DATE:
5-1-2021

Out & Back
~ 2.7 miles

ELEVATION GAIN:
~ 751 ft

LOCATION:
Greeneville, TN

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Margarette Falls is my favorite waterfall hike near home. The boys said they like Sill Branch Falls better, but only, “just a little bit.” This one is about 1.7 mi longer than Sill Branch with more rocky and challenging terrain in a few spots. Margarette Falls trail follows a beautiful creek, giving you gorgeous scenery the whole way. The few challenging areas are not bad if you are prepared, (read: appropriate footwear). This was definitely doable, but a more challenging hike when we had a little one under 5 years old who was no longer riding in a hiking backpack. The first time we did this trail, the boys had just turned 4, 6, and 7. Depending on how high the creek is at the crossing, it would be helpful to have 1 adult per child under 5. We usually see hikers of all different ages when we go.

The parking lot is huge, but fills up quickly as it serves three different trails. This year, we started the trail in the late afternoon on a Saturday. It was crowded when we first got to the falls, but cleared out to only a couple people shortly after we got there.

Near the beginning of the trail, you will begin to hear the bustling sound of the west fork of Dry Creek. The path is a wide gravel road with a very gentle ascent.

You will soon come to a large clearing that has trail information posted. You have the option to go left which will take you to Phillips Hollow Trail. Or, you can go right to go to the Margarette Falls and Bullen Hollow Trails. According to the “All Trails” app, Phillips Hollow Trail is not well maintained and recommended for advanced hikers. We have never ventured in that direction. We always go to the right here and follow the signs toward Margarette Falls.

At this point, there will be blue blazes all the way to the falls. You will pass one more fork where Bullen Hollow Trail splits off to the right. You will go left, (there is a sign in this spot also).

The path narrows but is still wide enough for two-way traffic. The gravel gives way to dirt and a few more roots. You will soon come to a picturesque bridge that crosses the creek.

After the bridge is when the challenging part begins. The trail becomes increasingly rocky and narrow here. Some spots in the rocks have been made into steps. Others are a bit wobbly. A good hiking stick/pole definitely comes in handy but it is manageable without. Like I mentioned above, our youngest navigated this part when he was newly four years old. It all depends on you and your child’s comfort level. We just went very slow and steady. Fortunately this section is not particularly long.

This section ends with a wide creek crossing. This spot has looked different almost every time we have done this trail. The difficulty of this crossing depends on the amount of recent rainfall. The first time we came, the creek was high and very cold. We had to carry our youngest son across. Then the boys got bigger and the water was lower so they could all cross fine on their own. This last time, the water was low and there were large rocks to step across more easily. The boys chose to still go through the water, but my husband and I didn’t even have to get our feet wet.

⬆️This is our most recent trip with low water and rock stepping stones.
⬇️Previous trips with higher water

After the creek crossing, you are on the final stretch of the trail. You will still be ascending at this point, but there are rock steps and a really nice small bridge along the way.

Finally you have reached the falls! There is a pretty large open area surrounding the falls. Even when there are a lot of people, there are lots of different spots to sit and enjoy it. 

There are also plenty of areas to let the kiddos enjoy playing in the water on a warm day. The bed of the falls is shallow for splashing but not deep enough swim.  The trees make a magical shaded canopy over the creek.

Overall, I think this trail is a great option for a family outing as long as you are comfortable navigating a creek crossing and a few rocky spots. There are so many places to play along the way. We stopped 3 or 4 times just to let the boys splash around in the water. There are multiple areas that are perfect for having lunch or a snack.

This has turned into one of our must-do yearly hikes. There is something so calming about a trail that follows a creek. We are never in a hurry here. We just take our time and soak in all the East Tennessee beauty.

(⬇️Comparison shot of the Margarette falls after a good rain.)

Nature finds to look for:

DISCLAIMER: We use the “Picture This” app to help identify plants we find along the trail combined with our own nature books and study. We are by no means experts and might get it wrong sometimes! Please do not take any of our suggestions as text book or ingest anything based on what we share. Our nature finds are also based on the season in which we did our hike. If you hike the same trail in a different season, you might find totally different plants. If you notice any mistakes in our identification, please feel free to contact us and let us know so we can update it ASAP! Thank you and happy exploring!