7 TOP TRAIL-TO-TAVERN PAIRINGS
Cookeville's rustic breweries and colorful restaurants provide perfect spots to relax after a day on the trail.
It’s pretty much a universal truth that food tastes better after you’ve spent a long day outside. Likewise, no one can deny that craft beer is even more delicious after working up a sweat—especially one spent among the woods and waterfalls around Cookeville. With rustic breweries and colorful local restaurants at every turn, Cookeville has several great spots to relax after a day of adventure. To help you craft the perfect outing, we’ve paired the best trails with the ideal places in town to enjoy a drink and reminisce about your epic day outdoors.
1. Fall Creek Falls State Park — Hix Farm Brewery
Experience one of Tennessee’s most beloved state parks with a visit to Fall Creek Falls. There are plenty of dazzling waterfalls among the 26,000-acre park, but the star attraction is Fall Creek Falls itself, which is more than 250-feet high, making it one of the tallest free-falling waterfalls east of the Rockies.
Pair your trip to the state’s highest waterfall with a couple of Hix Farm Brewery’s “high-gravity” beers, like the Drunk Monk or the Raggamuffin Red Rye. High-gravity beers (also known as “big beers”) are typically bolder and more flavorful than other craft brews and usually contain a much higher alcohol content. While it’s an hour drive from the state park back into downtown to Hix Farm, it’s totally worth the trip, as this small, farmhouse-style brewery sources its ingredients locally, has a fantastic patio area, and is completely dog-friendly.
2. Standing Stone State Park — Red Silo Brewing Company
Named for a large, storied rock that once marked the boundary between two Native American tribes, Standing Stone State Park offers eight miles of hiking trails and a quiet lake for fishing and paddling. Established in 1939, this is one of Tennessee’s oldest state parks, and what remains of its namesake stone is preserved nearby in Monterey.
After a stroll through Tennessee’s early history, it’s only fitting to unwind at Cookeville’s first brewery, Red Silo Brewing Company, located in Cookeville’s historic WestSide cultural district. From the park, it’s a 40-minute drive back into town to Red Silo, where you can sample an array of the 26 small batch drafts with a flight, or if you’re feeling bold, grab a pint of the favored P-Nit-Butta Stout. The brewery is family and pet-friendly, plus offers live music multiple nights throughout the week.
3. City Lake Natural Area — 37 Cedar Restaurant and Bar
You don’t have to go far—just a 10-minute drive from downtown— to escape for an outdoor adventure. At City Lake Natural Area, you can launch a kayak or paddleboard from the put-in on Bridgeway Drive and cast a line for catfish and bass as you cruise around the 35-acre lake. If you need to stretch your legs, enjoy the easy half-mile walk to cascading City Lake Falls.
From the park, it’s a quick drive back to downtown Cookeville and 37 Cedar, where you can end your day with specialty cocktails, such as one of their six signature mules. And there’s no need to dress fancy to hit this classy-yet-casual eatery that offers ample food and drink selections and live music.
4. Virgin Falls State Natural Area — Calfkiller Brewing Co.
Hikers have to earn a view of impressive Virgin Falls, but the adventure is more than worth the effort. It’s a 9-mile round trip to catch a peek of the massive waterfall, which emerges from a cave and plunges 110 feet into another cave. Along the rugged yet well-traveled Virgin Falls Trail, you’ll encounter several other cascades, including Big Laurel Falls, Sheep Cave Falls, and Big Branch Falls.
After conquering the falls, make the 25-minute drive to Calfkiller Brewing Company in Sparta and reward yourself with their signature Trail Ale, a granola-inspired brew with hints of raisins, apples, and other trail mix staples.
5. Rock Island State Park — Jig Head Brewing Co.
Just south of Cookeville, Rock Island State Park is situated where the Caney Fork, Collins, and Rocky rivers meet to form the headwaters of Center Hill Lake, making the area a water lover’s paradise. It’s also a great place for a family or group of friends to gather to admire Twin Falls, Great Falls and enjoy a day on the lake’s sandy shores.
Let the good times continue back in town at another great gathering spot, Jig Head Brewing Company. At this family-friendly brewery, approximately 30 minutes fr0m the state park, the beer is certainly important, but the top priority is to offer folks a place to spend quality time together in a relaxing and welcoming atmosphere. Jig Head’s brewers and bartenders are always happy to help you decide on the perfect drink, and pets are welcome in the outdoor beer garden.
6. Lost Creek Falls — Happy Trails Brewing Co.
If you have your little ones in tow during your visit to Cookeville, Lost Creek Falls might just be the perfect adventure. Located just two-tenths of a mile from the parking area, getting to a stunning waterfall doesn’t get much easier than this. The trail isn’t steep or technical, making it easily manageable for children, dogs and beginner hikers. While you’re there, enjoy a picnic lunch in the spray of the 60-foot waterfall and explore around the entrance of the nearby Lost Creek Cave. (A permit from Fall Creek Falls State Park is required to actually enter the cave).
Once back at the car, head into downtown Sparta and continue your family outing at Happy Trails Brewing Co This new brewery and taproom is owned by a husband and wife duo who aim to offer quality craft beer in an environment that welcomes the whole family with games, music and a sunny outdoor space.
7. Ozone Falls/Bee Rock — Father Tom’s Pub
There’s no getting around it: Ozone Falls is one impressive waterfall. Tucked into a natural area near Crossville, Ozone Falls plunges 110 feet into a marvelously blue pool and then, in true Cumberland Plateau fashion, vanishes underground to reemerge further downstream. From the roadside parking area, you can take a very easy stroll to the top of the falls, or a short but slippery scramble down to the base of the falls (we recommend checking out both if you can). As you route back toward Cookeville, make a pitstop in Monterey for a short half-mile hike to one of the state’s most scenic overlooks, Bee Rock.
After this classic Cumberland adventure, make the 20-minute drive back to town and round out your day at one of the city’s most classic eateries, Father Tom’s Pub. The Irish-style restaurant serves up traditional pub food and offers an extensive drink list, ranging from local microbrews to a mighty array of single malt scotch.
Fun Fact: Fall Creek Falls, Lost Creek Falls and Ozone Falls were all film locations of Disney’s live-action version of the 1994 film, The Jungle Book.
Written for Matcha in partnership with Visit Cookeville.