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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Located in the Frozen Head State Park near Wartburg, Tennessee, Debord Falls stands 12-feet tall and is an easy hike of 1.5 miles out and back, along the Emory Gap Branch.
The trailhead is located at the end of the park, where the road stops at a parking area. You’ll find an informational placard which details a plethora of local flowers, and restrooms are available at the visitor center along the drive.
While it’s no surprise that I’ve discovered most waterfalls in Tennessee depend on rainfall to bolster water flow, guests may want to plan their visit in accordance with current weather conditions – many falls can be dry during summer months.
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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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This scenic photography features Richland Creek, as seen hiking along the Laurel-Snow Trail on the Cumberland Plateau, near Dayton, Tennessee. 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!
Earlier Post: Laurel-Snow Trail To Laurel Falls
This was my second visit to the park, and I’ll definitely be returning – there’s simply so much to see! My intent was to visit Snow Falls, a ten mile hike. However, soon after I began – at the first wooden bridge with a small creek – I opted to ascend the boulder-strewn mountainside, where to my delight I encountered a series of scenic waterfalls, as well as an old mine opening towards the top. This was difficult terrain but well worth the effort, though it added 2 hours to my hike…
Beyond an aluminum bridge at the 1.5 mile split, I headed left in accordance with the Snow Falls marker. Following another turnoff (stay right, as left leads to a campsite), I came upon a second creek crossing – an older metal bridge consisting of 3 fifty-foot connecting sections. Then, further along the trail, there’s an area which was poorly marked: rather than continue on the white blaze, hikers should make a short detour, following instead the orange ribbons posted on trees. This sidestep reconnects with the trail, which is clearly marked thereafter.
Missing this turn may cause hikers to spend the next twenty minutes scrambling up a steep mountain covered with slippery leaves. D’oh!
Thankfully, I found the trail again and continued on towards Buzzard Point…
While enjoying a great view to the east from Buzzard Point, I spotted several of these ugly birds effortlessly floating on thermal updrafts – 2 of which dive bombed me. Heads up!
After a brief rest to enjoy a peanut butter sandwich, I backtracked along the ridge on an old logging road which, at its terminus (a cable delineating property lines), has an unmarked trail into the forest at left. Thereafter, coming upon a fork in the path, I stayed left towards Morgan Creek (right leads to another campsite). To get to Snow Falls, one must cross the creek in order to rejoin the trail. However, the water was high, swift and cold…I waded in halfway to my knees, though could see I’d need to commit to crossing a depth over-knee deep (along a slippery, mostly flat rock surface under water), and bailed. Another time!
In summary, this was a very enjoyable hike of approximately 12 miles, though a rather long day. On the trail beginning at 9:45 a.m., I returned to my vehicle at 6:00 p.m., exhausted. Along the way, I shot a few more photographs of Richland Creek…
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Enjoy this landscape scenery featuring whitewater along Richland Creek, located on the Cumberland Plateau near Dayton, Tennessee. See more in my gallery at Pixels.
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!
Located in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee near Gatlinburg, the trail to Rainbow Falls (80 feet) ascends the northern slopes of Mount LeConte (6,593 feet). Despite being rated as a difficult hike, the 2.75 mile trail to the falls is heavily trafficked with a constant incline over sometimes rugged terrain. With many switchbacks, it has an elevation gain of 1,653 feet and is one of six separate routes up the mountain. During warm weather, hikers should consider arriving early to secure a parking space, as the lot fills quickly.
If hiking during winter months, come prepared with proper clothing – the falls are above the frost line and temperatures can be quite cold. Here’s a photograph from my hike in March, 2019:
Fortunately, the weather was wonderful during my recent visit, as evident in the following scenes…
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Here’s a video of Rainbow Falls…
Wow! I’ve hiked many areas in the state, but so far none can compare to the plethora of waterfalls as found along the Laurel-Snow Trail To Laurel Falls, located near Dayton, TN.
From the moment I stepped out my vehicle and on to the trail, the sound of running water was loud, present throughout my hike. Though alltrails.com lists the hike at 6.1 miles out and back, a placard at the trailhead cites the total distance as 5 miles. Whatever the case, I definitely added another mile or two exploring off trail – there were photography opportunities around every corner!
The road into the park is filled (no pun intended) with potholes – it’s somewhat of an obstacles course. Thus, drive slowly with caution around sharp turns near steep hills.
Richland Creek was full, with a wonderful blue-green coloration in deeper pools and dozens of small-to-medium size waterfalls visible from the trail. Other water sources – including Paine Creek – were flowing with waterfalls to enjoy while hiking. Also, huge boulders – some 30 feet tall – periodically peppered the waterside.
The trail, formerly a railroad bed of The Dayton Coal & Iron Company, Limited, was mostly hard-pack dirt and flat, though muddy in areas. Though the trail splits (a white blaze leads left along the creek, and, orange ribbons around trees mark a route into the forest, leading to the right), both trails soon reconnect before reaching a new, aluminum bridge. Thereafter, the trail becomes quite rocky, and signs are posted for Snow Falls (left) and the 80-foot Laurel Falls (right).
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See Also: Laurel-Snow Trail To Buzzard Point