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Tennessee Waterfall Week

posted Apr 15, 2016, 3:14 PM by Justin P   [ updated Jun 15, 2016, 5:19 AM ]

The first week of April, Sandy and I headed to Tennessee for a week of waterfalls in the Cumberland Plateau region.  We left before 6 on Saturday morning and headed west.  In Winston-Salem, we took US-421 north through Boone.  After turning on US-321 past Boone, we made our first stop for a couple quick waterfalls in North Carolina before crossing the state line.  Our first stop was Laurel Creek Falls, also called Trash Can Falls.  We parked along US-321 near where Laurel Creek drains into Watauga River, crossed the street and followed a short path up along Laurel Creek.  Laurel Creek Falls is a 15-foot waterfall in two streams over some large boulders.

There’s a nice swim hole at the base and then a series of cascades and slides leading back down to the road.  I got some pictures of the main drop and then scrambled down to see the lower part.

It's a nice waterfall, despite the nickname.  Then we backtracked to the car and drove less than a quarter-mile further up US-321 to another pull out.  A very steep scramble path led down from the road to the Watauga River.  Watauga Falls is here, but it’s a stretch calling it a waterfall – more of a rapid.

But it was marked on the topo map and we were right here, so we made a quick stop.  After this, we returned to the car and headed into Tennessee.  A few miles past the state line, we turned left on Poga Road and went three miles or so. We made a right turn on Clawson Road and then right on Dark Ridge Road and drove a short ways to a parking area on the left after it turned to gravel.  Our next waterfall was Twisting Falls, also called Compression Falls, on Elk River.  Once we got our stuff together, we started hiking down the path to the powerlines and then the very steep hike down to the river.  I got almost all the way to the bottom and realized I forgot my camera, so ran back up to get it.  It was quite a strenuous trip back up.  After retrieving the camera, I headed back down and followed Elk River a short ways upstream to the waterfall.  From here, we could only see the lowest 30-foot drop of the waterfall as well as a second stream flowing down in parallel.  The river level was way up and everything was soaked from spray.  I got as close as possible to get a picture of the falls, but could only see the main drop.

So I headed back a ways to get a picture of both streams.

Then I went a little further back to get a shot of the falls from a distance with the river in the foreground.

Overall, this is a very nice waterfall and extremely popular swim hole in the summer.  It was nice to be the only ones here.  When we were finished, we had to make the steep climb up, a second time for me.  Back at the car, we continued back to US-321 and headed towards Hampton.  We pulled off at the parking area long US-321 just as we reached Hampton at the trailhead for Laurel Fork Falls.  We got our stuff together and started hiking down the blue-blazed Hampton Blueline/Laurel Falls Trail (#501).  The trail headed up to a ridgeline and followed Laurel Fork upstream, soon entering the Pond Mountain Wilderness.  Shortly, we went right at the fork to follow the low-water route and hike along the creek through a beautiful gorge area.  High rocky cliffs rose along the bubbling creek.

About a mile into the hike, we came to the Appalachian Trail (#1) and followed this southbound by bearing right at the fork.  There were a few sections with some elevation gain, but overall a pretty easy section of trail.  As we approached the waterfall, we had to scramble over some rocks through another beautiful gorge section.

Just past this, we made it to the base of the Laurel Fork Falls.  This is a beautiful 60-foot waterfall that is nearly as wide as it is tall.

We took a break down here and had a snack, enjoying the view of the waterfall.  I got some pictures from different angles and then we started making our way back.

The hike back along the AT and Blueline Trail was just as scenic on the way out as it was on the way in.  I think there's a shorter way to get to the waterfall coming the other way on the AT, but this was such a nice hike, there was no reason to shorten it.  We drove just a short ways further on US-321 and then turned onto Dennis Cove Road. This road is paved, but very steep and windy. It was about 4.5 miles to the pull-off for Coon Den Falls. The parking spot is very small – only big enough for one car, and we initially passed it and had to turn around. Only a metal stake indicated the trail started here. It’s only a half-mile to the waterfall, but it’s uphill the entire way, gaining over 400 vertical feet. We followed the trail up along Coon Den Branch to the waterfall for a couple pictures.

