Trail Notes: Rock Creek Falls

Trail Team 11

The place: Unicoi County, out past Scott’s Strawberry Stand.

The hike: out to lower Rock Creek Falls via Rattlesnake Ridge Trail.

Sometimes, you just want to get away from the crowds. Don’t get me wrong, I love our state parks in Tennessee and Virginia, plus the trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway and in the Smokies. However, when you’re catching up with a fellow hiking enthusiast you haven’t seen in a year, you don’t want to be tripping over other people.

“Westie” and I ultimately decided to check out Rock Creek Falls in Unicoi County. We followed the Rattlesnake Ridge Trail, a roughly 4.9-mile out-and-back that originates from the Rock Creek Recreation Area in the Unaka Mountain Wilderness.

The trail was everything we had hoped for. Her dog loved getting to play in the water. Once you got past the campground/swimming area and onto the trail proper, you don’t see many people.

It’s also enough to be challenging without making you stop every five minutes for a water break. You do gain more than 1,100 feet in the 2-ish miles to the lower falls, then lose all that elevation gain on the way back down. Fair warning.

Hiking apps like All Trails rate this hike as “moderate.” I would say that’s fair. The most difficult part is the practically vertical downhill to lower Rock Creek Falls. Well, and then up again. (I ate it getting back up the embankment. No shame in admitting it. It was tough.)

Be prepared for multiple water crossings when you head out. I’d suggest shoes you know won’t blister, and even a backup pair. Also, keep a watch on your feet.

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