ozone Falls is so close to where you park and it’s located just off I-40, it’s a perfect stop on a road trip between Nashville and Knoxville. 

Even More Falls to Near Chattanooga

  • DeSoto Falls 💦
  • Laurel Falls 💦

We haven’t covered them ALL, so be sure to fetch a map and get to exploring! There is so much to discover around Chattanooga and the greater Southeast Tennessee region.

Please, Recreate Responsibly While Visiting Chattanooga’s Waterfalls

Whenever you are outside, please practice Leave No Trace. 🌿

  • Pack out your garbage
  • Leave nature as it is
  • No trespassing or trampling off-trail
  • Don’t deface or destroy nature (i.e. carving in rocks, picking wildflowers, etc)
  • Respect wildlife and other hikers!

A final note, we know that Rainbow Falls often makes the bucket list since it is quite close to downtown Chattanooga. However, as urged by the tourism board, DON’T GO! Instead, enjoy these other notable waterfalls around Chattanooga!