Follow along with outdoorsman and writer Johnny Molloy as he treks through the mountains of Northeast Tennessee.
Do you like waterfalls? Would you like to leave the noise of everyday life behind and surround yourself with the soothing sound of cool water cascading through the mountains? In that case, make the 2.2-mile one-way hike to Squibb Creek Falls.
You don’t have to wait until the hike’s end to enjoy picturesque mountains to a waterfall deep in the Cherokee National Forest near Greeneville. Photo-worthy waterfalls, rockslides and pools come one after another.
Despite starting at the highly recommended Horse Creek Recreation Area with fishing, swimming, and camping along a clear mountain rill, the hike to Squibb Creek Falls is mistakenly overlooked. The hike includes several creek crossings, as hikers can make the trek dry-shod at normal water levels, thanks to well-placed boulders and rocks at the crossings.
First, enter Sampson Mountain Wilderness, heading up the remote Squibb Creek Valley, where lush woods escort you past a series of warm-up waterfalls and pools.
The hike leaves the recreation area on Horse Creek Road then quickly passes an all-access gravel trail to a fishing pier, Ahead are several outstanding fishing and swimming holes.
At .1 mile, take the wooden bridge crossing Horse Creek, joining the Squibb Creek Trail. You’ll enter the Sampson Mountain Wilderness, turn up the Squibb Creek valley shaded by black birch, rhododendron and maple trees
Next, cross Squibb Creek by bridges, passing an A-frame cabin before reaching your first rock hop. Boulders are aligned for a dry crossing. However, if the water is high, you will be rewarded with impressive falls that perhaps will make up for the wet feet. Reach a trail intersection at .7 mile. Here, the Turkeypen Cove Trail leads straight up a small creek.
Our hike turns right here, up the Squibb Creek valley. At .8 mile, the Middle Spring Ridge Trail leaves left up to the high country along Rich Mountain as well as Rocky Fork State Park.
Begin crisscrossing Squibb Creek, passing small waterfalls and large plunge pools deep enough to simultaneously dunk several hikers and hold a few trout. The cascades noisily spill through the valley.
At 1.9 miles, cross Squibb Creek three times. Squibb Creek Falls appears at 2.2 miles, tumbling 2 feet over a rock lip into a plunge pool.
Horse Creek Campground is located just below the trailhead with stream-side campsites in a scenic setting, each with a fire ring, picnic table, tent pad and lantern post. Restrooms and water spigots are also on-site. The campground is open from May through October.
Leave No Trace
Remember to leave our trails with no trace, so adventures can last a lifetime. Find out how you can make a difference with our leaders for litter-free Tennessee efforts.
Johnny Molloy is the author of many outdoor guides including Best Tent Camping: Tennessee, Paddling Tennessee, and Five Star Trails Tri-Cities: East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.