You know those amazing adventure spots you see when perusing Pinterest that make your eyes glaze over with envy at the person who was actually standing in that spot, able to snap that pic? What if I told you that there’s a spot like that, less than 2 hours away from Nashville? Lost Creek Falls is a 60 ft., beautiful, waterfall located in Sparta, TN. Formerly located on private property, this spot has remained a secret until fairly recently. In 2012 the well-known Fall Creek Falls State Park purchased the land to add to their park system. On the day we went, we were the only… people… there. We had the entire waterfall and cave, all to ourselves. It was absolutely magical! One of the lesser known facts about Lost Creek is that it was used by Disney to film scenes for “The Jungle Book,” its 1994 live-action version of the Rudyard Kipling classic. How neat would it be to watch the film before your adventure?
Despite being part of Fall Creek Falls, it is still not widely advertised which means that it can be a bit of a challenge to find unless you have a GPS in your car or on your phone. Talking with a friend who had taken her family there previously, she suggested that the easiest way to find the trailhead is to type Lost Creek Falls, Sparta, TN into Google Maps. It will give you driving directions, but there is not an official address for the Falls. If you’re coming from Nashville, take I-40 East until you get to exit 288 towards Livingston/Sparta, turn right onto TN-111 S. At this point I would take a few minutes to stop in one of the gas stations along 111 and have everyone use the restroom! There are no restroom facilities anywhere near the Falls location. From there you’ll follow Hickory Valley Rd. and Lost Creek Rd. to get to White’s Cave Rd. It will feel like you’ve been driving forever, winding through country back roads, but it’s really a gorgeous drive. If you’re not looking carefully, you’ll miss your turn into the trailhead, so pay close attention to your GPS once you get close. The road you need to turn down is a (very) sharp right and down a hill. My suggestion is to actually drive past the turn in, turn around and then take the turn. It will be much easier than trying to maneuver the tight right turn! Once you’re on the road going down the hill, just keep driving until you reach a gravel parking lot with a trailhead sign.
Unlike most of the waterfalls in Tennessee, this one is a short, easy walk to get to. This makes it absolutely ideal for taking small kids along. The walk is not difficult, and it’s only about .2/mi. but you will need to be prepared with good shoes because it can get slippery, especially if it’s rained recently. The trail is marked and you will actually be able to hear the waterfall as soon as you start down the trail. Everyone will be eager to see the waterfall, but don’t pass by all the beauty of the trail itself! Lots of huge trees and mossy rocks, fungi of all kinds and of course lots of interesting insects to look at. About halfway down the trail you’ll see the stunning Lost Creek Cave in front of you. Honestly, the pictures of the cave don’t do it justice. The size of the cave will absolutely stop you in your tracks. It’s huge and it’s open to explore! I would not suggest exploring the cave with little ones, however. We looked around inside for a bit, and my older children climbed on the rocks just inside the cave entrance, but you’ll want to be prepared with caving helmets and headlamps before exploring any further. From what I understand there is water at some point in the cave, so sending children into the cave on their own is not recommended. Once you see the cave entrance from the trail, you’ll make a left and follow the trail the rest of the way down to the base of the Falls.
We spent about 3 hours there playing in the pool under the waterfall and climbing behind it. There are 2 smaller cave entrances on either side of the Falls that are much safer to explore since they don’t lead anywhere. My kids had fun strapping on headlamps and exploring in there, but it was a tight fit, so I stayed at the entrance. The surrounding rocks offer a great spot to enjoy lunch as you watch the water cascading down. As we ate, we watched the birds and squirrels in the surrounding forest, leaving us in awe of the beauty of the place. Everyone, including my 4-year-old, were mesmerized by the water crashing down into the pool below. The other thing that makes this a great summer hangout is that because the base of the falls is down near the entrance of the cave, it stays fairly cool there even on the hottest summer days. On the day we went it was near 90 degrees, but after splashing around for a while we could’ve used jackets while sitting to eat our lunch.
That brings me to the most important part of this post which is what you should bring with you on your adventure! Please keep in mind that this list is just a suggestion and I’m certainly not a professional hiker, but these are the things that we brought along (or wish we had) that made our trip safe and more enjoyable.
– Good hiking shoes/sneakers (I would definitely not suggest sandals for the walk)
– Water shoes for exploring the Falls
– Bug spray (something good for deep woods exploring)
– Water…LOTS OF WATER!
– A picnic
– Change of clothes for the ride home
– A well-stocked first aid kit
– Magnifying glass
Family Fun Facts
Open – Sun Up to Sun Down
Cost : Free