Friday, March 16, 2012

A few days ago, my wife and I went for an afternoon hike to the Blue Hole area in Elizabethton, TN. I had recently found out that if you follow Panhandle Road to the top of Low Gap that you can hike a few miles to Flint Mill Rock along the ridge and get excellent views of South Holston Lake and Bristol Motor Speedway!

The Blue Hole isn't really a hike, it's a roadside pull off which causes it to get littered easily, and sadly. A short stroll down the hill and you can hear the roar of the creek as it goes through a series of four small waterfalls. The second and third of which are the most popular. The second falls is surrounded by rock cliffs and the water drains to the side into a cave-like area. The third falls is the main attraction, a small falls spills into a beautiful bright green swimming pool before draining over a fourth falls which is covered by fallen timber. Here's the falls in order.
Upper Falls approx 12ft.
Second Falls, Grotto type falls. 15ft approx
Third Falls AKA The Blue Hole. 15ft slide
After we played around the falls a while I was excited to head on up the mountain to Low Gap. As we traveled up the mountain I was imagining what the sights from Flint Mill would be like when we came upon a locked gate blocking the road! I was extremely disappointed and it almost ruined my day until Amber suggested riding on toward Shady Valley and Backbone Rock.

Backbone Rock is a nice little area nestled between Shady Valley and Damascus, Va. The road travels through the rock and there's barely enough room for two cars to pass in the tunnel. A set of steps leads you to the top of the rock and some nice views of the surrounding area. I wouldn't recommend taking small children up on the rock because a slip in either direction would be certain death. The fresh flowers and memorial are a frightening reminder of this at the base. I have been to the rock several times unaware until recently that there is a waterfall there as well.

Upon our arrival we immediately found the waterfall trail known as Backbone Falls, how original! The trail leaves the roadside and climbs steeply before leveling off on a nice overlook, again with no safety railings! The trail then heads into the mountain and around a small canyon and you realize your above the falls. These falls are surprisingly high and beautiful. They flow narrowly through two huge boulders and cascade wider at their base. I really was impressed! The trail loops down the opposite side of the falls and meets the road once again making it a short half mile hike. Here's some pictures of our trip there.
Amber and Cash hitchhiking
Stairs up the Backbone Falls Trail
Backbone Falls. 60ft high.
One of the suspension bridges crossing onto the rock, a view straight down!
my truck looks tiny from sitting on top of Backbone Rock
beautiful roadside cascade

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