Hiking Foster Falls Climber’s Loop Trail

Tennessee Hikes, Waterfalls

My AllTrails recording can be found here.

My daughter has recently gotten into hiking. I am one proud mama! I was hoping she would come around to it. So far I have tried to take her on easy(ish) hikes. She’s grown and could handle a hard hike, but I don’t want to scare her off. I decided to take her to Foster Falls and do the Climber’s Loop Trail. I have been to the falls several times, but this is the first time I have done the loop. And, of course, I left the good camera at home in a chair. So no super pretty flowing waterfall pics this time. I will just have to come back I guess.

Foster Falls is part of the Fiery Gizzard trail in South Cumberland State Park. It is an easy to moderate trail, barring a couple of up hills, that is just under three miles. The rest of the Fiery Gizzard is a brutally hard trail. This hike would be fine for kids, not too little, that can handle the climbs. It took us under two hours and that was even stopping a lot for pictures.

Foster Falls

The hike down is steep, but worth it. On this day, it was incredibly crowded and the trail was lined with people going down and coming back up. Very different from a few years ago when I went and there was hardly anyone there. It was also very slick. A couple of people slipped. Once you get down to the bottom it is absolutely gorgeous.

The bridge is a nice touch to the rest of the scenery. It isn’t a very high or long bridge, but fun just the same.

This shot gives you an idea of the terrain. It is very rocky, rooty and steep.

If you look in the top right hand side you will see a group of kids at the base. They are yelling up at a girl that is walking along a tiny ledge. It sounded like they were screaming at her to stop. It was scary. I don’t think she realized just how high up she was and if she had slipped it would have been bad.

Once you move on past the swinging bridge the trail cuts back to the left to take you on up to the climber’s loop. The greens and the rain that had just come through really made for a pretty hike.

As you can see, the terrain is very rocky. There is one section where you really have to boulder hop. It’s short though..very doable.

Eventually you will see this sign. Since I had heard that the trail was three miles long I knew this just could not be correct so we kept on. That was a mistake. Past this sign the trail ends at one of the climber’s walls. I would have taken pictures of that, but there were several climbers just sitting there talking and I didn’t want to bother them. We turned around and headed back to this sign and took the trail up.

This is the steepest part other then when you are actually going down to the falls at the beginning. It’s a bit of a climb over some rocks. It was very humid when we went and were soaked with sweat by the time we got to the top.

Once at the top it is easy going. You will stroll along and see some great views. In about six weeks or so this is just going to be fabulous with all the fall colors. We kept going and eventually came up to the Father Adamz campsite area. There were several really good camping areas that I will definitely be back to check out. Hopefully, in the next few weeks. We went in and checked out the sites and then came back and headed on down the trail.

Eventually, you end up at a great overlook of the top of the falls.

And then another bridge.

One last really pretty overlook before we get back up to the trail leading back to the parking lot.

Looking back at the area we just came out of.

All in all just a lovely hike and would recommend for those who are in relatively good shape. If you get there early enough you would have time to go do another short hike in the area. We got there around 3 in the afternoon, so it was a little late by the time we finished up.

Afterwards we went to Jim Oliver’s Smokehouse. It is my go-to after hike meal place. Highly recommend it. The food was delicious and my daughter loved her bbq and fried chocolate pie. You even get a free fudge sample when checking out.

That’s it for now!

Happy Hiking!

Lori

Virgin Falls-Know Before You Go

Tennessee Hikes

*All the photos in this post were taken at different times/seasons over several years by me.*

Virgin Falls.

Wow! So much that can be said.

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First: The TRUTH

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Virgin was my first really hard hike. So hard in fact, that after I survived it, I swore that I would never go back. That was about twenty hikes ago. Just goes to show never say never.

My young nephew who had just done several months working for a gold mining company in Alaska talked me into it. He was around 24. I, well, was not.

‘It’s easy’ he said.

‘You’ll be fine’ he said.