It’s a fairly tall waterfall, with the water sliding down through a narrow crack in the rock. There was too much vegetation in the way to get a good picture though.  Close up, the perspective is distorted and the waterfall doesn't look that big.  Further back on the trail, I could get a better view of how tall the waterfall is, but it was a cluttered view.

So we headed back down to the car and drove about a quarter-mile further to park outside the closed Dennis Cove Campground. We were going to hike to Dennis Cove Falls, which is about a mile up Laurel Fork Trail from here. There are a couple fords on the way to the waterfall, so we hiked in water shoes. In about a half-mile, we came to the first crossing. There was a cable strung across, but the water was so deep and fast-moving, it didn’t look safe. We decided to turn around and give up. From here, we drove into Johnson City and had dinner at Firehouse Restaurant. They had some pretty good barbeque. Then we checked into our hotel for the evening – the Red Roof Inn. It was a cheap option since we were only staying one night before heading further into Tennessee.  Sunday morning, we checked out of the hotel early and had breakfast at IHOP.  Then we headed towards the Cumberland Plateau area.  We got on I-40 west towards Nashville, getting off at US-70 near Crab Orchard to reach Ozone Falls State Natural Area.  Our first waterfall for the day was Ozone Falls.  This is a beautiful 110-foot free fall with an easy hike.

Being a weekend, we wanted to get there early before the crowds.  We arrived around 9 (central time) and were the first people here.  Fortunate as there isn't a very big parking area here.  From the parking area, we headed down to the waterfall, passing the tall cliffs and the Gamblers’ Den, a location for illicit gambling in the past.

Past this we came to a viewpoint at about the middle of the waterfall.  I usually like to see waterfalls from the base, but this one had a great viewpoint from the middle.  I think the waterfall actually looked bigger from the middle than from the base with less distortion of perspective.

We then climbed down to the base to get some pictures from here as well as more cascades below the main drop on Falls Creek.  Wildflowers were blooming all along the hillside.

Once finished, we made a quick hike back up to the car and then we continued on to the next waterfall.  We got on TN-68 towards Spring City, turning onto Firetower Road just past Grandview to park at the Piney Falls State Natural Area.  There are two waterfalls here – the upper and lower falls on Piney Creek.  We started hiking down the trail and turned right at the split to head towards the top of Upper Piney Falls.  Under normal conditions, it’s possible to rock-hop across the creek above the falls and work down to the base from the other side.  But the water was way too high today to cross.  A slip at the top of an 80-foot waterfall would not end well.  So we backtracked and went first to Lower Piney Falls.

The trail comes out at the top of the waterfall, but there isn’t a good view from here.  The tall cliffs prevented getting any further down.  As we were heading back, I saw some people coming from a side path.  Thinking that might lead to the base, we turned and tried to follow the path, but found no way to get down to creek level.  Finally giving up, we headed to the base of Upper Piney Falls.

Just before getting there, I saw the couple from before and asked if they had figured out how to get to the base, but they had no more luck than we did.  I got some pictures from the base of Upper Piney Falls and tried to go behind the falls, but they spray was so intense, I turned back.

The trail coming from the top of the falls would connect back here but the high water level made it too difficult.  So we started just heading back.  On the way back, we tried one more time to try to get to the base of Lower Piney Falls.  Near the first intersection, we followed a path along cliffs higher above the creek.  The cliffs had some cool holes in them, but couldn’t find any reasonable path down to creek level.

I think it would involve ropes.  So we headed back to the car and continued to Spring City.  We had to get gas and picked up McDonalds for lunch while we were stopped.  Then we headed back to Shut In Gap Road and followed this road up the escarpment to Stinging Fork Falls State Natural Area.  The first part of the hike was through new-growth forest and eventually started heading down to the creek into a more natural area.  As we got to near the top of the falls, we saw some people scrambling down to the base and followed.  Getting back up would be tricky, but it turns out we had gotten off the trail and following the trail would be a much easier hike back up.  Stinging Fork Falls is a really beautiful waterfall with a great swimming hole at the base.

