This out-and-back from Dennis Cove offers a nice run to the picturesque Laurel Falls. Most of the trail is straightforward, but the difficulty increases when you turn left down the stairs. The Falls at the bottom of the stairs is a nice spot for a break or snack.
Need to Know
From 19E heading north through Hampton, turn right on 321. Gas station on the corner is a good place to stop for snacks, bathroom etc on the way in or out. On 321, fork to right after about 3/4 mile on Dennis Cove Drive, becomes Dennis Cove Road. Another 3.6 miles of switchbacks and white-knuckle driving to reach the trailhead parking on the left. Looking from the road at the parking lot, there are two sign boards and two trails. The trail on the *left* goes to Laurel Falls. The trailhead is convcenient to hostels used by through-hikers.
Alternate for another day: Start at the Laurel Falls trailhead further along Rt 321 past Dennis Cove Dr on the right and hike from the opposite direction on the AT to Laurel Falls. Much longer hike (about 5.5 miles round trip, I think), but avoids the white knuckle driving on Dennis Cove Road and the treacherous stairs. Still at least an intermediate-level hike from what I have read. YMMV.
Starting from Dennis Cove trailhead, the run begins down a wide, flat trail surrounded by rhododendrons, and the river on the right. After about 3/4 mile, go around a few curves and downhill to a bridge across the river, followed by uphill stone steps -- these are just a sample of what is to come.
After a few more curves through rock canyons, at about the one mile mark, look for a wood sign on a tree pointing to the left down the steep stairs towards Laurel Falls. If you don't see the sign and run past the stairs, a blue trail mark will greet you at a rock just past the turn, this is the high-water AT alternate route. The AT goes down the stairs, but I don't recall seeing any white marks. This is the difficult part -- about 0.3 mile down to the falls.
Good shoes and poles will be helpful. Will be treacherous if wet, please be careful! About 10 steps before the bottom, the AT turns right along the river, but there is the Laurel Falls in front of you! At about 50 feet high and 40 feet wide, Laurel Falls is probably one of the bigger falls directly on the AT, and quite picturesque. After some time at the Falls, retrace your path up the stairs, turning right at the top, and back to Dennis Cove trailhead for a total mileage of 2.6.
Flora & Fauna
Shared By: J H