Located in the Cherokee National Forest of the Smoky Mountains, near Greeneville, Tennessee, Lower Bailey Falls is a 20-foot tall waterfall in a slot canyon, with high rock walls set ten feet apart.
In order to access Lower Bailey Falls, visitors first follow the trail to Margarette Falls. If you’ve never been to the area, I recommend that you make time and do this shorter hike first – the picturesque Margarette Falls stands 60-feet tall, and the uphill hike along Dry Creek provides many beautiful cascades and smaller waterfalls.
The hike to Lower Bailey Falls is a total of 4 miles out and back, very strenuous, with an elevation gain of 971 feet. From the base of Margarette Falls, hikers must first ascend a steep, rugged 100-foot hillside, staying to the left at top to parallel Dry Creek upstream. A short path, of sorts, includes two creek crossings, but soon the creek itself becomes the trail for the remainder of the trek.
Everything is covered in moss and very slippery, which includes all larger stones underwater – it’s always best, when you’re able to see clearly through running water, to step on to sand or a cluster of smaller stones for better footing.
This may seem obvious, but worthy of emphasis: bearing all of ones weight on a single point, if that foot slips into an awkward position between two fixed rocks, serious injury may result…
Further ahead, space aside the creek is soon consumed by rock walls, with no place to walk except in the water, and the creek depth varies. In a few spots, to avoid waist deep (and cold) water, I had to carefully climb along the rock walls before descending back into the creek, again. And, hikers will also encounter a few larger boulders – sloping, some 12-feet long – which are deceptively slick.
Eventually, exercising patience and with safety in mind, you’ll hear the roar of falling water, and Lower Bailey Falls appears in the distance…
Pictured at left (above) is the beginning of a steep, 40-foot uphill scramble – some cliff & some forest – with a subsequent 20-foot descent leading hikers to the top edge of Lower Bailey Falls. After a long, sloping rock pathway, visitors will then see Upper Bailey Falls approx. 100-feet in the distance…more on that another time.
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