It was way too cold for swimming today and unfortunately, the sun was shining right on the waterfall.  I tried to get a couple pictures and then we followed the trail back.  There were some nice cascades along the creek downstream from the falls and stairs provided a much easier path to the top.

On the way back, we swung by the Indian Head Point overlook, but the views of the Stinging Fork Gorge below were mostly obscured by trees.  The creek was not visible below (but definitely audible), though the surrounding cliffs were very pretty.  We then headed back to the car and continued up the road a short ways and turned on Walden Mountain Road to the Cumberland Trail parking.  Right at the parking area, a large number of tiger swallowtail butterflies were puddling on the ground.

Not sure what was there, but maybe somebody dumped a drink or something.  We started hiking along the Cumberland Trail following Duskin Creek downstream, crossing on a footbridge right near the start.

There were lots of scenic little cascades along the creek and the forest floor was alive with wildflowers and ferns.

In about a mile and a half, we made it to White Pine Cascades.  It’s a really scenic cascading waterfall on the creek with an inviting swim hole at the base.

Unfortunately, the sun was shining directly on it, ruining any chance for a decent picture.  Without a cloud in the sky, there wasn’t much chance the situation would change any time soon, so we started hiking back.  We stopped at several of the little cascades on Duskin Creek along the way back.

Many of them were quite scenic and few in the shade made for a decent picture.  Back at the car, we headed back to paved roads and drove towards Cleveland.  We checked into our hotel, Holiday Inn Express, and then went across the street for dinner at Fulin’s Asian Cuisine.  Monday morning, we were heading north back to the Cumberland Plateau area for a great day hike.  We drove towards Crossville and headed into Scott's Gulf to the Virgin Falls State Natural Area.  It’s a good long hike, so we planned to spend the entire day here.  After getting our stuff together, we set off on the trail.  The first mile or so is pretty easy and flat, following Big Branch downstream.  In just over a mile, right after crossing the creek, we came to our first waterfall of the day – Big Branch Falls.

This is the smallest waterfall in the area with a drop of about 20 feet.  It's also the only "normal" waterfall with the water continuing to flow above ground after the waterfall.  We stopped for a couple of pictures and then continued on down to Big Laurel Creek and the cable crossing.  Even in fairly high water levels, the crossing was pretty easy and I don't think the cable was necessary.  From here, the trail became more steep as we headed downstream along Big Laurel Creek.  It was all downhill, so not so tough going down, but it would be more strenuous on the way back out.  We saw a group of backpackers making their way out and we knew it would be a tough hike back up.  We continued down the creek until came to Big Laurel Falls.

This amazing waterfall drops 40 feet over a cliff, then flows backwards into a rockhouse behind the falls and disappears!

The water flows into the ground and presumably flows underground until it reaches Caney Fork River.  We walked around for a while getting pictures of the waterfall from different angles and checking out the cave behind the falls.

A sign at the trailhead indicated that all the caves were closed to reduce the risk to bats, so we didn't explore in the cave too far.  Then we continued on the trail, following the now-underground creek downstream, though there was no creek to see - just a depression in the ground.  As we got closer to Caney Fork River, we reached the Loop Trail and turned right and headed towards Sheep Cave.  Like Big Laurel Falls, this waterfall drains into a sinkhole and disappears.  But it also comes out of a cave!  Unfortunately, there were too many trees and vegetation to get a picture of the entire thing.  We climbed up to Sheep Cave and had a snack here, watching the water flow out of the cave and then over the waterfall.

I found a ledge to climb out on and get a picture of the upper section of the falls.

Then we headed back and continued on towards Virgin Falls.  Looking down, we could see where the underground creeks likely were located, draining the water from the waterfalls.  Continuing on a short ways, we came to Virgin Falls.

The water for Virgin Falls originates from a cave, drops 110 feet and falls into a sinkhole, disappearing from view.  This is truly a spectacular waterfall!  We got some pictures from the midpoint and walked around a bit.

