TO THE TRAILHEAD: Take Little River Road just outside of Townsend to the Meigs Creek Trail. Little River Road has the distinction of being able to see some nice waterfalls and cascades by simply pulling off the road and looking. Meigs falls are right off this road, though not our destination, as are the famous Sinks. Park at The Sinks to start this hike, so you can take that in before you even start. Before we even get into the hike, I will say that this parking area does get very crowded. You will likely see a ton of people and cars here. They have improved the area greatly, but sometimes finding a parking space can be a challenge. Don’t worry about it though. Much like Newfound Gap, most people only stay here a few minutes, so you should see cars leaving pretty regularly to give you a spot.
THE HIKE: I don’t want to get your hopes up just to have them dashed, so right up front, let me tell you that you have many water crossings here, and your aren’t going to find much in the way of footbridges, so either have good waterproof boots or a pair of sandals to change into if you want to do this one. Personally, I like the water crossings, because you will see most people come to the first one, stare at it in an attempt to find a way around, and then head back to the car. So much like Newfound Gap going to Charlies Bunion, you might start with 100 of your closest friends, but they will almost all be gone at the first sight of water.
Speaking of water, it is with you for nearly the entire part of the 7 mile, roundtrip moderate hike. And you are besides or walking over it almost 20 times in total. That is because the trail itself follows Meigs Creek so much of the way. The water is rarely rushing or dangerous, but the ability to stay somewhat dry pretty much goes away completely after hard rains. When winter sets in for good, you can sometimes cross across frozen areas. Just take care if you decide to go that route and watch your footing.
But speaking of winter, I really like this hike in winter. The views tend to open up when the leaves fall from the trees. During Spring and Summer, the forrest gives you a canopy for much of the way and views are hit or miss. But in winter it is like a different hike altogether with great views here and there.
The trail goes for a total of 3.5 miles to the point where it terminates at a junction with Lumber Ridge and Meigs Mountain Trail. You officially end the hike at Buckhorn Gap, but it’s not a major arrival point like a massive waterfall or outlook. Meigs Creek Cascades will be at 1.7 miles so you can return to your car for a total of 3.4 miles.
So as you get going up the trail, you will notice that it starts uphill. It’s not a tough uphill but it is pretty steady. You will get some nice ridge line views which make the peak of the uphill a little over a half mile in a great place to stop and rest. But very quickly, the trail starts running downhill. And after a lot of precipitation, the water is following you down and pooling. So this next area, from about the mile mark to the 2.5 mile mark is where you will have lots of water crossings and lots of muddy trail. Again, not too bad if it hasn’t rained in a while. It will be very wet if there has been rain in the last few days.
It is really something how close the water is to the trail during this stretch. There are plenty of hikes that move near water, but this is really, really near water….and over it, and across it. This pattern continues as you wander upon the 18 foot Meigs Creek Cascades at 1.7 miles in. It’s not a huge cascade like Ramsey, but is really nice all the same. And as with most water on this trail, you will get to be pretty close to it. As you pass this and finish up with the water, you can finish the mile or so in relative comfort as you pass thick brush and some occasional nice views until you reach the trail junction at 3.5 miles. Simply turn around at this point and head back. You have the opportunity to shuttle hike this one if you want to have a car waiting for you near Metcalf Bottoms on Little River Road. This will add just over 5 miles to the hike.
If I could give you a couple of tips for doing this one, the first would be to wear waterproof boots and quick dry socks. Your feet will be at least a little wet on this one. Have thinner and synthetic socks so they dry faster. Also, I think trekking poles or at least hiking sticks on this one are a good idea. They are helpful to gauge the depth of water you cross as well as keep your balance as you go across the many streams along the way. The last piece of advice is….don’t be a hero. If the water seems too rushing or deep, try it another day. There are 20 more hikes within a 20 minute drive that are just as good. But if conditions are right, this is a really unique hiking opportunity, and I think it feels very adventures and backcountry even though you are not very far from Little River Road the entire way.