BSA Troop 328

Oak Ridge, Tennessee

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Virgin Falls Day Hike

On Saturday, May 10th, the troop went on a day hike to the Virgin Falls State Natural Area. This was the most awesome hike ever! We had six scouts and 2 adults on the hike. The natural area is named for Virgin Falls, which is formed by an underground stream that emerges from a cave, then drops over a 110-foot high cliff before disappearing into another cave at the bottom of a sink hole. The area is known for its unique geological features and several other waterfalls including Big Laurel, Sheep Cave Falls, and Big Branch Falls. There are also several caves along the way. We met at Kern UMC at 7:00AM and got back just before 5:00PM. It was a moderate hike with about a 1000ft elevation change spread out over 4 miles. We also hiked the two spur trails to the overlook and Sheep Cave for a total trip of 10 miles.

Checklist of what to bring

Virgin Falls Trail Map

Here we are at the trailhead getting organized.

Taking a break on the trail.

A scout using a map and compass to compute the compass bearing back to the trailhead (Second Class requirement 1b).

Taking a break at the overlook. The overlook spur trail took us back up to the rim of the gorge to a rock outcrop that gave us an expansive view across and along Scott's Gulf.

Here we are at Big Laurel Falls. Big Laurel Creek flows over a ledge and falls into the mouth of a cave/sinkhole where it flows back the way it came to the back of the cave where it disappears through a crack in the rock into an underground passage. Once you walk behind the waterfall the cave is enormous.

Taking a break where the junction between the main trail and the Virgin Falls Loop Trail.

We finally made it to Virgin Falls where we stopped for lunch. The waterfall is incredible. After traveling over 3 miles underground, Lost Creek emerges from a cave at the top of the bluff, flows about 100 feet above ground, falls 110 feet into a sinkhole at the base of the bluff, then flows about 100 yards underground and finally emerges and joins Little Laurel Creek before running into the Caney Fork River. As usual, the photos do not capture the scale of waterfall. To get a sense of perspective, look for the scout at the bottom of the waterfall in the second photo (indicated by an arrow).

We ate lunch at Virgin Falls. Due the to mist from the waterfall, it was much cooler here.

Exploring Sheep Cave where a stream emerges from a cave, flows over some boulders, and disappears underground again. We caught some crawdads here.

Here we are at Big Laurel Falls again on the way back to the trailhead.

We got back to the trailhead around 3:30PM.