Sunday, March 29, 2009

Laurel Run Park

Kiner Creek Falls
There is so much natural beauty to discover in this region -- I know I'll never be able to see it all. Here's a new discovery outside of Church Hill, TN -- Laurel Run Park. It's an absolute gem. It offers one of the most scenic hikes in East Tennessee -- especially in the springtime when Laurel Run is flowing strong and the woods are full of wildflowers. If you love spring wildflowers, look no further. It's not that there a few wildflowers scattered here or there -- they're everywhere.

Laurel Run Falls
There are also three waterfalls to visit there: Laurel Run Falls (10' -- photo right), Kiner Creek Falls (30' - top photo) and Logger Falls (15' photo below). All are within 1/4 - 1/2 mile of each other -- with many more beautiful cascades and smaller waterfalls along the way (I haven't measured the distance, but my guess is if you visited all three, it'd be about 3 miles roundtrip). Kiner Creek is a small watershed, so the best time to visit these falls is after a heavy rainfall. But if it is flowing, it's magnificent - one of the few waterfalls in this area that you can easily walk behind. Click here, here and here for more information and descriptions of Laurel Run Falls. Click here and here for more on Kiner Creek Falls. Click here for more information on Logger Falls.

Click to enlarge (not necessarily to scale)
Directions: Take I-26 toward Kingsport, TN to Exit 1 (Stone Drive - 11W), head west on 11W 8.5 miles until you reach Church Hill, TN. Turn left on Goshen Valley Road (Rt. 2367) go 0.8 miles and turn left on River Road. Continue 2 miles and turn left on Laurel Run Park Road and continue 1.3 miles to the park. Once at the park, bear right and park at the amphitheater. The trail follows an old logging road across a bridge. You'll immediately come to another bridge - if there's lots of water -- that's a good sign. The old road tends to be pretty muddy (old shoes recommended), but offers a beautiful view of the creek. The road becomes more of a trail, keep following this and you'll eventually come to a creek crossing (this time without a bridge! Can be kinda tricky...), keep going and you'll come to the first waterfall, Laurel Run Falls, on your right. My guess is that for most people this first waterfall is their destination and all they plan to see and do. And that's ok, because the next two falls are much tougher to get to -- and thus, not for everyone.

Small waterfall on the way to Kiner Creek Falls
On to Kiner Creek Falls...Continue on the main trail a little further and you'll come to point where the creek forks. This is called Kiner Creek Gap. Straight ahead (the smaller stream) is Kiner Creek. If there's no water flowing (which is often the case in mid-summer), then I'd just turn back. Assuming there's some water flowing, at this point you have a choice to make -- Option 1...You can cross Kiner Creek to your right and then make an immediate left. A large tree has fallen here, but if you climb over it, you'll see a trail that follows very closely along the creek for a 1/4 mile to the falls. At times it's a trail, in a couple places it's a bushwhack. Stay near the creek if you go this way - keep pushing and you'll eventually emerge at Kiner Creek Falls. The benefit of this option is that you'll see a couple of small waterfalls on your way -- the downside is that it's rough going, with thick brush in places. Option 2...(assuming you're standing at Kiner Creek Gap) the trail you've been on continues to the left, it will climb for a short distance and then fork, take the switchback to the right - continue on another 1/4 mile or so; But this is where it gets tricky, there's not really a good trail going down the very steep bank to the right. If you listen closely, you'll hear the falls and if you look, you should see where past adventurers have traveled/slid. It's incredibly steep. While this may the most direct route, my recommendation is to take Option 1 to the falls and then, after viewing the falls, climb up (requires hand-over-hand climbing) the embankment up to the trail described in Option 2 to make your way back to Kiner Creek Gap (see map above). Whichever way you go, you're in for an adventure. (By the way...If you were to continue on the upper trail past the falls, you would eventually enter Bays Mountain Park!)

Logger Falls
For the truly adventuresome… On to Logger Falls. Again, assuming you're standing at Kiner Creek Gap, cross Kiner Creek. To your right is Laurel Run. Walk straight ahead following Laurel Run, and you'll find a "trail" that closely parallels the creek.  You'll take this all the way to Logger Falls. It's pretty rough at the beginning, but stick with it, it'll get easier. But initially you'll be climbing over (and sometimes under) fallen trees and rhododendrons. As long as you stay close to the creek, you really can't get lost. On the way you'll see some small cascades and neat rock formations. In time (~1/2 mile), you'll come to Logger Falls.  It's an area that's in need of a good clean up. Lots of branches and large limbs are scattered throughout the area. But still, it's an interesting and impressive waterfall -- one that hasn't received a lot of park visitors.

Final thoughts: Have fun and enjoy this magnificent place. But note that Kiner and Logger Falls aren't kid-friendly hikes. I'd even recommend you leave the dog at home for these -- just too much to get tangled up in. As with any waterfall, my advice is to be careful, take your time, and watch your footing. Don't attempt to climb any waterfalls. Read my warnings, safety tips and disclaimers. :)


  1. Glad you made it out to the park. I totally agree that this park is fabulous for scenery.

    If you follow the marked trail past Kiner Creek Falls you will eventually cross over into Bays Mountain Park and join up with their trail system. I've never through-hiked it but I'm told it's about 6 miles to hike from Laurel Run to the Bays Mtn Nature Center. That would be a great day, just some minor shuttling/car issues.

  2. Hi Mark, I found out about your blog through Photo Jenni. My hubby and I are 'waterfall' and hiking people. We are in Crossville, TN. We've seen about 311 different waterfalls since 2001. We've been waterfalling in your area once --but haven't seen the ones you mention above yet. I hope we can get up your way sometime. I grew up in Big Stone Gap, VA.

    Check out my blog (and my hubby's--listed on my sidebar). I'll continue checking out yours.

    Betsy (and George)

  3. Hi Mark, I just came across your blog as well. We actually hiked the trails from Bays Mountain to Laural Run May 2nd last year and the flowers were stunning. We are planning this years trip across the mt the second week of May if you'd like to join us.
    I like in Kingsport... Colonial Heights. :o)

  4. liVe... I liVe in Kingsport... like it somewhat too. But LIVE. Lol. Sorry 'bout that.

  5. Went here today. Just a note, the trail that follows the stream has become nearly impassible, especially if you are trying to carry camera gear... A huge tree has fallen and brought down a lot of other smaller trees with it.

    We really enjoyed the hike despite the rain and mud and a tiring wrong turn... :) There was an abundance of water, check out my facebook at for pictures!

  6. Howdy! My cousin, his son, and I hiked to the fire tower and back today (about 12 miles round trip). It was my first hike there; even though, the park is in my native county. I'll be back! Check out my blog:


Thanks for visiting and joining in the discussion on Appalachian Treks! Your comment will be sent to me to be approved. Sorry for this added step, but it is necessary to avoid spam. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!