I found a nice patch of beautiful trout lilies blooming near the falls.

Then we headed up to the top to see the cave.  Located about 40 feet from the brink, all of the water came out of a small cave in the side of the mountain.  Where that water came from, I have no idea.  A cool breeze was emanating from the cave and felt like air conditioning.

We got some pictures from up here, then continued back down to the base and started making our way back.  On the way, we made a detour to Caney Fork River.

The river was very pretty with a number of small rapids.  There appeared to be a ford at this point, but the water level was way too high to cross.  We also saw lots of pretty wildflowers blooming along the shore.

After a snack break, we started making our way back.  We stopped again at Big Laurel Falls as a rainbow was now visible.

Continuing up the trail past the waterfall, there were a number of nice cascades that we had passed on the way down.  We made a couple quick stops to scamble down and see some of these nice cascades.

Most of them had great swim holes, but it was way too cold to think about swimming today.  We made another quick stop at Big Branch Falls as the lighting was better than it had been in the morning.

Then we finished our hike back to the car.  I spotted some beautiful eastern redbud blooming right by the parking area.

From here, we headed into Crossville for dinner at Cancun Mexican Restaurant and then drove back to our hotel in Cleveland.  Tuesday, we headed back to the Cumberland Plateau region, heading towards Cookeville. North of Cookeville, we headed to Cummins Falls State Park.  This small state park is centered around the 75-foot waterfall on Blackburn Fork River.  From the parking lot, we first hiked the short Fall Overlook Trail to the overlook with a decent view of the falls, but the best views would be from the base.

We then followed Blackburn Fork River Trail down to river level and then started following the river upstream towards the falls.  About half-way, we could see a small tributary waterfall tumbling down from the other side of the river.

After this point, there was no more trail and we couldn’t find a way across.  It was particularly cold and the water level was up and there was no easy way across.  We walked around searching for a decent way across but had no luck.  Since we had many more waterfalls for the day, we decided to just give up and head back.  In hindsight, we should have made more of an effort and gotten across.  At least we saw a number of pretty wildflowers on the hike back up out of the gorge, including trillium and Dutchman's breeches.

Originally, our next waterfall was Burgess Falls.  Unfortunately, the park closed the trail to the main waterfall due to storm damage, so we decided to go to Rock Island State Park instead.  We stopped first at Great Falls just beyond the dam.

A short trail leads down to river level for good views of this huge river-wide waterfall.  Unfortunately, when we arrived, a park ranger informed us that the trail was closed due to high water.  So we could only get some photos from the overlook.  From here, we could see one section of Great Falls as well as Twin Falls in the distance.

We drove a little further back and found another overlook next to the Great Falls Cotton Mill.  More of Great Falls was visible from here and we wanted to see as much as possible with the trail to the base close.

After a couple pictures, we continued to the other side of the river to the Twin Falls Observation area.  Although the Upstream Trail was closed, the Downstream Trail was not so we could get some good views of Twin Falls.  The best view was from an open spot just upstream of the waterfall.

We went a little further and climbed out on the rocks, but the waterfall is just too big.  It's really an interesting waterfall.  When the Great Falls Dam was constructed near the confluence of Caney Fork and Collins River, the water level of Collins River rose.  This extra water flooded an underground cavern, which ultimately exits through Twin Falls.  Although it's a man-made waterfall, it was very impressive.  Next we headed to Fall Creek Falls State Park.  Our first stop was at the Nature Center near Cane Creek Falls.  After getting our stuff together we headed to the suspension bridge over Cane Creek and then down to the Cane Creek Cascades.

This nice 40-foot waterfall is basically the upper portion Cane Creek Falls.  Then we headed to the overlook to see the Cane Creek and Rockhouse Falls.  There was enough spray that a double rainbow was visible in the pool below.

To the right, we could see Rockhouse Falls, a smaller but even higher free-falling waterfall.

