I drive between Nashville and Knoxville quite a bit. It’s a nice drive, nothing fancy but long enough to feel like a road trip and quick enough to be consistently enjoyable. The views were fine, but I never felt like it lifted a finger to the views between Knoxville and Asheville… until I learned about Ozone Falls.
With a relatively quick deviation from I40 on your way to Nashville, you will find the most glorious waterfall nestled right off the road. I went there by myself the first time with just a Bible, a pen, and a phone (like I was going to hang out by a waterfall without snappin’ a pic for Instagram. Please.) The falls were right off the road, but I felt like I was deep in the heart of the Amazon. (Apparently a lot of people feel that way, because, turns out, a couple scenes from The Jungle Book were shot there.) The falls were massive and roaring. The foliage was beautiful but not difficult to maneuver. I felt like a true adventurer, a wandering gypsy, and not at all like I’d gotten there via a Google Search and a GPS with processed chocolate and Starbucks on the way. Wandering gypsy soul, guys, wandering gypsy soul. But honestly, it was a tiny hike. Short. Easy.
Guys. I swear it was.
Honestly, I felt a little silly even calling it a hike. I got to falls in 0.5 seconds and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing, basking, exploring all around the falls and stream and the forest around it.
I brought some friends with me the next time.
“Don’t worry about what shoes to wear!”
“It’s so easy, guys.”
“It’ll only tack like thirty minutes tops onto our trip to Nashville.”
The short simple hike… well it was still near the road, that part was true. But boy was it strenuous. What I remembered as a happy trail I skipped and danced down had turned into a series of boulders one had to gingerly step down in order to not tumble into the abyss. What I remembered as beautiful foliage was almost impossible to walk through and (allegedly) full of poison ivy. The falls, roaring and massive when I first met them, were a series of trickles by our second introduction.
I looked back at online reviews of the falls recently and sure enough, some were raving about the beauty and ease of it and others, well, they used words like “dangerous” and “grueling.”
The friends were not amused.
I do that sometimes… oversell a movie and then stare at the viewer the entire time to make sure they’re laughing and crying to my standards; or I give a restaurant glorious reviews and then feel wildly offended when the person I take with me says it’s “good.” GOOD?! It’s food sent straight from heaven in a room of perfect ambience and you think it’s GOOD?
But you know what?
Ozone Falls still took my breath away.
Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up near mountains or water or really anything besides cornfields, but these views… even when the hike is demanding and I leave with scrapes on my knees and leaves in my hair, the views are absolutely worth it.
God outdid Himself.
I learned my lesson: come to Ozone Falls prepared. You may meet the wonderland I experienced the first time (Daggumit I know it exists. My memory does not deceive me.) but there’s a chance you’ll may meet the trickle-fall, strenuous adventure from our second encounter. Either way you will experience the peace and awe that inevitably comes with staring a waterfall straight in the face.
It’s honestly right off the road, guys. Give it a shot.