This picturesque photograph features Big Laurel Creek, a cascading waterway which I enjoyed hiking along en route to Virgin Falls. I’ve added it to my gallery at Pixels, where visitors can find a variety of prints – great for the home, office, lobby or cafeteria setting. Thanks for stopping by!
At 40-feet tall, the water flows over a rock ledge and then vanishes underground into a large network of caves. The recessed overhang allows for easy access behind the falls, though rocks are damp and quite slippery – hikers should use caution!
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I recently hiked the Virgin Falls State Natural Area, located on the Cumberland Plateau – near Sparta, Tennessee. Along the trail, I stopped to enjoy Big Branch Falls, a 15-foot tall waterfall featuring a series of small terraces; thus, producing a cascading effect.
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I recently had the opportunity to hike a moderately difficult trail of 5 miles out and back, to the picturesque Abrams Falls, a 20-foot tall and voluminous waterfall located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, at Cades Cove, Tennessee.
Cades Cove is a broad, verdant valley surrounded by mountains and is one of the most popular destinations in the Great Smokies.National Park Service
See earlier post: Abrams Falls at Cades Cove, TN
An 11-mile drive through Cades Cove is filled with historic sites from pioneers who settled the area, as well as stunning panoramic landscape views. Hikers should turn right at the #10 marker, following a gravel road to the trailhead for Abrams Falls. Despite the sign posted (above), there are restrooms in the parking area.
For the most part, the trail follows Abrams Creek, providing a soothing sound of running water to enjoy during ones hike. There are several changes in elevation along the way, and the trail can be quite rocky in areas – and, sometimes muddy. This is a popular trail which can become crowded, so it’s best to arrive early. And, don’t forget to bring water!
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After a short hike, I arrived at the scenic Jack Rock Falls. Standing 25-feet tall, I’d seen this waterfall on two previous occasions, each of which during relatively drier times. Following recent rains, it seemed that a return visit would be appropriate.
After taking photographs and enjoying this peaceful setting for a spell, I wondered…
…this waterfall is at a much higher elevation than Clear Creek, below. Might there be additional points of interest downstream worthy of exploration?
It seemed like a good bet, and so it began. I traversed along a steep hillside, weaved in and around trees and plants, and, when possible, climbed atop boulders hoping to glance what lay ahead. I could see some indication of an area where the rocks ended – a drop – but wouldn’t know with certainty until I arrived.
Moving downhill and around a cluster of moss covered rocks, I would soon see that which I’d hoped to find – another waterfall. Awesome! While I’m sure that others have enjoyed this spot, it was challenging to access without a trail, and I was grateful to have found such a beautiful place to enjoy.
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Following a hike at Denny Cove Falls, I drove less than 2 miles to the South Cumberland State Park near Sequatchie, Tennessee, to enjoy the picturesque 60-foot Foster Falls. The park features a paved road, restrooms, drinking fountain and a wooden boardwalk leading to an observation deck overlooking the gorge and falls.
After a short walk along a sandy path, hikers enter the forest and encounter a more difficult, steep downhill trail consisting of many rocks. There’s a suspension bridge at the base, with the falls at right. A walking stick and deliberate pace are recommended.
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Water cascades down a series of terraced ledges along the Lynn Camp Prong, located in the Tremont section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. See more.
This scenic photography features Richland Creek, as seen hiking along the Laurel-Snow Trail on the Cumberland Plateau, near Dayton, Tennessee. See more.
Following a decent rain over the previous fews days, I embarked on a short road trip from Knoxville, Tennessee, to the Smoky Mountains. Naturally, the water was high in Little River, and I enjoyed seeing several small waterfalls along the scenic drive – see more…
This close-up photograph highlights a waterfall located along Richland Creek, near the Laurel-Snow Trail in Dayton, Tennessee. Guests may visit my gallery for prints and more. Thanks!
Enjoy this winter view into the forest, as seen at the beginning of a 2.75 mile trail I recently hiked in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Visit my gallery at Pixels to discover fine quality prints available for purchase!
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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Enjoy this photograph of a tree and sky, with an infrared filter applied. Prints available.
Enjoy this photograph of white water rapids along the Little River in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. See more in my gallery at Pixels.