We planned to go to the base, but the Cable Trail was closed and yet again, we couldn’t make it down.  We went to the other overlook for the falls, but the view was not very good.  Trees blocked seeing much of the waterfall.  So we continued on to Fall Creek Falls.  The trail to the base of this one was open!  We first stopped at the overlook which provided a very nice view of Fall Creek Falls and the adjacent Coon Creek Falls.

Fall Creek Falls is below the dam, so even in high water the flow wasn’t too great.  But these waterfalls are among the highest free-falling waterfalls in the eastern US.  I couldn’t help but think that the only waterfall with the trail to the base open was the one with the best overlook view.  We were definitely regretting not getting to the base of Cummins Falls this morning.  After some pictures from the overlook, we headed down into the gorge on the Base of Falls Trail.  It was a steep trail, leading down into the gorge via a couple switchbacks.  Then, we headed upstream along Fall Creek past some huge rock cliffs.

At the base, I played around and climbed on the rocks to get pictures of the waterfalls from different angles.

Then we started slowly making our way back up.  We spotted some pretty columbine while still in the gorge and then made the strenuous climb back up.

From the parking area, we continued on the one-way scenic loop, stopping at a couple overlooks for views of the Cane Creek gorge.

We also stopped at Millikan's Overlook with a view of the Piney Creek Gorge and confluence with Caney Creek.

Then we made one last stop to see Piney Creek Falls.  The overlook isn’t great and the views are somewhat blocked by trees, but it’s a real short hike.

After a couple pictures, we started making our way back to Cleveland.  We stopped and picked up a pizza for dinner on the way.  On Wednesday, we were heading into Alabama to get some waterfalls in another state.  We drove towards Chattanooga and took I-59 south through Georgia and into Alabama.  We first headed to Gadsden to see Noccalula Falls.  The impressive 90-foot waterfall is right in town.

The city has a park here, complete with petting zoo and mini-golf.  But we were only here to see the waterfall, so rather than paying to enter the park, we just walked over to see the waterfall.  We would have had to wait for it to open as well.  A statue near the rim was of a Cherokee woman, Noccalula for whom the falls is named, jumping over the edge.  According to legend, she killed herself rather than marry a man she didn’t love.

We got some pictures here and walked over to the footbridge over the river above the falls.  Then we headed north to Little River Canyon National Preserve.  We entered on AL-176 at Eberhart Point and followed the rim drive north.  We first stopped at the overlook for Grace’s High Falls.

From across the Bear Creek Gorge, we could see the waterfall tumbling off the cliff.  Although it’s a seasonal waterfall, when it's flowing, it’s the highest in the state of Alabama at 133 feet and today it was flowing well.  As we were getting ready to leave, a turkey vulture flew right by us and I was able to get a picture before he flew off.

We continued on and stopped at a couple of the overlooks.  First we stopped at the Wolf Creek Overlook for views on the west end of the Wolf Creek gorge.

Then we stopped on the other side at Canyon View with views across to our previous stop..

Next, we stopped at Lynn Overlook with more great views of the Little River Canyon.

And then finally, we stopped at the Little River Falls Overlook.  Although the waterfall was a ways upstream, the viewpoint was pretty good.

We stopped one more time at the parking area for Little River Falls and went down for some pictures of the waterfall close up.  This impressive river-wide waterfall is split into two streams and it was really flowing today.

After a few pictures, we continued north to DeSoto Falls.  I got a tip from a friend, so instead of going to the main viewing area, we parked along the road and followed a trail to the base.  The trail started past some huge cliffs and then led down to the river.

There were some beautiful azaleas blooming.

It was just a short ways along the river to the base of this beautiful 100-foot waterfall.  Our friends who had visited recently had gone swimming, but it was way too cold today.  We had a snack and I climbed around on the rocks to get pictures from different angles.

There were some beautiful irises blooming near the waterfall.

Along the way back, we passed some people rock climbing on the cliffs.  Back at the car, we continued a short ways to the the regular viewing area.  It was a view of the top, including the A. A. Miller Dam and some cascades above the main drop.

We followed the path to the overlook and had to stretch to get an unobstructed view of the main waterfall.

