Cherokee National Forest: Rock Creek Gorge Scenic Area Waterfalls (includes Rock Creek Falls, Chestnut Mountain Falls, Thornburg Ridge Falls, Oasis Falls, Rim Rock Falls, Benton Falls, and many others), Benton, Tennessee
The 244-acre Rock Creek Gorge Scenic Area in Polk County is one of Southeast Tennessee's most spectacular natural areas. The Rock Creek Gorge is home to a jaw-dropping sixteen named waterfalls, spread across Rock Creek and several of its tributaries flowing off Chilhowee Mountain. All are scenic and many are tall. The only easily-accessible waterfalls are Rock Creek Falls, Benton Falls, and arguably Chestnut Mountain Falls. All of the others involve various degrees of creek-walking and/or bushwhacking. While one could visit all sixteen falls in one day, it will require a high level of physical capability and off-trail experience. Folks who chose to visit the waterfalls in several different trips will still be well-rewarded. The best time of year to visit the waterfalls of the Rock Creek Gorge Scenic Area is winter or spring, when the waterfalls are flowing more boldly and when the area is less overgrown. This hike occurred on Saturday, April 14th, 2018. My plan was to hike the Scenic Spur Trail from Highway 30 to Rock Creek Falls. I would follow a scramble path to Chestnut Mountain Falls. From there, I would begin the off-trail section of the hike by first visiting the waterfalls on Laurel Branch and then walking up Rock Creek past several waterfalls to the Slickrock Branch confluence. Next, I would bushwhack alongside Slickrock Branch out to the Rim Rock Trail, visiting more waterfalls along the way. I would then follow the Clemmer Trail to Benton Falls, also bushwhacking to Elora Falls and Silvermine Branch Falls. Finally, I would return to Highway 30 along the Clemmer Trail.
Cherokee National Forest: Gazebo Trail to Benton Falls, Clemmer Trail, Rim Rock Trail, and Clear Creek Trail Loop, Benton, Tennessee
In the Ocoee District of the Southern Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee is the Ocoee River. It is surrounded by the mountains of the Chillhowee Ridge to its north, and the Cohutta Mountains to its south. While the Chillowhee Mountains are not high at all, just above 2000 feet, it was still rather attractive to check out some of the 20+ miles of trails in the Chillhowee Recreation Area. Benton Falls is the key attraction in the area, as Clear Creek tumbles 65 feet down a natural rock ledge. This hike occurred on Saturday, March 15th, 2014. My plans were to park at the Gazebo Overlook trailhead on Oswald Dome Road, to take the Gazebo Trail to McKamy Lake, then take Benton Falls Trail to Benton Falls, followed by Clemmer Trail to Rim Rock Trail, then take Rim Rock Trail to Clear Creek Trail, and finally use Clear Creek Trail to get back to the trailhead.
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