By Jeremy Patton
Cumberland Falls is located in Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in Daniel Boone National Forest, Whitley and McCreary County, Kentucky. The falls measure about 125 feet wide and 68 feet high, depending on the level of the Cumberland River.
From Corbin, take US-25W to KY-90 then follow the signs, driving a total of about 15 miles. If you cross the bridge into McCreary County, you have gone too far. It is a short walk from the large parking lot, past the gift shop and to the falls.
The scenery is breathtaking during the day, but you will be well-rewarded if you visit on a clear night at full moon. A moonbow (lunar rainbow) forms at the base of the falls in the churning mists. The only other location where a moonbow can be seen is at Victoria Falls (also known as Mosi-oa-Tunya) in southern Africa.
There are several other waterfalls near Cumberland Falls, within hiking or driving distance. It is possible to cram all of them in one day, but it might be more enjoyable to add just one or two excursions to your trip:
On 10/10/16, Shane and I attempted to reach the rock shelter behind Cumberland Falls, approaching from the Whitley County side of the river. We made it about half way then determined that it was too dangerous. The boulders were slick from perpetual mist and we could not see the bottom of one particular, slanted drop. I probably would have risked it when I was 20 years old, but I am wiser now and realize that such a stunt is not worth breaking a leg, or worse.
We drove across Gatliff Bridge into McCreary County and joined Eagle Falls Trail #9, which follows the opposite side of the river. Near the end of the trail, we ascended to the river, hoping that we could walk and wade around the boulders and approach Cumberland Falls. We were repelled again, this time by deep water. An ongoing drought made the river very shallow, but not shallow enough for this route unless we wanted to swim.
We are now planning to put in our kayaks and paddle below the falls. I am sure that the view will be amazing and it might provide opportunities to climb into the rock shelter. Now is the time to make the attempt due to the low flow of the falls.
Although Monday’s goal was a failure, we were able to get some nice photos:
Added 4/3/14 – Updated 10/12/16