By Johnny Molloy
No matter how you spell it Margarette, Marguerite, Margaret, the hike to Margarette Falls, deep in a mountain gorge, is worth your time and effort. The falls in June can still be bold and the gorge provides relief from the summer heat. The hike is 2.6 miles there and back.
Situated in the Greene County portion of the steep and craggy Bald Mountains, Margarette Falls (Cherokee National Forest spelling) is a destination hike perfect for nature enthusiasts who want a taste of our Tennessee highlands without engaging in an all-day slog.
It takes a few twists and turns on the back roads to reach the trailhead. The countryside ramble through Washington and Greene Counties affords views of the stateline crest rising to the east. It is in that lofty terrain where springs gather and flow into the Dry Creek watershed, meeting and melding, increasing in volume and gradient, eventually becoming Margarette Falls.
You cannot miss the large parking area on Shelton Mission Road. Join a gravel double track on the Margarette Falls Trail. White oaks, sprinkled with sourwood, pines, locust and rhododendron, graced the trailside.
Saddle alongside rocky Dry Creek before reaching a trail intersection at .5 mile. Here, the Philips Hollow Trail leaves left, fording Dry Creek and ascending steeply, connecting to the Arty Hollow Trail and also rising to the state line and the Appalachian Trail.
We stay right on the Margarette Falls Trail, entering West Fork Dry Creek watershed. The footbed immediately narrows then reaches another trail intersection. Here, the Bullen Hollow Trail leaves right. The Margarette Falls Trail climbs at a gentler gradient.
The forest reflects the moister character of a closing gorge — black birch, buckeye, and fading hemlock. Wildflowers are abundant in spring while stinging nettle and jewelweed crowds the trail in late summer. Follow West Fork Dry Creek, large enough to support trout. You may see fish finning in still pools, between cascades and cataracts, as the stream forces its way down among the boulder and rock laden watercourse. At .8 mile, the trail bridges the clear stream on a sturdy iron structure.
At 1.1 miles, cross back over to the right hand bank. No bridge here, just a good ol’ fashioned rock hop. The path becomes rooty and rocky. A bluff, known as Cathedral Rock, rises across the creek. At 1.3 miles, reach the cataract. The trail ends in an amphitheater of rock and water, where Margarette Falls has carved itself out a place in Tennessee lore and beauty. Here, the tributary meets the erosion resistant bedrock and falls 60 feet in ribbons over angled widening layers of stone.
On a hot summer day, the air here is a good 10 degrees cooler than at the trailhead. Gravel bars and boulders make good relaxation spots, to enjoy the scene. The official trail ends here, but some explorers continue on to see upstream waterfalls, but it can be a hazardous endeavor.
For more information about area outdoors, please visit Johnny’s website at www.johnnymolloy.com.
Trailhead Directions: From the intersection of TN 107 and TN 81 near the Nolichucky River, between Erwin and Jonesborough, take TN 107 south for 13.4 miles to Horse Creek Park Road (marked with a Cherokee National Forest sign). Turn left on Horse Creek Park Road and follow it for .8 mile, then stay right as Horse Creek Park Road turns right. Follow it for .1 mile further, then turn right on Union Chapel Road. Follow Union Chapel Road for .1 mile then turn left on Green Ridge Loop. Follow Green Ridge Loop for .6 mile, then stay left as it turns into Greystone Road. Continue on Greystone Road for 3.2 miles to turn left onto Shelton Mission Road. Follow Shelton Mission Road for 2.2 miles to the signed parking area on your left.
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Hiking Waterfalls Tennessee
Tennessee is known for its natural beauty and great hiking, but it may be surprising that there are so many splendid waterfalls – from mountaintop cataracts to falls that flow among the hills along the Natchez Trace. Hiking Waterfalls in Tennessee provides driving directions and hike description, maps, and color photos for over 100 of the most scenic waterfalls in the
Volunteer State. This guide will lead you through state and national parks, forests and wilderness areas, and remote and secluded corners of the state, hiking to Tennessee’s most spectacular waterfalls.
This guide includes:
. GPS-based trail maps and elevation profiles
. Detailed directions to trailheads
. Ratings for scenery, difficulty, trail condition, solitude, and accessibility for children.
Available at Mahoneys, Book-a-Million and Barnes & Noble and online.