A waterfall rewarding hike just about 30 minutes north of Chattanooga, Tennessee, the hike to Laurel Falls is one you don't want to miss!
There is another Laurel Falls trail located in the Smoky Mountains, this trail is located in the Laurel-Snow Pocket Wilderness in Dayton, Tennessee.
Hike at a Glance
- Distance: 5.35 miles
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Elevation Gain: 686 feet
- Highlights: waterfall
You can see on our trail map that there are several trails in the Laurel-Snow Pocket Wilderness.
We could have continued our hike to the top of Laurel Falls and then on to Laurel Creek Overlook and Bryan Overlook or taken the trail to Snow Falls and the two overlooks on that trail: Buzzard Point and Dunn Overlook.
We chose to hike to the base of Laurel Falls, which was a 5.35 mile total hike.
The elevation map shows a slow but steady increase in elevation for about the first 2 miles. The third mile has a fairly steep increase, but there are plenty of switchbacks making it very doable.
The best part of this elevation map is it shows it's all downhill on the hike back!
Parking and Directions
Directions to the Laurel-Snow State Natural Area in Dayton, TN can be found easily with the magic of a web map search! We just headed north on Hwy-27 and once in the Dayton area, we were directed to Back Valley Road and then followed it until we saw the sign indicating the turn for Laurel-Snow Pocket Wilderness. The Access Road is approximately one mile long and takes you to the trailhead parking, a large, graveled lot with plenty of signs for the trails and the significant history of the Dayton Coal & Iron Company in that area.
Starting the hike!
The trail is graveled and wide as you start the hike, following alongside Richland Creek on your left. There are several areas along the trail that have clusters of signs overlooking the creek. These provide excellent timelines of the history of the Laurel-Snow State Natural Area.
The early trail is comfortable and has wooden bridges that span significant crossings of small streams or for the sections associated with historical ruins.
The never-ending scenery of the large boulders, the rushing creek, the impressive rock formations and the mysterious historic ruins will keep your head turning! This is a good time to mention that this trail is a section of the Cumberland Trail and you will be reminded by the trees with white blazes.
As you head further down the trail, you notice the trail narrows somewhat and that there is a noticeable increase in elevation. And you occasionally come across an old, exposed pipe in the trail, most likely associated with days long ago when this creek was a water source for the town.
Heading up the trail!
You eventually reach an intersection where a tree on the right has a sign stating “Trail” with an arrow and there are white blazes also indicating the turn. You then start a steady climb away from Richland Creek but with the assistance of switchbacks! The trail soon levels out so just follow the signs and enjoy the scenery. There were some very pretty wildflowers along the way when we made this hike.
Not too far up the trail, you round a bend and you then see a metal bridge in the distance. Cross the bridge and follow the trail to the right. You are still on the Cumberland Trail so watch for the white blazes. The trail becomes quite rocky in this section but it is very pretty.
Stay to the right for Laurel Falls!
You soon come to an intersection where the trail splits - right for Laurel Falls or left for Snow Falls. It is well marked so there shouldn’t be any confusion. We continued to the right for the trail to Laurel Falls.
You begin a climb through large boulders and the creek is on your right. You come to a tree with an arrow-sign pointing to the trail...which leads to a small opening through the large boulders! It was a little bit awkward, but fun!
You now begin a climb with numerous switchbacks. You will occasionally encounter a side trail where some hikers have bypassed the switchbacks but we just continued on the main trail. It’s rocky here and there, but not difficult.
You soon come into view of Laurel Falls! We worked our way across the rocks to get closer to the base of the falls and it is an impressive site!
We found a perfect spot to enjoy our lunch and enjoy the sights and sounds of Laurel Falls! We highly recommend this hike for anyone that enjoys a relatively short hike with lots of beautiful scenery and a very interesting history!