Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Cumberland Falls, KY

  • Published 2022/11/18

Nicknamed the “Niagara of the South,” Cumberland Falls is one of Kentucky’s most beautiful natural attractions.

From the state capital Louisville, you can reach the attraction via a three-hour drive southeast.

Cumberland Falls is also one of the state’s biggest tourist draws, attracting around one million visitors annually.

Its 68-foot height may seem average, but its 125-foot width makes it the second-largest waterfall in the Eastern United States in terms of water volume.

However, what makes Cumberland Falls stand out among the plethora of waterfalls in the country is its ultra-rare phenomenon called the “moonbow.”

While people have observed moonbows sporadically in other waterfalls, Cumberland Falls is only one of two sites where it happens regularly.

On another note, Cumberland Falls has also appeared in several Hollywood films since the 1950s.

The waterfalls’ surrounding area was transformed into a state park thanks to its natural beauty.

Along with the signature falls, the sprawling 1,657-acre paradise is also home to other interesting natural features and fun activities.

Here are the best things to do in Cumberland Falls, Kentucky.

Enjoy the Scenic Views of the Falls

Scenic view of Cumberland Falls

Sean Pavone /

Cumberland Falls is the crown jewel among Kentucky’s natural attractions.

The waterfall resembles the iconic Niagara Falls, earning the moniker “Niagara of the South.”

It produces a thunderous roar as 3,600 cubic feet of water rush every second, culminating in a spectacular 68-foot drop.

People at Cumberland Falls' observation deck

hw22 /

The best part of all, everyone can witness the waterfall in its full glory along the viewing deck located right at the visitor’s center.

However, you can also go nearer to feel the mist spraying around the falls.

As a spectacular sight combined with excellent accessibility, Cumberland Falls is one attraction that everyone must visit.

Relax along Cumberland Beach

Cumberland Beach is a clean, sandy river beach located several dozen yards downstream from Cumberland Falls.

The relatively serene river waters contrast sharply with the raging waters of the waterfalls where it originated.

While it may look inviting, swimming is unfortunately prohibited on the beach for safety reasons.

Nevertheless, you can still relax and enjoy the views of the lush forest trees and shrubs along the river.

The beach also features numerous exciting rock formations carved out by nature over millennia.

Moreover, the state park occasionally holds driftwood collecting activities, where you can take home your find.

With its simple beauty and rejuvenating atmosphere, Cumberland Beach offers a relaxing experience for everyone.

See the Cumberland Falls Moonbow

View of a Cumberland Falls Moonbow

Patrick Jennings /

On top of its close resemblance to Niagara Falls, the most striking feature of Cumberland Falls is the regular sightings of moonbows.

As its name implies, it’s a type of rainbow formed when the moonlight hits the mist produced by a waterfall.

Although moonbow sightings occasionally occur in other places, Cumberland Falls is the only place in the United States where you can see them regularly.

Visible moonbows at Cumberland Falls

Jim Vallee /

Moreover, Cumberland Falls is also one of the two places in the world where it regularly happens, the other being Victoria Falls in Africa.

However, you must also check the state park’s schedule to check if this breathtaking sight appears during your visit.

Seeing this phenomenon in person makes for a surreal, one-of-a-kind experience offered only by the Cumberland Falls moonbows.

View of a Cumberland Falls Moonbow from the observation deck

Alexey Stiop /

Go Bird Watching

Thanks to its pristine environment, the area surrounding Cumberland Falls also serves as home to various birds and small animals.

As such, it is also a popular spot for wildlife-watching and nature photography.

It contains native bird species such as the Carolina wren, northern cardinal, and a few woodpeckers in its forests.

Moreover, you can also see migrating wood-warblers from South America pass through Cumberland Falls on their way up north.

As a bonus, you don’t have to go deep into the woodlands to see the birds since many of them can be seen from the convenience of the park’s facilities.

With its fascinating winged residents gliding freely within its unspoiled environment, bird-watching has never become more memorable at Cumberland Falls.

Go Picnicking

On top of being a natural attraction, Cumberland Falls also doubles as a popular picnicking spot with valuable amenities.

The state park features a dedicated picnic area equipped with benches and tables.

