Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium
& Laurel Run Park
Opened officially on May 24, 1971, Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium is located in Kingsport and is the largest city-owned park in the state of Tennessee at approximately 3,500 acres of land. The park has 40 miles of hiking trails, 26 of these miles can be used for mountain biking.
Bays Mountain is also a nature preserve and the park has several animal habitats with animals such as wolves and otters. The park also has a Planetarium, an Adventure Rope Course, and the Farmstead Museum. The Farmstead Museum depicts life of the early settlers who lived at Bays Mountain in the early 1800s.
The beautiful 44 acre lake within Bays Mountain used to be the source of Kingsport's water before the city got too big for the lake to meet its demands. The damn which created the lake was completed around 1917 and provided the city water until 1944.
Bays Mountain Park has many trails and many of these trails intersect and combine to create varying hike lengths to match the mood of the hiker. Some pretty hikes include the trek up to the overlook as well as the stroll around the reservoir. There is a $4.00 fee for day-use at the park. For further information about the park click on the link listed below.
Further Online Resources:
Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium Website
Bays Mountain Park Map
(Current as of Fall 2012)
From ETSU, take a left onto State of Franklin Road. From State of Franklin Rd, turn left onto I-26 headed north to Kingsport. Stay on I-26 until reaching Exit 3 for the Meadowview Parkway. Take Exit 3 and turn left onto Meadowview Parkway. Stay on Meadowview Parkway as the road becomes Reservoir Road until making a right into Bays Mountain Park. The journey to Bays Mountain from ETSU is approximately 25 miles.
Directions to Bays Mountain using Google Maps is linked here.
Laurel Run Park
Distance: 4 Miles Round Trip for Laurel Run Trail, approximately 2 miles round trip to Laurel Run Falls, & approximately 2.5 miles round trip to see both Laurel Run Falls and Kiner Creek Falls.
A short trek to two beautiful waterfalls with great potential for viewing wildflowers like trillium and trout lilies starts close to the banks of the Holston River at Laurel Run Park in Church Hill, TN. Laurel Run Trail starts just after crossing the bridge near the amphitheater.
Laurel Run Trail is an easily navigated trail with only one creek crossing point that doesn't have the option of using a well-constructed bridge. In many instances, expect to get your socks wet at this particular crossing. Approximately a mile from the start point, Laurel Run Falls is reached. Laurel Run Falls is a short fall but is quite lovely in her descent over the cavernous formation and into the shallow pool below.
Laurel Run Falls is easy to spot down and to the right from the trail. Kiner Creek Falls is more difficult to pursue. Kiner Creek Falls is located about a quarter mile further ahead on Laurel Run Trail.
Not far past Laurel Run Falls, Kiner Creek merges into the main creek. I have personally only witnessed Kiner Creek Falls during early Spring when the water levels were high, but other online resources mention that if the flow of the creek on the left side is a trickle (or less) than it is likely Kiner Creek Falls will be disappointing.
Laurel Run Trail switches left up the side of the mountain near where the streams unite. Not long after making the hard left up the mountainside, the trail forks again. Make a right following a single white blaze markings.
Kiner Creek Falls will be heard off to the right. There is a barely visible cut-off trail that leads to the Falls that is easily missed, but a little further up is another barely visible cut-off that leads down to the top of the falls. This cut-off is a little bit more visible than the cut-off that leads to Kiner Creek Falls.
The make-shift path to the base of the falls is easier to spot on the way back from the cut-off leading to the top of the Falls. It is not very obvious and I was lucky that a fellow trekker showed me the way, or else it is likely my path would have been more precarious.
I recommend reading information on Kiner Creek Falls detailed by the online source Waterfall Picture Guide (linked below) for excellent instructions on how to reach the falls following Kiner Creek from where it unites with the main creek.
Laurel Run Trail continues on eventually linking up with Kiner Hollow Trail in Bays Mountain Park. If the goal for this particular trek is just the two waterfalls, please note passing by any abandoned homesteads, besides the two log structures at the start of the trail, is a sure sign the Falls have been passed. This is a there and back again hike of easy-to-moderate difficulty level.
Further Online Resources:
Hawkins County Parks: Laurel Run Park
Waterfall Picture Guide: Laurel Run Falls
Waterfall Picture Guide: Kiner Creek Falls
Appalachian Treks: Laurel Run Park
(Current as of Spring 2014)
From ETSU, take a left onto State of Franklin Road. Follow State of Franklin Road until making a left onto I-26 headed north toward Kingsport. Stay on I-26 until reaching Exit 1 in Kingsport.. After taking Exit 1, turn left onto US Highway 11W. Follow US-11W to Church Hill and turn left onto Goshen Valley Road. From Goshen Vally Road turn left onto River Road and from River Road turn left onto Laurel Run Park Road. Laurel Run Park Road dead ends after entering Laurel Run Park. Signs mark the way to Laurel Run Park from US-11W at the left turn onto Goshen Valley Road.
Driving directions to Laurel Run Park using Google Maps is linked here.