TWELVE hours after starting the hike we made it back to my car, in the dark, just in time for the bottom to fall out of the sky and a monsoon poured down on us.

How was I going to drive home? I couldn’t lift my foot to push the gas let alone the clutch. My body was completely spent. I had never felt such pain in my entire life.

Thanks to an amazing boss I was actually able to take a week of vacation to recover. Read that again. A WEEK to recover. The morning after that hike I had to basically crawl to the bathroom. I literally could not walk. Now, I don’t say any of this to scare people from the hike. Quite the contrary,  you should go. I am just giving you a side that many will not tell you. It’s a blasted HARD hike. One site, a few years ago, had it listed as a black diamond like they do with ski slopes. I don’t know if that is the ‘technical’ rating for it, but I do know you can count on one mile an hour mostly due to the trek uphill on the way out.

Oh yeah, and the hike is only about 4.3 miles one way. In total between the 8.6 and 10 ,or more, if you decide to go up to Martha’s Pretty Point or explore around the area near the falls.

Prior to my first hike there I had been walking upwards of 8 miles on my nice little paved green-way near my house. I walked that much almost daily. The hikes I had done up to that point were easy, so easy they really shouldn’t even be counted as hikes.

And I thought I was so tough before hitting the trail.

I was certain that all my non-strenuous green-way walking had prepared me for a so-called hard hike.

Humble pie tastes like crap.

As you are starting down the trail you will see a guard shack that usually has somebody there. They are there for one reason; to let you know what you are getting in to. The first time I hiked there that shack was not there. All the warnings I had were a couple of signs that I totally ignored because young gun nephew said I wouldn’t have any problems.

If there is a sign STOP AND READ IT!!

Virgin Falls

This was the sign about ten years ago. It has been updated to the one below. This was taken just a few months ago. READ IT!

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Did I read it?

Yes.

Did it sink in?

No.

The nephew just kept saying ‘You’ll be fine. Trust me.’

Second: The Illusion of Ease

The trail starts off level and deceivingly easy. After a short walk, I believe around .2 mile in, you will see a fork where you can go off to the right and take the Upland Trail to Martha’s Pretty Point. The hike has some small hills and is ok and is nothing too strenuous or spectacular. You do a pretty long walk on a gravel covered access road. It is the easier way to get to the overlook and campsites up there. You can also continue on the Upland trail and it will loop back down where it meets back up with the main trail to Virgin. If you decide to take this trail you will bypass the cable crossing that is just prior to the cable crossing campsites.

Continuing on the main trail you will continue on the narrow trail with relative ease. When you start to get into, what I believe is a grove of rhododendrons, the trail can be muddy and you will start to see more roots and rocks. Still, nothing difficult at this point.

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The first named waterfall you come to is Big Branch Falls. If you ever get to this falls and it is not flowing you will know that, more than likely, Big Laurel will be not much but a trickle. But, if it IS flowing you will be in for a good day. The descent down to the Big Branch is also the first inkling of what the terrain is going to be like.

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I knew on this day that Virgin was going to be rockin’ and rollin’.

Now you will start to go down some switchbacks and you will hear more water. You will end up at the cable crossing.

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Just past the cable crossing on the creek there are three campsites. If you are wanting to get into camping this makes a great beginner camping area. It’s not too far in and there is usually a water source (except in the hotter months of summer). I have seen it bone dry before. So, if hiking in July or August make certain you have plenty of water going in.

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Cable Crossing Campsites

Not very far past the campsites is the trail that leads up to Martha’s Pretty Point Overlook. It’s about a half mile up to the overlook. It’s a hard half mile and the trail can be a bit confusing. Once up there you can opt to continue on the Upland Trail that I mentioned above. It will take you back to the beginning of the trail.

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Martha’s Pretty Point

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Martha’s Pretty Point in the winter.

