Laurel Fork Gorge

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Laurel Fork Gorge Falls.JPG
Trail Name Laurel Fork Gorge
Trail Number 501
Land Owner Cherokee National Forest
Wilderness Area Pond Mountain
Nearest City Hampton
State Tennessee
Trail Marking Blue/AT White
Trail Use/Features Dnr hiking.png Dnr waterfall.png Dnr dog.png
Difficulty Rating Medium
Hiking Time 4 Hours
240 Min
round-trip/trail only
5.5 Miles
8.851 km
/ 2.57 Miles
4.136 km
Trail Type In-and-Out
Climb/Descent Elevation 1,990 Ft
606.552 Meters
/ -1,990 Ft
-606.552 Meters
High Point 2,557 Ft
852.333 Yards
Parking 36° 17' 8", -82° 9' 8"
Trailhead 36° 17' 8", -82° 9' 8"
Nearest Medical Elizabethton, TN
Trip Reports Click Here
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Trail Overview[edit]

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[edit]


  1. From Elizabethton, go southeast on US 321 through Hampton for 1.3 miles.
  2. Look for parking area on the right.

Follow blue blazed trail to AT.

Dennis Cove

  1. From Elizabethton, go southeast on US 321 through Hampton for 0.8 miles.
  2. Turn right (south) on FR 50 (Dennis Cove Road) and travel 3.9 curvy miles.
  3. Look for AT access parking area on your left.

Route Description[edit]

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.

Typical Conditions[edit]

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.[edit]

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[edit]

Misc. Information[edit]

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.


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