Looking for a secluded hike with dramatic waterfall views, caves, and rich biodiversity? Virgin Falls State Natural Area has you covered. The natural area, located in White County, encompasses more than 1,000 acres of land perfect for explorers looking for their next adventure.
The site was designated as a Pocket Wilderness in 1973 and purchased by the state of Tennessee in 2012. Located within Scott’s Gulf, an 18-mile canyon, the falls located in the natural area drain into the Caney Fork River and its tributaries. The natural area is home to a range of wildlife, unique landscapes, and dramatic features that can be explored by hiking and camping.
The Virgin Falls waterfall stands out as the star of the State Natural Area due to its unique formation. Flowing from an underground stream, the waterfall emerges from a cave, drops down a 110-foot cliff, then disappears again into a cave at the bottom. While the area is best known for its namesake, there are several other waterfalls within the Natural Area, including Big Laurel, Big Branch Falls, and Sheep Cave Falls. All waterfalls are regarded for their beauty and can be viewed through various lookout points along the hiking trails in the Natural Area.
The primary way to explore Virgin Falls State Natural Area is a 9-mile round-trip hiking trail through the area. Throughout the trek, hikers will witness a variety of natural features in the landscape, including sinks, caves, waterfalls, and boulder fields. Hikers will also witness the rich biodiversity of the area, which is home to four protected plant and wildlife species.
It must be noted that this hike is strenuous and oftentimes takes 5-8 hours to complete. It is advised that hikers plan their time wisely and ensure they are equipped with proper food and water supplies and gear.
For adventurers looking to extend their stay at Virgin Falls State Natural Area, backcountry camping sites are available by permit. Please refer to instructions on the park’s website for securing a reservation at a camping site.