In the video below we went up to the overlook from the cable crossing section and came out on the Upland Trail. And yes, I did walk through their campsite. At the 1:40 mark I point up and say ‘Do not go up’. There is a section that looks like the trail but isn’t. If you go up it’s very steep and you will be directly under the cliff. That is not the part where the ladder is, so don’t waste your time going up. Nothing to see.

Not long after you pass the sign directing you towards Martha’s Pretty Point the terrain changes. You will begin descending ever so slightly and you will see some absolutely beautiful landscapes with waterfall after waterfall (provided it isn’t the middle of summer in a drought). You will have to watch your footing more from now on out. There will be the occasional reprieve from rocks and roots, but those won’t last that long. You may not notice that you are continuing to go down. You will be too busy just taking the beauty in that you won’t notice. That is until you get to the top of Big Laurel Falls.

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Virgin falls in the fall

After awhile you will soon be standing just above Big Laurel Falls. At this point you will go down to the base of Big Laurel on a very steep slope that has a wire cable to help you down.

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Rock Climbing Big Laurel Falls

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As you can see, there is ample camping for both tents and hammocks.

You can go inside the cave behind the falls. However, know that the ceiling does fall from time to time. Also, there is NO CAMPING and NO FIRES inside the cave. This is common sense, but I have been on two occasions where I have seen tents and a fire going. The fire could potentially cause the ceiling to cave in and who would want to set up a tent inside where this is a possibility?

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Looking out from inside the cave

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Big Laurel Falls is about the half way point. I always stop here for a snack and to rest up. The cave is fun to explore. It’s very sandy inside and the rocks are extremely slick.

When you finish up with your break at Big Laurel you will continue on down the trail. It’s pretty uneventful and it’s a nice hike. The trail is easy to follow. You will, however, feel like you have gone more than a couple of miles.  After awhile you will come to a junction. You can go left which is the shorter way down to the falls or go to the right towards Sheep Cave. It’s a little bit longer going towards the right, but much less steep. To the left it is extremely steep. I recommend going right to go to Virgin and coming up the other way, shorter way. Just my preference though.

Eventually, either way you go, you will come up to some of the campsites. I have camped here before. It’s probably the best sleep I have ever had while camping due to the sound of the falls. It’s very loud and soothing.

When you get to the falls drop your pack. Sit down and have a good lunch. After you rest up you can go up the trail directly up from the VF sign and go to the left. The trail will take you up and around to a cave and to where the campsites used to be on top of the falls. They no longer allow camping up there, but it’s still neat to get to the top of the falls and the area is very pretty.

Now for the fun. The way out. All I can say is take your time and rest in knowing that you will have completed one heck of a hard hike (if you make it out) lol.  Oh, wanted to also mention that on the way in you may think to yourself  ‘I’ll do the overlook up to Martha’s Pretty Point on the way out’. Ummmm, probably not. I mean you ‘might’, but I can almost guarantee by the time you get to the sign to go up there you will not even have the urge to go. SO, if you are bound and determined to go to the overlook AND VF in the same day, I strongly recommend you do it on the way in. When you first start the hike take the Upland Trail to the overlook and then continue the trail down to the main trail. It can be very confusing trying to find it though. You will go down a ladder and then the trail winds down and back and forth a bit. Like I said, can be sorta confusing.

If you want to camp you will need reservations. The area is managed by Fall Creek Falls. On the link below, be sure to scroll down the page to choose the sites there.

https://reserve.tnstateparks.com/fall-creek-falls/campsites

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So, the takeaways.

  1. Plan on ONE mile an hour. Not kidding. Give yourself time to do this. If you go after the time change make sure to plan for that and have a headlamp.
  2. Take plenty of water ( I don’t care if you NEVER DRINK WATER) take it and/or water filter.
  3. Snacks. YES, you WILL get hungry.
  4. Shoes. Please wear appropriate shoes. You will be cussing some flip flops if you choose to go that route. And yes, I have seen that and the people were not happy.
  5. Don’t drag your small children on this. If they hate hiking this will make sure they will keep hating it. Wait until they are old enough to enjoy it.
  6. Take breaks…lots of them. No shame in it. Remember, my first trip there took 12 hours. Yours probably won’t.

