Weekend Hike in Laurel Run Park

The campground we are staying at in Tennessee is in a really great location, but it is about a 1.5-hour drive to many of the things we want to do and see. On a day when we were definitely not feeling spending a minimum of 3 hours in the car, I started doing some research to find us a closer but still exciting hike. My search took me down a couple of rabbit holes, but we ended up at Laurel Run Park outside of Mt. Carmel, Tennessee.

This park was apparently where a portion of the movie The River with Sissy Spacek and Mel Gibson was filmed in 1984. The land was donated to the county after the movie was filmed, and the county has turned into a really nice park.

We set off on the trail with as much information as we could glean from the Internet and signs at the park. The trail was in great condition and well-maintained, but the signage was definitely lacking. The trail is part of a larger system, but it was never quite clear to us where all the trails went or how they worked together.

The first point of interest was a stream crossing, which always adds an element of excitement. Daisy is a great hiker, but she is not so good at hopping from rock to rock in moving water. We made it across without any issues and set off toward the waterfalls.

Of all the trails we have been on, I think this was by far the busiest trail we have seen. It was on a weekend, which we typically try to avoid, and there were several picnic pavilions right near the trailhead where people were having parties, which meant there were more people wandering up the trail. One thing that always surprises me when we encounter other people on the trail is their lack of preparedness. We have seen people hiking in sandals (not the type meant for rugged terrain) or, on this specific day, ballet flats going over rocks, across streams, and down steep grades. We frequently see people without any water sometimes several miles in. We tend to err on the side of over-preparedness, and we truly worry about those we pass along the way. Now that Will is carrying Bird in the backpack, we have had to adjust our thinking on how we carry water (since he previously used a Camelback) and just how much we need for the 4 of us. And that does not even take into account the first aid kit, knife, hiking poles, and boots we always have with us.

But I digress.

There were 2 small waterfalls along the trail, and after we passed them, the trail headed up to the top of the adjacent hill. As we hiked, we came across 3 abandoned cabins in the middle of nowhere. It was like there was a neighborhood in the middle of the forest. I am usually a little creeped out by abandoned cabins in the woods, but I happened to be in the middle of reading a book about a serial killer who had built a structure in the woods that he used to torture his victims before killing them. So that added a little to my experience and imagination.

On our way back, we accidentally took what we now believe to be an older portion of the trail that went straight down a steep grade, rather than the switchbacks we had used to get up the hill. As I mentioned earlier, the trail was not exactly well marked. While the straight-down-the-hill trail actually reduced our distance, I am really glad we did not try to go up that way. It would have been a daunting hill.

When we got back to the stream crossing at the beginning of the trail, we had to wait for at least 8 other people to cross before we even attempted to cross. Since they were all heading out on the trail, we meandered down toward the stream bank and easily maintained our social distance from them. This is where we saw the parade of ill-prepared hikers.

We were relieved to get back to the truck after encountering so many people on the trail then essentially having to walk through a party to get back to the parking lot. We did not get on the trail early by any means, but I am so glad we were there earlier than most, and we left before things got busier. Even though this is a heavily trafficked trail (especially on a weekend), we still really enjoyed it and the sights along the way.

Make sure to check the YouTube video and photos from this hike below, and we look forward to seeing you on our next adventure.

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