From here, we headed into the main part of DeSoto State Park and parked at the Talmadge Butler Boardwalk trailhead.  We followed this boardwalk to the first of several small waterfalls in the park.  Azalea Cascade was just a small slide between some big boulders.

We got on the blue-blazed Lost Falls Trail and hiked about a mile to the next waterfall.  Lost Falls is a small waterfall and the first of several on Laurel Creek.  Although it's not big, it's pretty as it falls over the rock ledges.

We crossed the creek above the waterfall and followed the orange-blazed Laurel Falls Trail to this waterfall.  We could have just as easily seen it coming in from the Lost Falls Trail.  This small waterfall had a lot of moss and algae growing on the rocks over which it fell.

We finished up the loop and took the boardwalk back to the parking area.  We crossed the street here and headed down to Indian Falls.

A footbridge led over the falls, so we had to climb down to get a good view.  This 20-foot waterfall was very scenic, the last one on Laurel Creek before it flows into West Fork Little River.

From here, we got on the DeSoto Scout Trail and followed the river downstream a bit, then took the violet-blazed Wildflower Trail to Lodge Falls.  The top of the waterfall had a small, but scenic drop.

It seemed like there was more to it downstream.  I tried climbing down all the way to the river, but there was really nothing else to see.  So we headed back to the car and drove further into the park for one more waterfall.  We parked at the trailhead for Gilliam Loop Trail and followed this trail for a half-mile or so.  Then we turned on DST Exit 1 and followed this down to DeSoto Scout Trail.  It was relatively level at first, but got extremely steep before reaching river level.  We got on DeSoto Scout Trail and followed West Fork Little River downstream.  Almost immediately, looking across the river, we could see what looked like a waterfall on the other side.  But there was no way to get across the river in such high water for a closer look.  Following the trail, we soon came to Poison Ivy Falls.  This tall waterfall flows over a high cliff, forming a rockhouse behind the falls.

I’m not sure how the waterfall got its name and I didn’t want to find out.  After a few pictures, we continued on and took DST Exit 2 to head back.  Along the way, we heard something and got off trail to find a small 10-foot waterfall on an unnamed tributary.  We called it Rhododendron Falls, because it was so covered in rhododendron that it was hard to get a picture.

We then finished our hike up and headed back to the car.  Driving back to Cleveland, we stopped in town for dinner at Five Point Square before heading back to the hotel.  Thursday we headed towards Chattanooga for some more waterfalls.  Our first stop was at Foster Falls in South Cumberland State Park.  We first made a short hike to the overlook with pretty good views of the waterfall.

A few of the waterfalls we had visited this week had rather poor views from overlooks, but from here, we could see the entire waterfall, unobstructed by trees and foliage.  Then we got on Fiery Gizzard Trail and crossed the creek on a bridge upstream of the falls.  There was another overlook on this side.  The view of the main waterfall was poor but we could see another waterfall on a tributary from here.  The trail then passed a campground and we turned off on the second Climber Access Spur and headed down below the cliffs.

The cliffs here were great and it’s no surprise that this is a popular area for climbing.  Continuing upstream, we soon made it to the base of this impressive 60-foot waterfall.  A pretty rainbow appeared in the spray from the falls.

We climbed around on the rocks to get pictures of Foster Falls from different angles.

I also found a better spot to view the unnamed tributary waterfall.

Then we climbed back up and headed back in the car.  We then made the short drive to the Grundy Forest State Natural Area, which is now part of South Cumberland State Park, at the other end of Fiery Gizzard Trail.  We started hiking on the Grundy Forest Day Loop in the clockwise direction.  Following Little Fiery Gizzard Creek downstream, we soon came to Blue Hole Falls.

Although not a big waterfall, it was very scenic and the swim hole at the base looked very inviting.  Shortly after this, we turned onto Fiery Gizzard Trail and followed the main creek downstream.  We passed through Black Canyon, which was a small slot canyon with a cool small waterfall.

Then we passed Chimney Rocks, tall rock cliffs sticking up like chimneys.

