“An excellent run that cuts through old logging land and follows a creek with many waterfalls.”
— Charles Pulse
Birding · Cave · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers
This run is located in the Virgin Falls Designated State Natural Area. This area is a Tennessee natural-scientific area located in White County, Tennessee. The natural area is named for Virgin Falls, which is formed by an underground stream that emerges from a cave, then drops over a 110-foot high cliff before disappearing into another cave at the bottom of the sink. The area is noted for its unique geological features and several waterfalls including Virgin Falls, Big Laurel Falls, and Big Branch Falls. There are other points of interest also, such as caves and a scenic overlook.
Need to Know
Summers can be hot but there are caves along the trail that offer a cool down and rest spot. Take plenty of water or a good water filtration system.
The trail is rough and at some points very narrow, so care should be taken, especially with young runners. Consider this route a strenuous run.
This route is composed of the combination of two trails, the Virgin Falls Trail
and the Virgin Falls Loop Trail
. The trailhead for the Virgin Falls Trail
is located on the north end of the parking lot and is clearly designated with signs.
The trail cuts across a forest, quickly meeting up with Big Laurel Creek. It then follows and crosses the creek to the first waterfall, Big Branch Falls. After a cable crossing of Big Laurel Creek, the trail narrows and stays high on the ravine for some distance. In this part, the trail crosses a boulder field and eventually meets back up with the creek. As the Big Laurel Creek flows downward, the trail follows the creek and becomes very narrow. It passes caves, several small rock houses and a junction to a side trail to an overlook at Martha's Pretty Point.
At about the 2 1/2 mile mark, the trail brings you to the base of Big Laurel Falls. Tent camping is available here, and this is a good place to camp. The trail continues away from Big Laurel Falls on and up the side of the ravine of the Caney Fork River. Continue on, and the trail will pass a couple of small caves and waterfalls. At the 3.4-mile mark, the Virgin Falls Trail
has a junction with the Virgin Falls Loop Trail
. The Virgin Falls Loop Trail
is a short loop trail which ties Virgin Falls as well as two other side trails to the Virgin Falls Trail
. Since this is a loop trail, it can be taken either clockwise or counterclockwise. The route is well marked with signs pointing in both directions of the loop. The counterclockwise direction goes toward the junction of a side trail to Sheep Cave, while the clockwise direction heads more directly to Virgin Falls.
Taking the loop clockwise, the trail descends along a ridge toward the Caney Fork River. It levels out at the bottom of the ridge, crosses a creek, and arrives at Virgin Falls about a 1/2 mile from the loop trailhead. Tent camping is also available next to this waterfall. It is a beautiful waterfall in a beautiful setting but like most waterfalls, it is more spectacular during times of high rain. Traveling on in the clockwise direction, in a 1/2 mile, you'll reach the junction of a side trail to Sheep Cave and then to the junction of the Virgin Falls Trail
in another 1/3 mile.
From that point, follow the Virgin Falls Trail
for another 3.4 miles to the trail parking area.
Flora & Fauna
You will find a hardwood forest in the fern-dominated upper portion of the route. In the gorge, the vegetation changes to hemlock, maples, oaks, tulip poplar, hickories, buckeye, basswood, cherry, yellow birch, sycamore, and many more species. Mountain laurel, magnolia and several other shrubs (such as various wild blueberries) are common along the trail.