Fifteen Miles Before 5 O’Clock

 

Our area is no stranger to the adventurous souls and thrill-seekers that come here to explore our mountains, float our rivers, and chase our waterfalls. Whether you are a local weekend warrior looking to get in some extra miles or a visitor of the beloved recreational opportunities we boast in our region, here is your itinerary to get in a bunch of miles and views all within a day of exploring around Northeast Tennessee.

 

Meet in Hampton

Hampton is an ideal meeting spot to round up the crew and carpool up into the mountains. Load up on gas, grab a snack, and hit the road bright and early. If you make it to the top before 7 am, you will get bonus sunrise views.

Park at Carver’s Gap on the Tennessee/ North Carolina border, and you have arrived at your first hike for the day- Grassy Ridge atop the majestic Roan Mountain! Hike 2.5 miles each way up to stellar views across the Appalachian Mountains. You can see familiar peaks in nearly every direction from the ridgeline and boulder-hop for new angles along the Appalachian Trail.

 

Grassy Ridge on Roan Mountain

Take in a moment to capture the views up top, because this trip is both about the miles and the experiences. One of the best attributes to hiking up to Grassy is all the fellow early-risers who greet you along the Appalachian Trail. It is hard to be in a sour mood with views like these and positive vibes in every direction.

 

Jones Branch & Elk River

Drive about 20 minutes down the winding mountain roads until you hop borders into North Carolina. Watch carefully for signs pointing to Elk River Falls, and your next pitstop awaits. Hike the service road up a ways until in turns into singletrack following the river about 2.65 miles each way to see the pristine Jones Branch Falls.

All along your 15 mile day, you will hop across creeks and witness peaceful river views. Each micro-journey takes you along a few more miles of different sections of the Appalachian Trail intertwining throughout the woods. As you are getting in your leg workout, don’t pass up opportunities to appreciate the nature all around you!

A plethora of flowers and fungi grow all around the trails and forest. After an abundant rain season, the variety of mushrooms and greenery in bloom are stunning and captivating to witness. Take a moment to appreciate them and enjoy the elements of your journey.

Hiking the trail back towards the parking lot, snag a quick left off the service road. Get in some extra mileage and a bonus waterfall- Elk River Falls- before the next leg of the trip!

From here, drive about 35 minutes back to where the day began in Hampton. Take a right onto HWY 67-W, and head up another mountain road to a wonderland of trail access. Park at the Laurel Falls trailhead for the final leg of your big mile adventure day.

Hike 2.3 miles each way to yet another stunning waterfall.

This one makes for a thigh burning excursion, as you trek the infamous rock staircase up from the falls back to the Appalachian Trail. Crossing over a few bridges, embrace each step knowing that you got in some awesome miles while exploring the beauty that lies in the backyard of Appalachia.

And next time, go Chasing Waterfalls around Northeast Tennessee!

Remember to leave our trails with no trace, so adventures can last a lifetime.

Written by Alicia M. Bynum
Travel Writer | Photographer