And that’s it. Please feel free to reach out to me for any questions. Also, when in doubt just call the ranger’s office and talk to them about it. Just go prepared and you will be in awe of the beauty of this place and know why it is one of my favorite hikes in Tennessee.

Happy Hiking!

Lori

Kayaking to The Base of Burgess Falls

Kayaking Trips, Waterfalls

This was a trip I had been wanting to do for ages. A friend had told me some time ago that this was doable, but would not share with me how to get there. People are funny. As if they are the only ones to know things and want to hold on to that power somehow. So, when I finally decided to do it,  all it took was a quick google search to find out where to put in.

I borrowed my brother’s kayak and the couple that went with us had an extra my husband could use. The only potential problem was the vehicle we had to take the one kayak. My husband’s car is a Prius. Yep. A Prius. The kayak would not fit in my sedan. We needed a car with a hatch and seats to fold down.

Believe it or not, we got it in there.

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Ok, maybe not ALL of it fit, but most of it. We bungeed it to the seats and tied the hatch down and off we went.

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We put in at Cane Hollow Road at the Burgess Falls boat ramp. It is not far from the entrance to Burgess Falls State Park.

MAP TO KAYAK TO BURGESS FALLS

The paddle to the falls is about two miles and the water is very calm. Most of the boats that went by did their best to slow down so the wakes would not be too big. There were a few that did not, but it was no big deal.

It was hotter than blue blazes on the day we went. By the way, make sure to take PLENTY of water. I recommend freezing a few bottles the night before so they stay ice cold if you aren’t taking a small cooler.

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As the map above indicates you put in and then go straight across the lake to the cove that takes you to the falls. It actually dead ends right at the falls. The pic above shows the put in to the right. I was hanging out waiting for the rest of my group to hurry up so we could get the show on the road, or the water rather.

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The guys took off and left us. They have been friends forever and have a great time together. Always so much laughter when they get together. You would almost not realize that Kristie and I had to drag them out to do this. I think they were actually having fun.

Burgess Falls

Several times we had to pull over to the side and get some shade for a few minutes. There was almost no wind and it was in the nineties and, of course, 100% humidity.

The falls are absolutely gorgeous!

Burgess FallsI pulled over and got out so I could get my shots. As usual, I had all my gear and tripod. I knew that I would be taking my time here on this day. No hurries. The other three kayaked right up to the base and ended up hanging out on the side to wait for me.

Burgess Falls

The water level was high enough that some ‘bigger than kayaks and canoes’ boats could get pretty close. The larger pontoon and ski boats hung back and anchored and the kids jumped in and swam up to the falls. Please note I DID see a snake in the water.

Burgess Falls

After about an hour we headed back.

Burgess Falls

As you can see there were several on their way in as we were leaving. It was a beautiful day spent with great friends. We plan on going back to Center Hill Lake and exploring more of the waterfalls in the area.

For more information check out the links below.

http://www.southeasternoutdoors.com/public-lands/lakes/center-hill/cane-hollow-burgess-falls.html

https://tnstateparks.com/parks/activities/burgess-falls

Happy Kayaking!

Lori

Hike to Piney Falls

Tennessee Hikes

I have passed the sign to Piney Falls a gazillion times on my way to more talked about destinations. I mean, I had NEVER even heard Piney Falls mentioned anywhere.  It was always one of those that I thought I ‘might’ go to one day.

Well, I decided to look it up online one day when it just popped into my head. You know, to see if it was anything worth seeing. Well, to my surprise it was. As a matter of fact, it is one of the prettiest falls I have seen. Now, you need to be sure to go when there has been rain. I heard a woman talking about how in the middle of summer it is a trickle and not worth the trouble to get to.

