The Virgin Falls Pocket Wilderness area is a 300+ acre parcel of land that surrounds Virgin Falls, set aside by the Bowater Southern Paper Corporation for public use. Sheep Cave and falls are also within this boundary. The other 2 falls on the way are part of the much larger Bridgestone/Firestone Centennial Wilderness. We were coming from east of the area, so we got on I-40 and got off on the Highway 127 exit near Crossville. We headed south on Highway 127 to the junction with Highway 70 - the first red-light past McDonald’s. We then headed west on Highway 70 approximately 14 miles to Derossett and turned left (south) onto Eastland Road. After 5.7 miles, we turned right onto Scott's Gulf Rd and went 2 miles to the parking area on the right. Parking for Polly Branch Falls is on the left before the parking for VFPW trailhead. The first part of the trail is fairly easy. In just under a mile, the 15-20' Big Branch Falls will be on the left.
Across the creek and to the right of the falls is a good sized recessed rock shelter. Back on the trail, the going is a little tougher, but still no more than moderate in difficulty. The trail has crossed some smaller streams, but then crosses the wider Big Laurel Creek over some large rocks. There's a cable strung across the creek to assist in the crossing, but it's not that hard of a crossing. It came in handy on our trip because the rocks were wet from earlier rain. After crossing, the trail kind of splits - but we didn't know that. We took the upper trail, but there's a lower trail that's a bit shorter and follows the creek. The upper trail heads up (duh) and there's a spur trail to an overlook that we bypassed. Both upper and lower trails connect back and after a mile past Big Branch Falls, we came to the gorgeous Big Laurel Falls.
It's hard to see in this photo of the falls, but in the one with Dana and Kenny on the previous page, you may notice there'e no creek leading away from the falls! Big Laurel Creek spills 40' over the ledge, flows backwards into the huge rock shelter area, then soaks into the ground and disappears. This is the 1st time I had ever seen anything like this and I was truly amazed. When I went behind the falls to check it out, I found a large sandy area that was rather spongy - the creek ended at the back near the wall. Here's a view looking out...
This would have been worth the 2+ hour drive even if it was all we had seen! I read where this water eventually flows into Sheep Cave and is later found in the cave area below Virgin Falls, but no one knows for sure where all it goes. If you can pry yourself away from this sight, get back on the main trail and continue on. There's a trail we noticed that heads to the left, but I have no idea where that goes. The trail remains moderate and after about 3-3.5 miles, there's a sign pointing to the right towards Sheep Cave. We took it and first came to the lower section of Sheep Falls. It was really wet and slippery, but we tied off a rope and scooted down the little trail where we had this view of the falls.
This is only a 40' section of the falls. It originates in Sheep Cave 50' above this, spills over the upper falls (next shot), flows around to the right, then back to where it spills off to the left as shown above. From there, it continues back to the right and down, flowing into another cave. The water flow was low and I suspect this might be just a trickle in drier weather. Don't know for sure.
At this point, the skies turned very dark and the thunder started rumbling, so we pushed on to Virgin Falls which is about a 1/2 mile away. There are a couple of trails in this area, so if you come to a confusing spot, take the right trail and you should be OK. It started pouring hard a couple of minutes later and by the time we got to Virgin Falls, our feet were soaked. The trail ends at a primitive camp site with a side view of this 110' beauty!
Before I took that shot, we went out on the little trail for a frontal view and stood in the rain just staring in amazement. We waited a bit and the rain let up, but the mist coming up the hill was pretty bad. I got the camera out from under my poncho and managed to snap off a couple without the tripod. I wouldn't have know it if Dana hadn't said, but the creek flows out of a cave before spilling over the ledge and emptying into a hole below (to the left of the trees above).
There is a little trail that goes down the hill to the base of the falls, but it looked really slippery, so we'll save that for the next time - which will be sooner rather than later.
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