Short Springs Natural Area in Tullahoma, Tn is, most notably, home to Machine Falls. It is the main destination for most people. However, the area has so much more to offer than just Machine Falls.
I have been to the area on numerous occasions and have photographed Machine Falls every time I have gone. However, today I had another destination in mind. I wanted to hike back to Busby Falls. There is an overlook trail that takes you to a neat little area that overlooks (hence the name) upper Busby Falls. I have been to this overlook several times and have always wanted to see the falls from below.
The trail is quite tricky to navigate and there are no signs even indicating that you can get there the way I went. So, listen closely, and you can also trek to this little, hidden gem that I assure you few people would try to get to. Keep in mind I did this solo. So, you can do it too.
The day started out with rain. It was expected so I wasn’t too concerned and I made sure I brought along a big umbrella. I know most hikers use ponchos. I would if I did not have glasses. Poncho’s don’t keep the rain off your face and that drives me nuts. The umbrella works fine for me.
In your GPS just put in Short Springs Natural Area in Tullahoma, Tn. You will park at a large water tower. They have recently actually made an officially paved parking area. It had been just a gravel pull off. You will park, and then cross the street to start the trail.
I would encourage you to go to the Busby Falls overlook trail first. It’s a nice little hike and will give you an idea of where you will be hiking up to. The trail goes on over a bridge but, the last time I was there it just went onto a small loop trail that brought you right back to the bridge and there really wasn’t much to see on the loop. But, by all means, check it out if you want.
Since I did not go to the overlook on this trip I cannot remember if the trail takes you back to the Machine Falls loop or not. So, if there are no signs pointing you to Machine Falls come back to the trail head and take the Machine Falls Trail. Stay on the main trail. You will eventually come to the part of the trail that you can tell is getting a little more rugged. You will descend down a very steep area with some wooden steps. Go all the way to the bottom. You will see a sign pointing you to Machine Falls (don’t go over the bridge) to the right and the Wildflower Trail to the left. Even though this post is about Busby Falls PLEASE DO GO check out Machine Falls. It’s RIGHT THERE and it’s stunning.
To get to Busby Falls take the Wildflower Loop trail and go counter clockwise (mainly because the clockwise way was very overgrown). You will follow the loop right to the point where it would be looping to come back to the beginning. You will see a small trail that goes straight to the right (it’s right at the center of the loop).
This is where it gets fun. In a sort of weird, hiker fun kinda way. Normal people will not think this is fun.
Now, when I say ‘trail to Busby Falls’ I use this term ‘trail’ lightly. What little actual trail there is comes and goes and has been closed off by various blow downs. Basically, you will be in a very rocky creek bed that you will follow all the way to the falls. The good thing is you can’t really get lost since it just takes you one place…the falls. You will, however, get wet. Your feet will, more than likely, be completely submerged in water or muck at some point on this little jaunt. So, take either water shoes or a change of socks and shoes with you. As always I do not recommend flip flops or sandals.
This is what you will be walking through. I am not sure about the mileage. I don’t think it is all that far. Maybe, at most a half mile, but I doubt it’s even that far. It was just so slow going that it seemed that far.
Along the way, there were several smaller falls coming off the sides of the hills on either side as you walk down the creek bed. I only stopped and took pictures of one. Can you tell why? (cough, cough) No, I did not make this Cairn, but I love it!!
Tons of photo ops on this trail from water features to cairns, to mountain laurel that was falling from the trees above the falls.
The pollen was really bad. I didn’t realize that my lens was covered when I took this picture. I still like it though. I was constantly wiping my lens off.
Pretty much the whole way you can hear the falls. Just keep following the creek bed and the sound and you will eventually get there.
This area was so beautiful that three hours passed before I knew it. I had literally stayed three hours here taking pictures. I climbed over more stuff and walked through more stinky mud than I have in a long time to get some of these pictures. And I absolutely loved every minute of it. Well, except for the mosquitos. They were BAD.
So, there you have it. A beautiful, hard hike that I would do again in a second. Take your time. Oh, and watch out for snakes. Surprisingly I did not see a single one, but I know they had to be there.
Here are some need to knows before you go:
- Bug Spray. A LOT of bug spray. In fact, don’t just spray it on. Soak in a vat of Deet from head to toe. I used skin so soft which usually does the trick. Well, not with these mosquitoes. They must be terminator mosquitoes. I have over 50 bites to prove it. As a matter of fact, they are why I left and didn’t go back to the overlook.
- Good Shoes/water shoes that you don’t mind getting wet and muddy
- Extra shoes to change back into and socks as well
- Water. It was 89% humidity yesterday and I felt every bit of it. Take more than you think you will drink.
- Neutral Density Filter if a sunny day. You could get by without one if it’s very overcast.