Clarks Creek Recreation Area
Clarks Creek Recreation Area is a secretive backcountry cove nestled in the Bald Mountains not far from the Tri-Cities, Jonesborough, and Erwin just off of TN 107. Much of the Clarks Creek area borders Sampson Mountain Wilderness. This area is popular for hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and camping. It is home to a number of waterfalls, one being the famous Buckeye Falls (475'), the tallest waterfall system in Tennessee.
- Travel I-26 toward Erwin.
- Take Exit 37 and follow TN 107 West/TN 81 North
- Turn left at Lamar Crossroads to continue on TN 107.
- Travel about 5 miles and take a left onto Clarks Creek Road.
- Travel on Clarks Creek Road for about 1.5 miles to where the road turns gravel to enter the Clarks Creek Recreation Area (USFS 25; also entering Unicoi County).
The area was once a popular backcountry recreation area with the ruins of an old iron furnace. But due to heavy rains and flooding in the early 2000s, much of the USFS 25 road system was washed out. However, the US Forest Service has been able to rehab most of the area.
Officially, Buckeye Falls is measured at 475 feet being the tallest waterfall system in Tennessee. However, many locals swear it falls more than 600 feet if counting countless cascades; unofficially beating Whitewater Falls in North Carolina as the tallest waterfall east of the Rockies. But the 600 foot ruling has not been officially confirmed due to the steep/sheer drop terrain.
Requiring a 3.6 mile hike through water fords and rocks, it is a low-flow cascading waterfall. So plan on making a trek to the base of the falls after a good rain. During the summer time, the flow may be dry. However, the trip to the base is more of a challenge which hikers love to brag about.
Some adventurers will opt for the more panoramic view by going up the Lower Higgins Creek drainage outside of Erwin and viewing the falls from Chigger Ridge on Rich Mountain.
Local Trail System
- Iron Furnance Trail (#109)
- Hell Hollow Trail (#124)
- Sills Branch Trail (#115; waterfall)
- Sills Branch South Trail (#116)
- Longarm Branch Trail (#109)
- Clarks Creek Trail (unsigned)