Enjoy a short hike in the Savage Gulf State Natural Area to Greeter Falls, one of Tennessee’s most impressive waterfalls.
for some dogs
LOCATION:northwest of Chattanooga, TN
PACK:our Osprey day pack and our hiking gear list
OFFICIAL MAP: Savage Gulf State Natural Area Map (find it at Trailful Outdoor Co.)
Savage Gulf State Natural Area is a scenic 15,000+ acre area in South Cumberland State Park filled with many beautiful hardwood forests, tumbling creeks, sandstone cliffs, and some incredible waterfalls. The trail to Greeter Falls gives a perfect peek into a little bit of everything that this state park has to offer.
In just a short hike, this trail visits two stunning waterfalls, the charming 15-foot Upper Falls and the impressive 50-foot Lower Falls. It’s a great family-friendly hike, and one of our favorite adventures near Chattanooga.
Greeter Falls Trail: the hike
The hike begins at the Greeter Falls trailhead (view maps and driving directions) just 45 minutes northwest of Chattanooga. There’s almost always ample parking available, even on the most crowded summer days. A map of the park’s nearby trail system lies around 100 yards into the trail.
The hike starts mostly flat as it passes through a shaded forest filled with oak, hemlock, poplar, maple, and pine trees. Although this section is mostly flat, the surface is very uneven with many exposed roots and rocks. Large 40-foot sandstone cliffs rise on the trail’s left side, as a series of makeshift stairs begin to descend into the steep valley created by Firescald Creek.
The trail gets steeper as it turns down into the valley, and reaches a fork that leads to the upper falls to the right, and the lower falls to the left.
The hike visits the upper falls first, carefully scrambling down an eight-foot ledge to the base of the upper falls. The 15-foot waterfall is twice as wide as it is tall, resembling a beautiful table with water falling perfectly across its ledge. The pool here is between 1-3 feet deep, but swimming is very dangerous due to strong currents – and the presence of the lower falls just downstream.
The hike backtracks to the fork in the trail, and descends down to the lower waterfall. An often-slippery spiral staircase descends to a series of wooden and metal stairs. The trail opens to a fantastic vantage point of the 50-foot Lower Greeter Falls. At full flow, this is easily one of the most impressive waterfalls in the state. Some careful scrambling can reveal some beautiful angles of the waterfall and Firescald Creek.
After soaking up the beauty, the hike turns to retrace its steps to the trailhead. The steep climb up the valley walls can be tiring, but by .75 mile, the climb becomes more gradual. The hike reaches the trailhead and parking lot at 1 mile, finishing the adventure.
More hike-worthy adventures near Chattanooga
The terrain and landscapes of Eastern Tennessee and Northwest Georgia are some of our favorite places to explore in the South. Hike to stunning views from the lofty Lookout Mountain at Sunset Rock, and score some beautiful views of Chattanooga and the Tennesee River. Explore the tumbling cascades of Foster Falls, one of our all-time favorite waterfall adventures in the South. Follow the Fiery Gizzard Trail to a series of tumbling waterfalls on Fiery Gizzard Creek, and climb to exceptional views at Raven Point. And check out more of our favorite hiking trails near Chattanooga for even more adventure inspiration.
Note: slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Please don’t climb, stand on, swim near, or jump from any waterfall.
Always leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in, and if you see trash, pick it up and pack it out.
Stay on the marked trail, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, and don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way. Please always practice good trail etiquette. And before you go, always check the trailhead kiosk, official maps, and the park or ranger office for notices of changed routes, trail closures, safety information, and restrictions.
Free parking is available in South Cumberland State Park.
35.438600, -85.697917 // N35 26.316 W85 41.875