Shortly after the Chimney Rocks, we made it to Sycamore Falls.  This waterfall is split into two steams, but it’s hard to get a good view without crossing the creek.

Sandy and I found some rocks to climb down to for a couple pictures as we didn’t want to get our feet wet.  Next we backtracked and got back on the day loop.  The next waterfall was Hanes Hole Falls, another scenic 10-foot waterfall with a nice swim hole at the base.

Then we started to loop back towards the parking lot.  We made one more stop at School Branch Falls, the highest that we had seen, but also the lowest flow.  We had to climb down to get a picture.

In hindsight, it would have been easier to get this one at the beginning from the lower end of the loop.  We climbed back up and then returned to the car to head towards our next destination.  It was about an hour to Falling Water Falls.  This waterfall is over 100 feet, but it’s really hard to get a good view.  The trail leads out to the cliff, but you really can’t see the waterfall from here.

The view sure is nice though.  The sheer cliffs are too dangerous to get out on.  I heard there’s a way to the base, but I had no idea how to do it.  So we crossed the creek above the waterfall and found a cliff to get out on for a decent view.

Then we headed back and continued on to North Chickamauga Creek Gorge State Natural Area.  We got on the Cumberland Trail and followed the creek upstream.  At the split, we went left to stay on Cumberland Trail and follow closely to the creek.  After crossing Hogskin Branch, the trail headed up very steeply.  At the top, we turned left and followed an old mining road for a ways.  In about 1.5 miles from the start, we came to Strip Mine Falls, a scenic 20-foot waterfall in two streams.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of deadfall and the second stream was flowing much.  We got some pictures and started heading back.  At Hogskin Branch, we stayed on Hogskin Branch Loop to head back to the car.  It was getting late and we still had one more waterfall.  Fortunately, this one is in a cave, so daylight doesn’t matter.  We headed into Chattanooga to Ruby Falls.  This waterfall is very commercialized, not my favorite thing, but a 140-foot underground waterfall is too impressive to be missed.  After paying admission, we took an elevator 260 feet down into the heart of Lookout Mountain.  As we walked through the cave, our tour guide told us about the history of the cave and how it came to be developed.  The cave itself was really beautiful.

They use lights to make stuff look psychedelic, but the cave formations were just beautiful.

There were a number of interesting features in the cave, including stalactites, stalagmites, and columns.  Many of these features have names like the tobacco leaves and steak and potatoes.

Soon, we reached the amazing Ruby Falls.  The cave is lit up with different colored lights to give the waterfall the appearance of changing colors.  It was very beautiful.

After this we headed back.  We got stuck in traffic heading back to Cleveland and got back so late, we just had Wendys for dinner.  Friday morning, we packed up and checked out of the Holiday Inn, leaving Cleveland.  We started heading east into Cherokee National Forest on US-64.  At Parksville Lake, we turned on TN-30 towards the Rock Creek Scenic Area and parked at the trailhead for Clemmer Trail.  After getting our stuff together, we started out hiking the Scenic Spur Trail (#78).  This trail follows Rock Creek upstream for about 1.5 miles.  Towards the end, there were two creek crossings over Rock Creek.  One I was able to rock-hop and the other I had to wade; there had been a little too much rain for a rock hop.  Shortly past the last crossing, we came to Rainbow Falls.

This waterfall has two sections, an upper 20-foot double drop through a rock chasm and then a 12-foot cascade below.  We came out in between the two sections with good views of the upper part.  It was a steep scramble down to get a shot of the lower section and a view of both of the sections.

I found out later that there's another larger waterfall above this one, but didn't know at the time.  I guess we'll have to make a return trip to get that one.  After a few pictures, we started making our way back.  From here, we backtracked to Forest Road 77 and took this towards Chilhowee Campground.  There were a couple scenic overlooks on the way so we stopped.  The first had a nice view of Parksville Lake far below.

Another had a nice stone gazebo that had unfortunately been vandalized with graffiti.

