Explore Where to Camp - view hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

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hiking
muddy
rocky
4 days ago

Awesomely hard trail. Rained all day but grip was still good for most of the trail on rocks and roots. Falls were overflowing and beautiful. Highly recommend but please keep in mind it is not an easy trail.

One of those trails that you just have to see in person. It’s a long hike so do take some protein and water but well worth it! Low traffic so we enjoyed the trail to ourselves mostly.

[TL:DR This trail, by itself, is a solid workout, if subdued. You won't be doing any rock fields or sharp ascents, just moderate, but continuous, elevation changes over 13 mi. The lack of technical or demanding spots make it a solid winter weather trail, as well.]

If you choose to do the trail by itself, you can park directly at trailhead. It won't really make any difference if you go clockwise or counter-clockwise. The clockwise side does have a bit more open space on trail, but nothing much other than that.

The main benefit for this trail is that it's a continuous, moderate grind over a moderate distance. There's no single part of it that will push you to any kind of a limit. I wouldn't recommend it as a recovery trail, and not as an easy day, either, but it occupies a happy middle.

However, if you want to add some challenge, there are plenty of connecting trails close to its trailhead, so you can easily tack on some extra miles and difficulty. I look forward to linking this and the Lower Loop for a one-day this summer.

As for appearance, I recommend going after a good amount of rain. You'll have a number of minor fords, but it's easily worth it for all the rivers and streams that pop up or flood after a good rainfall. This area really shows off that jade color spectrum the waters at this park can have. Both the campsites take full advantage of this to create some truly beautiful pockets along this trail.

Loved it!

hiking
10 days ago

Really nice hike. 4 waterfalls and a rugged trail. Interesting water features...some with no outlet. Be sure to take the Sheep Cave side trail. Not a beginner hike.

So so pretty. Definitely a little challenging but doable. Just have to pay attention to what you’re doing. I would be very reluctant to do this trail after some rain. A lot of rocks but well marked. Virgin Falls at the very end is worth it I promise!

Did this trail twice. First time was a mistake. I entered the horse trail, not the hiking trail. The horse trail is more than twice as long as the hiking trail. I had to turn around at one point just to make sure I got out of there before dark, because I didn't bring a lot of gear. When I finally went back and did the hiking trail, it was the hike of a lifetime. Its amazing. There are a few little campsites along the way and a very old small cemetery. One gravestone is in good condition and they apparently died in 1860. 10/10 would recommend.

hiking
15 days ago

ran out of time but hiked it for a couple hours. gorgeous. hope to go back and finish.

great hike but better take note of the firwt sign you see it is strenous but well worth it. i do believe we will camp overnight sometime

hiking
16 days ago

I went after tons of rain, and I’m so glad I did! It was super muddy from the cemetery to the falls, so I would definitely recommend at least one trekking pole.

Once you get to the creek and see the falls and think you can’t go any further, put on some water shoes, cross the river, and keep going up.

Took my 26 pound dog and he loved it.

What a nice surprise!

My GPS clocked 8.25 miles and I went all the way to the top of the falls.

Fun day trip! Great scenery. Listened to other reviews and climbed the ledge at the pool and found the beginning of the falls. Well worth the climb.

We love this trail. Very muddy and slippery on the last mile to the falls tough climb back out. But overall an awesome hike we plan to return when dry
My GPS. Recorded 8 miles round trip and took 6 hrs spent about an hour at the falls.

Love this trail for a good challenge! Be ready for steep inclines and declines!

hiking
17 days ago

Its been raining a lot so some of the trail was quite muddy. Bring water proof shoes and you’ll be fine. Awesome trail.

(TL;DR As a workout, by itself, this trail is good for an easy day/recovery day. If you want some spice at the end, do it counterclockwise and charge the ascent.)

Doing it counterclockwise, the trail is a very smooth day-path until you get close to the ascent. Be aware, the first chunk of the trail is paved. There are a couple of fall-to-your-death spots on the way out, but otherwise very easy. The descent is very gentle and afterwards stays level until the ascent. If there has been a lot of rain, your feet will get wet, but nothing past the ankles.

The ascent starts where the trail connects to the Sawmill trail. There will be a number of scrambles, but all of them are brief. The ascent can be quite steep. Charging the ascent was very satisfying, and a person could have a lot of fun running the ascent a few times in a row, I think.

If you're looking to do this as part of the Stone Door Perimeter Loop, this will be the easiest part.

hiking
20 days ago

God out did himself with this little treasure of land and water!!!!

SO COOL. The key is to keep going once you get to the little waterfall bit and rocky pool at the end, which is like the head of the little river you follow for the middle third. With a FUN rock scramble, you can climb up to see the crashing waterfall!! Must do that!!

Otherwise, decent hike. Only “hard” because it’s muddy and rocky for that middle third, and the ascent (return hike) is pretty long. Pretty area. We went in winter and are pretty active folks.

