Big Laurel Snow Hike

Lemon photobombing the picture of Richland Creek

Well, it didn’t take long for me to hit a trail once I rested from my long drive home from Boston. My friend Randy suggested a Cumberland Plateau trail because my little dog Lemon would be able to tag along with us. Monday morning came, and off to the trail we drove.

The Trail

Big Laurel-Snow is actually part of the Laurel-Snow State Natural Area, which is located near Dayton in Rhea County, Tennesseeon the Walden Ridge of the Cumberland Plateau and is about an hour and a half way from Knoxville. The State of Tennessee owns the 2,259-acre (9.14 km2) area. It was the first National Recreation Trail designated in Tennessee. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation manages the Natural Area.

The Laurel Falls trail takes hikers to one (or both) of two waterfalls, the 80-ft Laurel Falls and the 12-ft Snow Falls. The hike itself is, in a word, breathtaking. The trail winds along Richland Creek, a class III-IV section of manky-looking whitewater. The trail also shows remnants of an old mine, which is a pretty impressive sight of moss and small tree covered walls and entrances to collapsed mines.

Laurel Falls with Randy standing for scale.

Lemon scrambling happily along the rocks.

One of the first rapids we saw on the trail.

Closeup look of a healthy eastern hemlock.

All these sights plus scrambles through little caves and up rock jumbles makes this 2.5-mile trail a pretty fun one. Then when you think it can’t get any prettier with the dark-green rhododendrons, huge oaks, and rustling beech trees, the towering Laurel Falls marks the end of the trail. Cascading over the edge and crashing hard onto dark grey rock, the waterfall is one of the more impressive waterfalls in all of Tennessee, and it makes for a fun  climb around the area (as well as a good lunch spot, I bet). The trail does continue to the top of the cliff to see where the creek runs before pouring over the edge, which is worth looking at.

The old dam at the end of the detour

Turning back, one has the option to head toward Snow Falls or hike to the parking lot. Along toward the middle of the main trail is a little detour to a dam, which is fun for a quick look. Overall, the trail equals 5 miles, and is not a hard one, though some rock scrambling is required. This is definitely a fun trail worth many returns, especially for those with furry hiking companions (Lemon loved it!). Happy hiking, y’all!


The natural area is located off of US 27 in Dayton.From US 27 head west on Walnut Grove

Randy crossing the bridge along the Snow Falls trail

Road. This is a paved road. Follow this for 3/4 mile and turn left onto Back Valley Road.  Drive about .7 miles and turn right onto an unmarked dirt road (Richland Creek Road). A church is on the opposite side of the road. The dirt road is a mile long and ends at the trail head.

NOTE: Walnut Grove Road is around 1.5 miles north of the US 27/Hwy 30 Junction, and about 14 miles south of the US 27/ Hwy 68 Junction. If you are coming from the north, Walnut Grove Road is the first light after the Hwy 68 Junction.


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