Trail Notes: Explorations along the Laurel Fork

Trail Team 11

The Place: Hampton, Tenn., off Dennis Cove Road

The Hike: Along the Laurel Fork, headed upstream from Dennis Cove Recreation Area Campground

If you’re in search of waterfalls off Dennis Cove Road, chances are you’re headed down the Appalachian Trail to Laurel Fork Falls or up Coon Den Branch to the falls there. I went in search of Dennis Cove Falls.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t make it.

I first found out about Dennis Cove Falls on this website post. I was enamored. I fell even more in love when I couldn’t get it to pull up on the AllTrails or Hiking Project apps.

I was looking forward to the creek crossings and relaxing a bit before heading back to the car. Everything I had read (which wasn’t much) stated I should be prepared for three creek crossings and some rocky patches. In return, there wasn’t much elevation gain.

To get to the trailhead, one drive up Dennis Cover Road from Hwy 321 in Hampton. You go past Kincora Hiking Hostel and the Black Bear Resort. You will eventually come to a bridge. You have two options for parking: either the small dirt “lot” on the left before the bridge or in the Dennis Cove Campground across the bridge and on the right.

Directly across the road from the small dirt lot you’ll notice the trail heading away from the road. It’s not a difficult hike – mostly flat. The few articles online which mention elevation gain have only 300 feet for the gain the entire way there. What’s more concerning’s the creek crossings.

As with any hikes that entail water crossings, keep in mind how much rain has fallen in past days. It can make or break the hike. No one wants to drown or slip and break an ankle while fording a stream.

In the early summer, this shaded hike is a study in relaxation. The trail is well marked through the first two crossings. Wildflowers, including my favorite Pink Lady’s Slipper, dot the landscape. The carefully calculated stream crossings provide a needed cooling on a hot summer’s day.

I followed the blue blazes down the trail, across the creek, more trail and another creek crossing.

Then I stopped.

The blue blazes disappeared. Suddenly – there were only yellow ones.

Where in the blazes did the blazes go?

I did not – and still do not – feel comfortable going down a trail that a) I’m not 100% sure where it leads and b) isn’t the right color blaze. I had well and truly lost the blue stripes from one side of the creek to the other.

Instead of getting lost, I set up my hammock and decided to relax with my book. (I almost always have a book.)

But I’ll be back – next summer – to see those falls.

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