Amazing, beautiful, strenuous... this area is one of God's most beautiful creations!!! The place is awesome. Not for beginners. Like others, we started at the the stone door and took the trail clockwise starting down the Big Creek Gulf trail, to the Big Creek Rim trail, where we had to take a detour onto the shorter Laurel Falls trail to get back to Stone Door do to lack of day time left. The hike out of the gorge to alum gap/Big Creek Rim trail was tough, but doable. Temp outside was about 40°f and by the time we got off the BCG trail and to the top of the gorge, I was down to my short sleeves, no beenie cap, and sweating pretty good. There are so many trails to take here that we are going to be back for sure and do some overnight camping at the primitive campsites and do some multi day hikes. The climb out of Big Creek Gulf trail is definitely no joke. Very doable, but will work your legs and calves big time. Lots of rock scrambling, which was fun, and the Creek was roaring which made it even better. An amazing time in God's country and we will definitely be going back.

Great hike!
You can do it!!
Take your time! Beautiful!!

trail running
23 days ago

Easy for trail running with only around 1000 elevation. Trail does get confusing toward the end.

3rd time I’ve hiked this trail. Really enjoyed each but liked the winter hikes the best. The underground stream flows make this waterfall hike unique. Be cautious as the descent is deceptive making the return hike more challenging then one might expect especially in summer weather.

nothing to see, lots of blowdown

hiking
28 days ago

like stepping into a world away. so much to see & explore with eyes wide open, but definitely strenuous for small children or those with weak knees/ankles as there are a lot of slippery, somewhat treacherous spots on the descent. i highly recommend doing the short spur hike up around the top of virgin falls.

hiking
28 days ago

This trail was great. Did this trail twice this summer. On one trip I followed the main trail then took the side trail to martha's pretty point off the main trail. The second time I took the martha's pretty point trail. This trail is a little more open but does get less foot traffic by all the spider webs we had to walk through. Carried a stick with me after a few minutes. Martha's pretty point is a great overlook. There is a point that you have to cross over the creek with a cable. The first time I encountered this it was the morning after a big rain and there was water over the rocks and moving swiftly. A family at the crossing leaving had to remove their shoes and socks to cross as they didn't wear proper footwear. The second time I went the water was not over the rocks and you could cross fine without getting wet at all. There are 4 falls on this trail all of which have their own merits. Honestly, I loved it more after the rain the falls were big and full. This is an out and back trail. The out part is easy you are going downhill the entire time. It is not til you turn around to head back you realize how far down you had traveled. The trek up was exhausting in the July and August heat. I brought 2 L of water in my camelpak and drank almost all of it. *This part I found slightly distressing. My friend and I did encounter another hiker that was in distress. She had ran out of water and food and was feeling dizzy and nauseated. We stopped and gave her snacks and water til she felt better. We exchanged numbers with her to make sure she reached her car safely. YES this hiker was unprepared for the heat and humidity of this strenuous hike, but what was more distressing is that we saw people before us pass her half laying on the trail with her dog sitting with her and didn't ask if she was ok or if she needed aid. Even while we were with her no one asked! Scary! The hiker stated she had done the hike before but the heat and humidity were kicking in over drive that day. Gotta love that southern weather. Morale of the story come prepared even if you are experienced. There is absolutely no cell service down in the valley that the trail is in. This girl could have had a heat stroke in the middle of the trail and no one bothered to check on her and she could not call for aid. Rant complete sorry * The trail was great it was a little hard at times but nothing too crazy. It is a fun challenging trail. When I hiked it the sheep cave trail was partially closed. I don't know if this has been re-opened at this time or not.

This was an intense hike but was awesome. I took the SD to the gulf and up to the rim. The climb down was rocky and you just have to be careful you don't sprain anything because it would be a long way out. I did not see any snakes on my hike this summer but with all the rocks I was constantly looking. I took the ranger trial to the falls and it was absolutely beautiful.The creek bed was dry so it was an easy passing. I passed a hand full of people on the trail so it wasn't too busy. I don't know if I would take my dog on this trail as I would be worried of them coming upon a snake or spraining something on the rocks. The gulf trail if you did an out and back would be fine with pets.On the trek up to the rim the river and the bottom of the gulf looks fun and inviting if I had not been doing just a day hike and camped out I would have loved to have spent time there. The trek up was pretty rough some spots with loose gravel and then there was a section that warned of bees. The bees were fine but I did get chased up hill by a hornet that wasn't happy with me. The rim was awesome. At the first overlook I sat down and ate my long awaited lunch. It was peaceful and beautiful. I watched a few of the birds just soaring over head. Once you're on the rim trail its pretty much flat. I did notice there was some soil erosion around one of the bends and overlooks on the trail that looked like it needed some tending to. All in all I loved this trail it had a beautiful waterfall, amazing overlooks, and a good demanding hike.

hiking
29 days ago

Absolutely incredible hike. Great trail, good signage, and decent workout.

We did this hike as an overnight backpacking trip and really enjoyed it. It was challenging especially in the areas where you had to scramble over the rocks. Had a little difficulty following the trail markings at times. Beautiful park!

If you like rim views, this trail is for you. I recommend the short extension off of this trail to Greeter Falls too. Adds a little mileage but it is definitely worth it.

Really great trail in the winter after the rain. During the summer the creek dries up. I would suggest taking the Tennesee trailhead as it is easier and offers better scenery. It can still be tough but well worth the trek!

Nice hike. Plenty of camping spots. Springs coming right out of the hills. Not sure why it’s rated as hard? Maybe people get hurt.
Be careful! It’s slippery in spots.

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