State Natural Areas Program Offers Two Mid-Winter Hikes In Middle Tennessee On Jan. 26

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Department of Environment and Conservation’s Division of Natural Areas will host two guided day hikes at Middle Tennessee natural areas on Saturday, Jan. 26, including excursions to Short Springs in Coffee County and Virgin Falls in White County. 

Short Springs State Natural Area Hike

Tennessee State Parks Area Manager Robin Wooten will take hikers on a three-mile hike via Busby Falls, Adams Falls and Machine Falls Loop trails. The trails have many ups and downs, creek crossings and beautiful waterfalls so hikers should be prepared for a slower-paced hike with gorgeous scenery. Following the main excursion, there will be an optional 1.5-mile Laurel Bluff Loop Trail hike.  Participants should meet at 10 a.m. at the Short Springs State Natural Area trailhead parking lot, located approximately 3.5 miles northeast of Tullahoma. 

“Short Springs is an impressive area with biological diversity and breathtaking waterfalls,” Manager Wooten said. “It is a great area for hikers that want to burn some winter energy in a beautiful setting.”

Short Springs State Natural Area’s biological diversity includes rich forest slopes and ravines, low cascades, springs and waterfalls.  The Upper and Lower Busby Falls on Bobo Creek are two prominent cascading waterfalls that can be seen from overlooks on the Bobo Creek Trail. The steep escarpment, with its numerous wet-weather seeps, is particularly impressive during the moist winter and spring months.

Hikers should arrive dressed for the weather. In addition to wearing layers of clothing and sturdy boots, participants should also bring lunch and plenty of water. Reservations are required by January 24 and can be made by contacting Robin Wooten at 931 239-0065 or at    

Short Springs is a 420-acre natural area located in Coffee County, approximately 3.5 miles northeast of Tullahoma. This natural area provides an excellent contrast between Highland Rim and Central Basin geology and vegetation. Thickets of mountain laurel grow on the upper slopes under a dry oak-hickory forest canopy that is characteristic of Highland Rim vegetation. The lower slopes and riparian areas along Bobo Creek support towering sycamore, buckeye, magnolia, beech and tulip poplar trees with a rich shrub layer and herbaceous cover.  For information about Short Springs, including a map of the area, please visit   

Hikers interested in nearby camping or lodging should consider Old Stone Fort or Tims Ford state parks for overnight accommodations.  Please visit for additional details. 

Virgin Falls State Natural Area Hike

Stewardship Ecologist Forrest Evans will take hikers on a journey through the scenic beauty of one of Tennessee’s best-loved hiking trails. The strenuous eight-mile trail to the falls descends off of the Plateau and meanders along a creek, passing caves, sinks and waterfalls.

Hikers will have lunch at the falls, which offers remarkable views.  The trail then backtracks up and out of the gulf to the parking area. Participants should meet at 7:30 a.m. at the Nashville Kroger parking lot located at 5544 Old Hickory Boulevard (near Summit Medical Center) in Hermitage. Participants will carpool and caravan to the trail head. 

“Virgin Falls’ forests and geologic features make it one of the state’s favorite destinations and a great place for a winter hike,” Mr. Evans said. “This strenuous backcountry hiking trip involves negotiating difficult trail situations and hikers should be in good physical condition.”

Hikers should arrive dressed for the weather. In addition to wearing layers of clothing and sturdy boots, participants should bring lunch and plenty of water. Reservations are required by January 25 and can be made by contacting Forrest Evans at 615 532-0431 or  Consult a weather report before the trip, as the hike will be canceled in the event of rain or predicted rain.

Virgin Falls is a 1,157-acre natural area located adjacent to the Bridgestone Firestone Centennial Wilderness in White County. The natural area is named for Virgin Falls, which is formed by an underground stream that emerges from a cave, and then drops over a 110-foot high cliff before disappearing into another cave at the bottom of the sink. The area is noted for its unique geological features and several other waterfalls including Big Laurel, Sheep Cave Falls and Big Branch Falls. The deep gorges are heavily wooded and are ecologically diverse supporting various aged second growth mixed mesophytic and oak-hickory forest.  For information about Virgin Falls, including a map of the area, please visit     

Hikers interested in overnight accommodations are encouraged to contact Cumberland Mountain or Fall Creek Falls state parks, which offer a variety of choices.  Please visit for additional details.

More information about Tennessee’s natural areas program, including a complete list of all natural areas, is available at

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