Laurel Fork Gorge
The Appalachian Trail travels through Laurel Fork Gorge, rarely straying far from the creek. Probably the most popular hiking destination for TEHCC is Laurel Fork Falls, a 50' cascading waterfall. There are AT access points at both the NW end of the gorge (Hampton) and SE (Dennis Cove).
Swimming is not allowed at the falls because of dangerous undertow in the pool. SEVERAL PEOPLE HAVE DIED HERE INCLUDING THOSE COMING TO HELP. They were not being seemingly careless, not drinking, not jumping from the top, simply swimming near the falls. There is an underwater rock shelf in the deep pool below the falls. The strong current will take swimmers underwater and keep them trapped below the shelf. Therefore, wading downstream of the falls is suggested for enjoyment.
How to get there
- From Elizabethton, go southeast on US 321 through Hampton for 1.3 miles.
- Look for parking area on the right.
Follow blue blazed trail to AT.
- From Elizabethton, go southeast on US 321 through Hampton for 0.8 miles.
- Turn right (south) on FR 50 (Dennis Cove Road) and travel 3.9 curvy miles.
- Look for AT access parking area on your left.
The listed mileage and elevation change are for complete end-to-end and return hike. More typically the day hikes are an out-and-back from either access point. From Hampton, it's a 5.5 mile round trip. From Dennis Cove, it's about 2.6 miles round trip.
Well maintained Appalachian Trail, including blue blazed side trail from Hampton. Sometimes during spring, the upper trail may be required due to flooding.
Fees, Permits, etc.
Group size is limited to 10 people in the Pond Mountain Wilderness Area. Also dogs must be on leashes.
Overnight parking is not recommended at Hampton trailhead due to occasional vandalism to break into vehicles to steal items.
After the Hike
A bit of history...
The Koonford Bridge was destroyed by flooding in 1998. Its center span was replaced few weeks later in one day by many volunteers. story link Two further wilderness trail bridges destroyed in the same flood were replaced before the thru-hikers arrived that year. And the rock steps by the falls were also created in 1998 through concerted effort. story link2
Forest Service website information.