Virgin Falls State Natural Area - AOCís Virgin Trip - Fri, Nov 24 2017

REGISTRATION REQUIRED: Once you've reviewed the event details, and decided you'd like to join us, you MUST sign up at the bottom of this page.

Virgin Falls State Natural Area - AOCís Virgin Trip

The Basics:
Event Type:Backpacking
Event Location: TN   Backpacking: Virgin Falls State Natural Area - AOCís Virgin Trip  National Weather Service Forecast
Date(s) & Time:Fri, Nov 24 2017  7:30 am >> Sun, Nov 26 2017 6:00 pm  (Carpool Departure: 7:30 am   *log in for location*)
Registration Opens: Tue, Nov 14 2017 7:47 pm
Registration Cut Off: Thu, Nov 23 2017 7:47 pm
Event Duration:2 Days 10 Hours 30 Minutes
Difficulty Rating:D4: Moderate to Difficult (Exploratory)
Distance:9 Miles
Trip Leader(s):
Laura V
Email Trip Leader(s)
You must be logged in to get the Trip Leader contact information.
Member Cost:None

Participant Info:
Who's Invited: Members Only, 21 And Older Only
Maximum Group Size:10
Minimum Group Size:3
Number Registered So Far: 6 / 0 (To see who's signed up, log in to the Member Area)
Are Dogs Permitted: Yes

Note: This is an "EXPLORATORY" trip. This means that there are parts of this trip, or perhaps the whole trip, that is new to your Trip Leader(s). However, they are confident that this will not be an issue.
This note is here so that you can make an informed decision. When a Trip Leader isn't personally familiar with a trip, there is an increased chance of things not going as planned and you need to be prepared. The Trip Leader may have additional details in the itinerary.



Virgin Falls Natural Area is 1,157-acre pocket wilderness located in Scott's Gulf in White County TN. Along the trails you will encounter 4 waterfalls, scenic overlooks, subterranean tributaries, caves, sinks, rockhouses, and boulderfields. The area is noted for its unique geological features and 4 waterfalls including Virgin Falls, Big Laurel Falls, Sheep Cave Falls, and Big Branch Falls. Martha's Pretty Point provides a dramatic view of Scott's Gulf and the Caney Fork River some 900 ft below. The deep gorges, rich vegetation, sparkling waterfalls and streams make this area a favorite hiking and backpacking destination.

Virgin Falls, for which the area is named, is formed by a river which flows out of a cave, then plunges over a 110 ft waterfall, and then mysteriously disappears into another underground sink/cave. The water is cool, but offers a nice place to 'shower off' in nice weather. Big Laurel Falls is created by a river flowing over the gaping mouth of a cave with an 80 ft high ceiling and expansive width, which hikers can explore inside by scrambling over some boulders. The river then disappears into another cave/sink away from the falls.


The trail begins by meandering through a hardwood forest crisscrossing an upland fern drainage down to the Big Branch of the Big Laurel Creek. There are some small drainage crossings which can be wet crossings if there have been recent rains. The trail decends following Big Branch creek for a little under a mile before crossing over it on a rock crossing. Shortly thereafter, we'll arrive at the first waterfall – Big Branch Falls. About 1.5 miles into the hike, the trail comes to the cable-crossing of Big Laurel Creek. The cable has been installed to aid in crossing during higher water. At about 2.3 miles, we'll arrive at Big Laurel Falls and cave. We'll take a break and spend a short time having a snack and taking some photos, but we'll save the more extensive exploration for later. We will continue on down the trail for about 2 more miles until reaching our campsite at Caney Creek.

We will set up camp at Caney Creek and then everyone will pitch in to collect firewood. Afterward, depending on how much daylight is left, we may do some exploring or relax at the campsite – it's your choice. Caney Creek is near the campsite, so there is a source of water for filtering. In the evening, we plan to have a nice campfire, eat dinner, socialize, tell stories, and in general, have fun. The lows at night are expected to be in the upper 50's, so it should be perfect camping weather! The next day we plan to have breakfast in the morning and then go exploring some of the fantastic geological features of the area. We'll visit Virgin Falls and its caves, Sheep Cave, Sheep Cave Falls, and any other interesting places we find along the way. The second night we will of course have nice campfire and another very enjoyable evening. The next day we will break camp and plan to be on the trail around 10 AM.

We will take a different route on the hike back to the trail-head, so that we can see a few of the other scenic attractions. The hike back will take us back past Big Laurel Falls, where we can spend 15-20 minutes exploring any parts we didn't get to see on the hike in. We'll hike a little further and then take the overlook trail to Martha's Pretty Point. This trail will take us up a ladder, actually very steep wooden stairs with a handrail and also will skirt below some beautiful bluffs before reaching the top at Martha's Pretty Point. From here we will have a great view of the gulf, some 900 ft below. After taking in the views we will continue on the loop trail until we arrive back at the parking lot.

The backpacking portion of the hike will be about 4.5 miles each way. There will be other exploring day hikes which are not included in the mileag. It's mostly downhill on the way in, and almost all uphill on the way out, with about 1,000 feet of ascent. The trail is also somewhat technical due to the rocky terrain, unstable footing, some creek crossings and a ladder.

Camping at Virgin Falls Natural Area now requires reservations made through the TN State Parks. The Trip Leaders have already paid the reservation fees for the campsites. A donation of ~ $5 pp would be appreciated to help cover the cost.

We plan to stop for some outstanding BBQ at Sugars in Chattanooga on the way back to Atlanta.

Required Items to Bring:
  • Tent or hammock
  • Sleeping bag and pad
  • Rain gear (just in case)
  • Backpack
  • Rope and bear bag to hang food or a bear canister
  • Headlamp
  • Plenty of water (less if you have a filter)
  • 2 dinners, 2 breakfast, 2 trail lunches and/or snacks
  • Good hiking boots/shoes (waterproof recommended)
  • Layered clothing appropriate for the expected temps
  • Cash for your carpool driver
  • $5 for campsite
  • A good attitude
Recommended Items to Bring:
Use our Event Checklists to make sure you have everything you need.
  • Camera
  • Insect repellant
  • Small daypack for hiking/exploring
  • Water Filter
  • Stove cooking setup
  • Camp Saw for firewood
  • towel
  • Hat/sunglasses
  • Hiking poles
  • Change of clothing and deodorant for the ride home
  • Good, bad, clean, and dirty jokes
  • Rice Crispy Treats for your TL

How to Get There:
Event Directions:

Coordinates to Virgin Falls parking: 35.854188, -85.282089

Carpool to Event Distance (round trip):360Mile(s)
Carpool Departure Time: 7:30 am
Carpool Location:   Log in for location
Carpool Directions:   Log in for directions
Carpool Cost: Estimated cost per vehicle for this event is $144.00 using a reimbursement rate guideline of $0.400 per mile. The total amount should be divided by the number of people in the vehicle, including the driver. This is a guideline, not a rule, for drivers but the cost should not be higher unless there are extenuating circumstances.

* We encourage all members to follow our Etiquette Guidelines while participating in AOC events.

Cancellation/Partial Attendance:   Please review the AOC cancellation policy.