It also contains a playground and open playing areas where children can run around and play to their hearts’ content.

Completing the picnicking experience are the barbecue grills, where you can cook your favorite meat.

Moreover, they also have a picnic shelter with water and electricity access.

As such, you won’t have to worry about your phone or camera running out of juice as you can charge all your gadgets in the picnic shelter.

It may only feature basic amenities, yet the beauty of its surrounding environment is more than enough for a fun picnicking experience at Cumberland Falls.

Paddle a Rubber Boat

People Rubber Boat paddling at Cumberland Falls

Jerald LaOrange /

Cumberland Falls may be an unstoppable force of nature, yet just below its cascade is a relatively calm and vast river pool.

Thanks to this natural feature, you can enjoy rubber boat paddling along these peaceful waters.

Offered by third-party providers, boating and kayaking below the falls can be enjoyed between May to October every year.

To ensure safety, the inflatable paddle boats come with guides, and each passenger must also wear a life jacket and helmet.

Moreover, everyone can enjoy river paddling, even children as young as six.

On the other hand, thrill-seekers can try river-rafting further downstream for an extra kick of adrenaline rush.

As one of the most enjoyable activities in Cumberland Falls, river paddling is a must-try for everyone visiting the attraction.

Go Camping at Cumberland Falls Campground

For a fully immersive outdoor experience, nothing comes close to pitching a tent at the Cumberland Falls Campground in the middle of the wilderness in Cumberland Falls.

Containing 50 campsites for tent and RV camping, its campgrounds are open to outdoor adventurers from April to October each year.

For added convenience, the campsites feature water and electricity access.

There’s also a central service building with restrooms and a lavatory.

Moreover, you can grab essentials and other supplies in its grocery also, conveniently located in the service building.

On top of being pet-friendly, the campsites also allow their campers to make bonfires within their camps.

The perfect combination of valuable amenities, beautiful surroundings, and a friendly environment make camping at Cumberland Falls Campground a must-try experience.

Visit Eagle Falls

View of the gorgeous Eagle Falls

Thyrymn2 /

Cumberland Falls may be the centerpiece of the state park that bears its name, yet there’s another beautiful waterfall located within the park’s premises.

Rising to 44 feet, Eagle Falls is smaller and much narrower than its more famous sibling.

Nevertheless, it still possesses a simple natural beauty that makes it a worthwhile attraction in the state park.

Along with the relaxing sound of water touching the massive boulders, you can dip your feet in the cool, clear waters that form small pools beneath it.

Rushing waters of Eagle Falls

SealedSaint /

The falls are also surrounded by fascinating rock formations carved over thousands of years.

It also contains one of the best trails in the park, which boasts some of the most incredible views of Cumberland Falls.

Eagle Falls may not be as grand as Cumberland Falls, but it has enough beauty and charm to make it worth the hike.

Small pool beneath Eagle Falls

Diana Maraboli /

Stop by Cumberland Falls Road Lookout Point

The Cumberland Falls Road Lookout Point offers some of the most scenic views in this part of the state.

Located right across the road on the way to Cumberland Falls State Park, the lookout point contains a viewing deck for an unparalleled sightseeing experience.

With panoramic views of rolling Appalachian hills as far as the eyes can see, it offers a surreal experience for each visitor.

From lush greens during spring and summer, the hills turn into fiery orange during autumn, making it a great quick layover any time.

As such, it isn’t surprising that many visitors stop by for a minute to snap pictures of the beautiful scenery.

Its stunning views make Cumberland Falls Road Lookout Point a worthy stop-over for everyone.

Ride a Horse through the Park

As a part of a horse-loving state, it’s no surprise that you can also enjoy horse-related activities in Cumberland Falls State Park.

The state park offers a horseback-riding experience for everyone from May to September.

For 45 minutes, the horseback-riding journey allows you to enjoy scenic views of the forest and river as you ride along the wooded trails across the park.

Perfect for beginners, the guided rides offer fun and safe riding even for children as young as six.

However, thanks to the park’s breathtaking environment, more seasoned riders will still find the trip challenging and enjoyable.

For an ultimate outback experience, horseback riding in Cumberland Falls is the way to go.

