Lower Dennis Cove Falls
6-15-16 Dennis Cove Falls is a 20-25' high 2 tiered waterfall in a beautiful section of the Cherokee National Forest near Elizabethton Tennessee. This 1 1/4 mile hike along Laurel Fork will take you to 2 waterfalls with big swimming holes - the one pictured above is lower Dennis Cove Falls and the main waterfall is just up around a bend in the creek. The hike isn't very difficult, but it requires 3 wet creek crossings. Apparently there used to be log bridges with cables to aid in crossing. The cables are still there, but the logs are gone and the water levels would have to be really low for you to get across without getting your feet wet. In high water, the creek might be running too fast to be able to cross safely. A note to photographers - a couple of dead trees have fallen in Dennis Cove Falls and it doesn't make for a pretty picture.
Directions: From the stop light at US19E/TN37 and US321/TN67 in Hampton, take 321/67 towards Watauga Lake for 0.8 miles and turn right on to Dennis Cove Rd. Take this narrow, steep, and very curvy road (no RV's!) for 4.7 miles and park in the dirt/gravel area on the left just before the one lane bridge just before the Dennis Cove Campground. The trail head is across the road beyond the gate and follows Laurel Fork Trail (#39) up stream.
The trail begins by heading slightly uphill just across the creek from a couple of the camp sites at the campground. In about 1/2 a mile, come to the first creek crossing. In less than 0.1 miles past this crossing, cross the creek again. Head up the big, rocky gully and cross the creek for the 3rd time. After another 1/3 mile or so, look for a side trail on the right that heads down to the pool area of lower Dennis Cove Falls. This waterfall isn't even 10' high, but this setting is really nice with the rocks and deep pool. We had to wade out into the pool to get these shots as the tree on the left partially blocks the view of the falls from where the trail ends.
lower Dennis Cove Falls
To get to Dennis Cove Falls, come back out to the main trail and continue another 0.1 miles to another side trail on the right. Take it down to the pool area below Dennis Cove Falls. I was very disappointed to get to this falls and find the 2 dead trees in the middle of the waterfall. None of the pictures I looked at before our trip showed these. Still, it was well worth the hike as this is another beautiful spot. There's also a smaller cascade in between this and the lower waterfall, but I didn't bother climbing down to shoot it. At the bottom of the page is a video of both waterfalls.
Dennis Cove Falls
Before the hike, we had planned to continue on the Laurel Fork Trail and take a little detour to see Firescald Falls which is on the NatGeo Trail map. This isn't the easiest way to see this waterfall by far, but it is the more scenic. Once I go back and do it the other way, I'll add it as a full listing on the site. For now, we continued out the Laurel Fork Trail for about another 1.5 miles. There were several more wet creek crossings, but none were very difficult. The trail took us through wildlife clearings, so I'm assuming that this is a popular hunting area in season. After the 1.5 miles, we passed through one of the fields and came to an old road coming in from the left. If you check a trail map of the area, this heads towards FR50F which you can access past the Dennis Cove Campground (the easier way in). We walked that road for a short distance, crossed Little Laurel Fork and came to the gate at FR50F. From here a trail headed up Little Laurel Fork to this small waterfall.
waterfall on Little Laurel Fork
I could tell from the GPS that Firescald Branch comes in to Little Laurel Fork a short distance up the creek. The trail continued up and I could see more falling water above this waterfall, but it started raining hard and I decided to save further exploration for another day. Plus, water levels were really low and I'd like to shoot this area with better flow. When I got back home, I found pictures online that show a waterfall on Firescald Branch right where it comes into Little Laurel Fork.
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