Lower Piney Falls is located in the Piney Falls State Natural Area, along Little Piney Creek, near Grandview, Tennessee, on the Cumberland Plateau.
Standing 40-feet tall, it’s a relatively short hike on well-maintained trails, though trail access includes only the top of Lower Piney Falls – unlike the 80-foot tall Upper Piney Falls, where hikers can enjoy trails to both the top and bottom. Dogs (leashed) welcomed. Parking is limited. No restrooms.
On an earlier visit, wanting gorge access to the base of the falls, I wandered along rock walls and gazed down steep hillsides, wondering what was below, beyond my sight. Later, I scoured the internet for personal accounts offered by people who had climbed into the gorge, though no definitive information was available as to the best point of descent.
So, once again I followed rock walls along the upper gorge for quite a distance, until the trail disappeared. There, I decided upon an area that seemed hiker friendly – no observable cliffs or deep ruts, though the hillside was steep. In addition, it had rained all morning, making topsoil slippery. I also encountered several areas of small, unstable rocks covered with leaves. As such, trees provided critical aid for stability. I did fall once, slipping in mud on the hill – but, with experience, I’ve learned to quickly shift my weight toward the side with the dislodged foot, so as to untangle and provide relief for the opposite knee. Fortunately, all I broke was my trekking pole, which was soon replaced with a walking stick.
When I finally reached Little Piney Creek at the base of the gorge, it quickly became apparent that I was downstream quite a distance from the falls, and would have to deal with a variety of conditions; each rock (and rocks were everywhere) was very slippery, covered with a damp brown silt, or moss; many fallen tress – some substantial in size – peppered the creek bed, serving as water-logged and slippery impediments against forward progress; and, each creek bank lacked continuity of flat surfaces, often interrupted with impassable, vertical rock walls or boulders. In such situations, it’s best to sacrifice ones dry feet in order to increase optional hiking pathways. It’s also safer, in that the fewer tall rocks on which my balance is tested, the better.
Along the way, I crossed the creek back-and-forth many times, opting to take the safest (not fastest) routes observable. When I finally arrived at the base of Lower Piney Falls, though the water was less than I’d hoped for, the accomplishment was gratifying, and the falls were beautiful.
Lower Piney Falls
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It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention. As applies to my adventure, I very much wished to find another way out of the gorge, not wanting to traverse the hazardous path from whence I came. Fortunately, I was able to ascend the opposite side of the gorge, hike above the rock rim and through the forest to a point beyond Lower Piney Falls. In so doing, I then descended into, and safely across, the creek.
If anyone reading this post is seeking access to the base of Lower Piney Falls, here’s what you do: take the trail to the top of the falls, as normal. Once there, hike upstream approximately 150 feet and cross the creek where you see a few shallow rock ledges. Enter the forest and climb uphill, angling diagonally to the left until you are approximately 40-feet higher than the falls. Continue at this level along the hillside until you find yourself forward of the falls, and beyond the sheer rock wall of the gorge. There is a relatively easy route down and then back along the rock wall, leading you to a rocky hill covered in ferns, at the base of the falls.