Take a Hike along Various Trails

Cliffside trail at Cumberland Falls State Park

Richard345 /

An outdoor adventurer’s paradise, Cumberland Falls State Park features 17 miles of trails weaving across its premises.

The vast network of trails traverses the park’s numerous natural landscapes.

The trail hike is a visual treat from scenic riverside views, towering rock formations, woodlands, and of course, incredible sights of Cumberland Falls.

You can also relax along nearby streams to cool off and appreciate the beautiful environment.

Suspension bridge trail at Cumberland Falls State Park

Patrick Jennings /

Many trails are accessible to many people, including children, allowing everyone to enjoy the great outdoors relatively easily.

For added convenience, trail markers and indicators are also put up as a guide.

With its numerous trails, each possessing unspoiled beauty, and breathtaking views, it isn’t surprising that hiking ranks among the best activities at Cumberland Falls.

An old bridge at Cumberland Falls State Park

JMcQ /

Mine for Colorful Gems

Established in 2012, gem mining is one of the newest attractions in Cumberland Falls State Park.

As its name implies, it allows visitors to experience traditional mining for precious stones in its gemstone flume, akin to Gold Rush-era prospectors in the 1800s.

You can find minerals and stones like gold-like pyrites, quartz, and crystals.

However, if you’re lucky, you can also find many valuable ones like ruby, sapphire, and amethyst, to name a few.

Moreover, you can also find fossils as you sift through the pebbles and gravel.

The best part of the entire experience is that you get to keep what you find.

Beyond its recreational value, gem mining also offers an invaluable educational experience, especially to children, about the formation of stones and fossils.

As a fun activity for the whole family, gem mining in Cumberland Falls is a must-experience for everybody.

Stay at DuPont Lodge

Exterior of DuPont Lodge

Chris Light, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Cumberland Falls State Park’s DuPont Lodge is considered by many as one of the most beautiful in the country.

Surrounded by pristine nature, the historic lodge is easily recognizable with its stone brick masonry architecture.

The lodge is open all year, with 51 rooms offering accommodations for individuals and groups alike.

Guests can enjoy scenic views of the Cumberland River on the lodge’s patio.

View of cumberland falls from DuPont Lodge's terrace

Chris Light, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The lodge evokes a rustic atmosphere with its wooden interiors and furnishings and its classic fireplace in the lobby.

It also prides itself as a pet-friendly establishment, allowing you to bring up to two pets in their rooms.

Moreover, the lodge also features a café and restaurant where you can enjoy a meal or a snack.

Cozy and convenient, DuPont Lodge offers an unforgettable staycation for everyone visiting Cumberland Falls.

Buy Souvenirs at the Cumberland Falls Visitor Center

Located within the Cumberland Falls Visitor Center is a gift shop with plenty of goodies where you can grab souvenirs from your trip.

Proudly highlighting Kentucky’s craftsmanship, the gift shop features numerous handicrafts made by locals.

The shop offers a wide assortment of items from home décor, knickknacks, and even jams and preserves.

You can also find other merchandise like T-shirts and coffee mugs.

Moreover, a snack shop is available at the gift shop from April to October, where you can grab a quick bite.

Grab a unique souvenir at the Cumberland Falls Visitor Center!

Go Fishing along the Cumberland River

The waters of Cumberland River

Alexey Stiop /

It may be famous for its waterfall, yet the clean waters of Cumberland River also hold a healthy fish population.

As such, the river is a popular fishing spot in the area.

Home to many sport fish like bass and panfish, the river also contains other large fish like catfish and rough fish.

Some parts of the river and its estuaries also contain abundant rainbow and brown trout populations.

However, you must also obtain a state fishing license before heading to the riverbanks to cast your reel.

Thanks to its excellent fish population, Cumberland Falls offers a great fishing experience for casual and serious anglers.

Final Thoughts

Thanks to its natural splendor, it’s no surprise that Cumberland Falls attracts a million visitors yearly.

Moreover, its surrounding environment offers a plethora of memorable activities everyone can enjoy.

From camping, wildlife-watching, and even gemstone mining, you can experience all these at Cumberland Falls.

Set your sights on this wonderful attraction today and experience the best things to do in Cumberland Falls.

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