Speaking of trouble…well, if I go there is usually trouble. Something happened that will forever be referred to as ‘The Incident at Piney Falls.”  The hike started out great. It was so good to get out. We just came out of what seemed like forty days and forty nights of constant rain.  All three of us were happy to finally be out and walking in the woods. We came to an intersection where you could go to the lower Piney Falls or continue on to the upper and walk across the top of the falls. That’s the way we decided to go. This was all of ten minutes into the hike. I had finally gotten a little handheld tripod for my phone and I had my big tripod for waterfall pics in my backpack. I was just about to put my phone up and watch where I was walking when my feet slipped out right from under me and down I went. First I landed hard on my butt and the back of my head hit the rock face I had slipped on. Then I was flung forward where I tried to keep from falling forward and this must of been when my knee hit and twisted causing me to hit the front top of my head on another rock. I knew instantly I had hurt my knee pretty badly. All I could hear was one of the ladies in the group say ”She hit her head! She hit her head!” When I fell my little tripod hit the water and my phone dislodged and sank near my head and the tripod went right over the falls. Unfortunately, no pictures of this section.

I pulled myself together and my friend ran over to help. I handed her my phone and she dried it off. I took off my pack and sat there for a few minutes holding my knee. After a bit, I got up and started to walk when I slipped again on another rock and slammed my shin on the same leg (left) inbetween two more rocks. I am shocked that this did not break my leg. I couldn’t believe TWO falls in one day. I got up from that and finally managed to get over to dry land. We stood there a few minutes and I really thought about going back. HOWEVER, that would mean crossing right back over where I had just fallen and I just didn’t think I could do it. So, I decided to trudge on to the rest of the hike. It’s a loop and I knew that at least I wouldn’t be on this part again. I just hoped there would be nothing else as difficult on the rest of the trail.

Well, just a little walk from the fall I had brought us to this steep descent with a rope. Of course, there would be a steep section with a rope. Why not?

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As you can imagine I was a little unstable on this section. I went insanely slow since my knee was screaming. I scooted on my rear down some of it as I would on other upcoming sections.

After a little bit, we got our first look at the falls.

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You will be on a hillside the entire time down to the falls and only levels out on the section of trail that is behind the falls.

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It wasn’t until I got down to the area where I could get a good shot of the falls that I found out that I had broken the head off my big, expensive tripod in the fall. I was so frustrated. All I had now was a mini pod thing and, honestly, my knee was hurting so  bad that I had a hard time concentrating on getting a really good picture of the falls.

Here’s a look after crossing behind the falls at the trial.

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I thought that the top of the falls was upper Piney and this section was lower Piney. I was wrong. We had not come to lower Piney.

I can’t remember how far you have to hike before you come to the lower piney sign.  The trail was very pretty and had some interesting rock faces. Lower Piney had a more level area where I could sit more comfortably and use my mini pod to get some good pictures.

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After a good break there we headed on up the hill.

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After we climbed up some wide steps we ran into this little guy and his people. His name was Garth.

He was the cutest dog EVER. He’s also a better hiker than I am. He’s done several from what his people said.

Soon after this, the trail leveled out and we were back to the fork. We headed on out to the car and to get our post hike meal (That’s why we do this. So we can eat without guilt.)

Now, if you look this up on alltrails it will be listed as an out and back. That’s not true. It’s a loop and it’s also around 3 miles total. So, the person that originally submitted it probably did not do the whole thing. https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/tennessee/piney-falls

Here is my wikiloc recorded trail:
https://www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/spatialArtifacts.do?event=setCurrentSpatialArtifact&id=23976471

If you go, please just know that this is a moderate to difficult (in certain areas) trail. I recommend doing this clockwise UNLIKE what we did.  The hike was worth the trouble. Go after a good rain and take a camera and tripod.

Update on Knee:

The Monday after hike I went to the dr. She sent me for an xray and an mri. I have two sprains and a femoral attachment of medial patellofemoral retinaculum. In other words, something tore (not meniscus) and it will heal without surgery. So, I have been icing it for two weeks now and it’s still swollen.

Happy Hiking!

Lori