Past here, we turned into Chilhowee Recreation Area.  At the campground, we parked at the day use area and paid at the self-serve kiosk.  Then we got on the Benton Falls Trail (#131) and hiked past McCamy Lake.

The trail was pretty flat and quite easy, a nice wide old roadbed.  It was about a mile and half stroll to the waterfall.  At the end of the trail, a steep path led down to the base of Benton Falls.  I was really impressed.  I wasn’t familiar with this waterfall beofore and it was really beautiful.  Probably the most photogenic of the trip.

The water tumbles down about 65 feet over countless ledges.  We played around on the rocks for a while getting pictures and then headed back.  Our last waterfall for the day was Twin Falls on Gee Creek.  From US-411, we took Gee Creek Road, which becomes Forest Road 2013 as it enters into Cherokee National Forest.  The Gee Creek Trail (#191) leads into the Gee Creek Wilderness.  It’s only about a mile to the waterfall, which was very pretty despite not being too big.

Gee Creek splits into two streams as it cascades down.  After some pictures, we started making our way back.  Just downstream of Twin Falls was a very scenic cascade on the creek.

Sandy fell in trying to get a good view.  I decided to take off my boots and wade in the river for a picture.  A little further, we spotted another nice cascade that was big enough to almost be another waterfall.

Back at the car, we started heading north, taking I-75 to I-40.  There was a wreck near the intersection so we got off the highway and had dinner in Lenoir City.  Then we got back on I-40 and drove to Greeneville and stayed at Quality Inn.  Later that night, it started to hail, with some really big chunks, but nothing stuck by morning.  Saturday morning, we were heading back to NC.  But of course we had to get some more waterfalls on the way.  After checking out of the hotel, we headed towards Erwin and headed into Cherokee National Forest on Clarks Creek Road.  In about 3 miles, we reached the trailhead for Sill Branch Falls.  After getting our stuff together, we started hiking.  We had to dress in layers as it was very cold this morning, unseasonably so for Tennessee in April.  We didn't have any warm clothes so we wore rain jackets to help stay warm.  The hike was only about half a mile to this very scenic 50-foot waterfall.

After a few pictures, we headed back and drove a short ways further on Clarks Creek Road to the trailhead for Longarm Branch Trail.  It’s over 2 miles to Longarm Branch Cascades and we weren’t going to go that far.  Instead, we followed the trail for about a half-mile to a crossing.  Right after rock-hopping across, we turned left to follow a path heading upstream along Devil Fork Creek.  Shortly, we reached the 25-foot Pine Ridge Falls. 

It's a very scenic waterfall and very easy to reach, especially from the trailhead for Sill Branch Falls.  After some pictures, we made our way back to the car.  We then headed to the Rock Creek Recreation Area.  This is also a pay area, though most of the roads were gated.  After paying we hiked in on the roads to the campground and then followed the Rock Creek Trail as it followed its namesake upstream, eventually entering the Unaka Mountains Wilderness.  The trail was pretty easy to follow, but it was very cold.  As we hit around 3000 feet in elevation or so, we started to see snow on the ground.

Soon we came to Lower Rock Creek Falls, a 30-foot slide.

We climbed down to the base for some pictures, then headed back up to the trail.  At one point, there was a nice view of the waterfall from the side from up on the trail.

Above that was a much smaller cascade with icicles all around.

We could really tell how cold it was getting - snow was now covering the ground  Then soon we made it to the Rock Creek Falls, a two-tiered 50-foot waterfall.  It was really scenic, but hard to get a picture.  The upper part was illuminated by direct sunlight, while the lower part was in the shadows.

It was very cold and windy so I didn’t try for too long.  We then headed back and made our way back into NC.  I counted up our waterfalls for the week and got to 49.  That just won’t do.  After getting through Boone, we hopped on the Blue Ridge Parkway and drove a couple miles to E. B. Jeffress Park.  Here, we made the short hike to Cascade Falls, a very tall cascading waterfall.

The overlook is near the top and it’s difficult to judge just how far down it does.  After some pictures, we made our way back and drove home after an epic week of Tennessee waterfalls.