Following a stop at Piney Falls – more on that in a subsequent post – I drove for a second time to visit the Lost Creek State Natural Area. This time, though seasonal foliage was absent, the volume of water flowing was bolstered by recent rainfall and provided wonderful scenery.
See earlier post: Lost Creek Falls
Though a recent Year In Review entry highlighted Cummins Falls as my favorite waterfall, Lost Creek Falls – when taken in totality – certainly ranks as a contender for such accolades. While the magnitude of beauty is less, there’s simply more to enjoy!
Notes of Interest
Water in the plunge pool at the base of the 50′ Lost Creek Falls disappears completely underground by draining into a “sink” (or bowl), though a small surface stream remains visible during very wet conditions. The water ends up inside nearby Lost Creek Cave, one of Tennessee’s largest caves, with five separate entrances and seven miles of mapped passages. It’s pitch black inside, requiring headlamps and secondary light systems for safety, and is closed during winter months for purposes of bat hibernation. Also, rumor has it that somewhere deep within the cave, there is another similarly-sized waterfall!
If you enjoy the peace and quiet of nature in a remote location, this area fits the bill. During my first and second visits, I encountered one individual, and then a couple, respectively, while hiking. GPS coordinates of the parking area are N35 50.442, W85 21.660. No restrooms, no gift shop.
There are several areas worthy of exploring, each of which will be detailed to some extent, as follows. Stairs are provided leading visitors from the parking area to the falls and cave, though other trails are more rocky. Also, rocks around the water are covered with moss and can be very slippery, so proper footwear is important – exercise discretion.
Ice can pose a hazard for visitors during winter months. Case in point, clusters of huge icicles were positioned on cliff walls to the sides of Lost Creek Falls, as well as above the 30-foot opening to Lost Creek Cave. While I was there, I saw and heard several come crashing down as temperatures warmed a bit. Heads up! Also, many rocks near the waterfalls become coated with thin ice from mist in the air, and can be very slippery!
Photographs & descriptions of each area in chronological order:
Lost Creek Falls
The main attraction, Lost Creek Falls can be heard as soon as you step out of your car. As is common with many waterfalls found on the Cumberland Plateau, rocks have been eroded in a horseshoe shape with recessed areas underneath ledges. This particular topography also includes a few small caves. Also, the plunge pool is quite shallow – great for kids and/or dogs.
Located slightly uphill along a short trail to the right of Lost Creek Falls is a smaller waterfall – actually, a set of two. It’s also easy to cross the stream from left to right, which allows hikers access to the top of the falls. However, if conditions are dry so too is this stream.
Lost Creek Cave
This giant cave is located only 300 feet from, and in clear sight of, Lost Creek Falls. Glancing inside, it doesn’t take much distance for light to diminish into darkness. It’s closed for the winter, and spelunkers are required to register for a permit.
Upper Lost Creek Falls
A short trail from the parking area to the top of Lost Creek Falls provides hikers with an opportunity for more interesting views. You’ll see the leading edge of the falls, a stream above which flows as a series of small cascades over rock ledges, and a small cave – largely obscured by boulders – at the top, wherein a honeycomb of eroded rock channels spring fed water from the hillside. Unlike my prior visit, an increased flow of water prevented me from crossing the stream, though I was able – moving deliberatively with extreme caution – to scale icy surfaces in reaching the cave opening.
Another area to enjoy is Rylander Cascades, a short 1/2 mile hike from Lost Creek Falls along a rocky trail. During my visit in late-August, this area was completely dry. So, plan on visiting sometime following rain. If you’re feeling ambitious, this trail also leads 4.5 miles to Virgin Falls – a strenuous hike.
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