Over spring break, I got the awesome opportunity to travel around the South-Eastern part of the US. I did it all in the car driving from state to state and visiting the various cool locations along the way. The first really cool place that I was able to explore was Cumberland Falls in the southern part of Kentucky in the mountains there. The road to the park is steep and winding up what I would consider a mountain (being an Iowan from the "flatlands" part of the USA) with many scenic views of the area at various points.
The park does have its own lodging with camping, a nostalgic hotel, and the option to rent cabins. You will come upon these places along the road first if traveling in from the west before you get to the falls themselves. The hotel is the option I chose and if you are expecting a large room and modern accommodations then the on park options may not be for you, but the hotel is more than adequate for a traveler who just wants the basics to live out of (eat, sleep, etc...).
Ok, now what about the falls?
If you just want to visit the falls, they are below the hotel in the valley, and depending on your fitness level and inclinations you have two options for seeing them at this point. If you want to simply drive down to the Cumberland Falls area you simply have to return to the road that takes you to the park and it will bring you down the mountain to a small parking area where you have very direct access to the falls and the small and well maintained paths that lead around the river and its many treasures. The large falls are even wheelchair accessible making it incredibly easy for anyone to see the magnificent Cumberland Fall's main attraction. For the hiker, there is the option to take a trail that is right next to the hotel (tip: get a printed map from the hotel which has all of the roads and trails marked on it for free). The trail down is quite steep with drop-offs on the sides so be sure to watch your step and consider driving if it has rained recently as the path may become very slippery especially in the fall with the leaves.
What else is there to see?
The falls themselves are beautiful with an enormous amount of water spilling over them every second. The river was very full when I was there which caused it to be brown and murky, and the up-close viewing area was covered by water and debris from upstream unfortunately. The one thing good about that is that it forced me to walk around and see the other areas the park has further from the main attraction. The little paths further back from the big falls did not disappoint! Walking further back into the park's paths smaller falls, caves, and hidden shores took shape. While you might not be able to get close enough to the big falls in some circumstances you can get to these places and be a part of them for a short time.
How about taking Pics?
As a photographer myself I can say a few things about the falls for those who want to walk/drive away with the best photos possible. First of all, you are going to want to bring a tripod (and maybe a cable release too which you can get super cheap on Amazon if you don't already have one) as the light will likely not be very good due to tree cover and/or fog and clouds. This area is very close to the famous smokey mountains and it suffers/benefits from similar traits so be prepared! When I was there, the fog did seem to settle into the area through most of the morning before clearing around noon so be prepared to wait for the sun to come out and remember that it probably will at least for a short time during the day. Long exposures with waterfalls are great fun as well (and with the weather patterns this may be the best hope you have) so be prepared to be moving around looking for your favorite angle on the falls that you think tells the story the best. Don't forget the other side things around besides the main falls as they may end up being some of your favorite images from the park like they were for me. Lastly just remember to enjoy your vacation and have fun!
If you would like any images feel free to contact me and I will post it under the "Purchase Images" tab.