This beautiful, unassuming park located in Church Hill, Tennessee, offers more than meets the eye! When visitors drive into the park, they are instantly met by a walking track, picnic shelters, a playground, tennis courts, and even an amphitheater. Children of all ages love enjoying the mountain foothill creek that runs cold and clear all year long.
Even though we were thoroughly impressed with the amenities of the park, we had the Laurel Run Falls on our mind. The first sign we saw when we got on the trail is “Dangerous Animals Have Been Seen.” Being from south Mississippi, the only ones we do not see on a regular basis here are bears and big cats. However, we did not see any animals along the way but knew it was a possibility. Brandi was almost gitty at the possibility of seeing a black bear but not sure what she would do if she came upon one in the wild. Thankfully, we did not have to worry about it!
Almost immediately on the trail, hikers come across several old homesteads, an unfinished cabin, and a smokehouse. For an instant, especially since we were nearly alone starting the trail, it was easy to drift back to the days when this mountain trail would have passed these bustling homesteads. They give you a special glimpse into what life was like on this mountain not too many years ago.
The 440 acre park has more than 37 miles of hiking trails that are in conjunction with Bays Mountain Park and there are so many amazing features, like a 300 foot overlook above the park and two water falls. There were also four blazes as we entered the park for the trails that crisscrossed the mountain ahead of us. Laurel Run Park was blazed in green, the Overlook Trail in black, Bays Mountain in white, and the waterfalls in blue. A mile in we found the Laurel Run Falls and they were beautiful. This was about a mile from the beginning of the trail so it is a very nice two mile hike. Given enough time that day, we could have continued up the trail, however it is not clearly marked, and came to Kiner Creek Falls, a more isolated and less traveled portion of the mountain. We were amazed at the different types of vegetation that covered both the river side and bluff side as we made our journey. We did not see as many wildflowers as we had expected but the ground ferns, trilliums, and chicks (succulents) were seen almost every step of the way.
We love researching where we visit before we go but many times our indulging research is done after for the sake of our social media posts. It was discovered after our hike that the 1984 blockbuster film The River was filmed here! The spectacular mountain and clear Holston River offered the perfect backdrop for Mel Gibson and Sissy Spacek. Even though it is a fictional film, it perfectly shows the struggles of farmers in the region to keep their farms from going under, through floods or foreclosures. Thankfully, this movie assisted with the birth of Laurel Run Park. The rugged farmland was deeded to Hawkins County and they set out to make it one of most memorable and enchanting hikes in east Tennessee. If you find yourself anywhere in east Tennessee, make your way over to Church Hill and Laurel Run Park. Spend the day exploring trails and waters but make sure to pack a picnic lunch, This is one family friendly adventure that you will never forgot!