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Virgin Falls

Park: Virgin Falls Natural Area (Fall Creek Falls State Park)

Address: Scott Gulf Road (see directions)

Latitude: 35.85394, Longitude: -85.28225

Trail Rating: difficult (it is a long climb returning from Virgin Falls)

Round-Trip Mileage: 8.20 miles, add .15 miles for Sheep Cave and 1.0 miles for the Overlook side trail

The Hike

Directions: From Hwy 111 in Sparta, Tn take Hwy 70 East toward Crossville. After about 11 miles, turn right (south) on Eastland Rd (a sign is at the intersection). At 6 miles on Eastland Rd, turn right on Scotts Gulf Rd (a sign is at the intersection). The trailhead is a couple of miles on the right.

At the trailhead, be sure to read the kiosk for any updated user information. If you are planning an overnight stay, a new self registration (Nov '13) is required.

Starting from the trailhead the trail begins a gentle descent into the Big Branch drainage.

.25 miles from the trailhead, cross the drainage. In the wet season the crossing could be wet.

Stay on the same side of the drainage for another .20 miles and cross the creek (or creek bed) at .45 miles.

The trail follows Big Branch for another .80 miles until it crosses the creek on rocks.

Descending after the creek crossing the trail passes Big Branch Falls at 1.35 miles from the trailhead.

The trail leads away from Big Branch and after a couple of switchbacks comes to the Cable Crossing of Big Laurel Creek. A cable has been rigged across the creek to aid in crossing especially in higher water. All stream crossings may be dangerous in high water. Please use caution. The Cable Crossing is at 1.50 miles from the trailhead.

The first camping sites are located near the crossing.

Following Big Laurel Creek in .15 miles is the junction with the Overlook Trail.

The Overlook Trail (blue blazes) leaves the Virgin Falls Trail, climbs 100 feet, and then begins a long traverse under rock bluffs. After a switchback the trail works its way back to a weakness in the cliffs. At .35 miles from Virgin Falls Trail a ladder climbs adjacent to a drainage. From the ladder it is .15 miles to the Overlook. A camping site is located at the Overlook.

From the Trailhead it is 2.15 miles to the Overlook.

After enjoying the Overlook retrace the Overlook Trail to return to the Virgin Falls Trail. Note: the side trail's mileage is not included in the Virgin Falls mileage.

From the Overlook Trail Junction (1.65 miles) descend a short distance and the trail crosses beneath a small rock bluff.

Continuing the trail reaches Big Laurel Falls in another .65 miles or 2.30 miles from the Trailhead. A designated camping site is located near the falls.

From Big Laurel Falls it is 1.10 miles to the next junction. The trail tees into the Virgin Falls Loop 3.40 miles from the trailhead. The falls may be reached in either direction; but going right is preferred.

From the Loop Junction it is .30 miles to Sheep Cave Junction.

At the Sheep Cave Junction it is only .15 miles round trip to visit the cave. It is a good side trip. Note: the side trail's mileage is not included in the Virgin Falls mileage.

From the Sheep Cave Junction (3.70 miles from the Trailhead) it is .55 miles to Virgin Falls.

Virgin Falls is at 4.25 miles from the Trailhead.

A campsite located near the falls.

No official trails go to the top of the falls.

To continue on the Virgin Falls Loop Trail follow the blazes as the trail descends to the Caney Fork's bottom land. The trail does not go to Caney Fork. Instead, at .35 miles from the Falls, the trail climbs a steep rocky ridge.

In .20 miles the trail returns to the Virgin Falls Loop Trail Junction. Go right to return to the Trailhead. It is 3.40 miles and 700 feet elevation gain to return to the trailhead.

The total distance is 8.20 miles.

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Trail Notes

There is a new small store at the junction of Eastland and Savage Gulf roads. We have no ties to the store; but in talking to one of the owners we found that the store was opened for the Virgin Falls hikers.

The parking area at the trailhead is fairly large; but the area sees a lot of traffic.

There are no restrooms or water at the trailhead.

The elevation at the Parking Area is 1750 feet. The lowest point of the trail, just below Virgin Falls near Caney Fork Creek, is 900 feet.

Hiking to Virgin Falls is quite easy; but the hike out is a little tougher as it is all uphill.

When we visited the area, the streams were full. The crossing were not too difficult; but they could be tough with an extra foot of water in their banks.

In the rainy season, some of the low lying areas flood.

When crossing the creek with the cable, stay on the downstream side.

The cable crossing is over Laurel Creek, not Big Branch.

The trail was well marked with freshly painted blazes.

There have been some issues with hikers getting lost in the area. To aid in navigation, temporary signs have been posted every half mile - giving directions. The trail also has new blazes clearly marking the paths.

The temporary direction signs are marked with red crosses. They will soon be replaced with more permanent signage.

Remember, Virgin Falls is a Natural Area - in a wilderness setting. Users have to exercise good judgement and common sense to safely visit the area.

There are five campsites in the area - near the Cable Crossing, Martha's Pretty Point (the Overlook), Big Laurel Falls, Virgin Falls, and Caney Fork.

A new camping self registration program began in the Fall of 2013. Please follow the policies as indicated on the trailhead kiosk. Thanks!

When we hiked, there was no litter on the trail, other than at the camping areas.

Never litter. If it does not grow there, pack it out.

Collect only dead and downed firewood for campfires. Better still, do not build a campfire.

If you plan to backpack to Virgin Falls, you are in for an uphill hike to return to the trailhead. Pack your pack with care.

There was a Leave No Trace principles document at the trailhead. Please practice minimum impact usage.

The side trails to the Overlook and Sheep Cave were worth the extra effort.

No official trails go to the top of Virgin Falls.

Use care and good judgment at all water crossings and on top of all cliffs.

The Virgin Falls is amazing. The water going over the cliff looks like a bath tub faucet left on and the drain open. The water appears, gushes over the top, and then disappears. It is unique.

Enjoy the area; but tread lightly.


Virgin Falls Trail Mileage

0.00 Scott Gulf Road Trailhead

0.25 Drainage (even if water is not present, it should still be obvious

0.45 Cross Big Branch (half mile marker not far from the crossing)

1.25 Cross Big Branch on rocks - just above Big Branch Falls

1.35 Big Branch Falls

1.50 Cable rigged to aid crossing of Big Laurel Creek

1.65 Overlook Junction

2.30 Big Laurel Falls

3.40 Junction with the Virgin Falls Loop

3.70 Sheep Cave Junction

4.25 Virgin Falls

4.60 Steep rocky ridge

4.80 Return to the end of the Loop Junction

8.20 miles total (3.40 miles to return to the trailhead)

The Sheep Cave side trail adds .15 miles.

The Overlook side trail adds 1.00 mile.

(0.35 to the ladder and 0.15 from the ladder to the Overlook. Total mileage is 0.50 miles one way.)