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About 50 miles northeast of Chattanooga, TN, on Interstate 75, you can exit right (southeast) on TN state highway 68 to the popular village (esp for motorcyclists) of Tellico Plains. There, get onto state highway 165 toward the east (called Cherohala Skyway or the Dragon's Tail by cyclists). About 5 miles out of town you come to Forest Service road 210 at this sign...
Shortly, it is well worth the visit to stop at the Ranger Station, housed in old Civilian Conservation Corps buildings from the 1930s where there is a garden of "native species of flowering plants and a lady whose family goes back to those years who has great tales to tell of life in the area:
A few miles on, you come to the Bald River Fall, about 90 feet in height...
Try to avoid weekends because there is sometimes a traffic jam of tourists and fly-fisherpeople enjoying the Bald River and its tributaries that are so beautiful and fishable.
To the left, as you face the fall, is a parking area and the entry point for Trail #88 is just the other side of the cars.
The trail is moderate at worst--the entry ramp is the hardest climbing part of the whole experience, and there is a bench to rest on halfway up to the top of the fall (the first section of the trail). The trail itself is around 4 and a half miles, with this north end being the most scenic and the last half being the most "campable" with its flats and easy/safe access to the river. You may want to enter the trail at the southernmost end if you want to camp--you can set up in the right-at-hand flats next to the river and then hike lightly toward the north to see all the many, beautiful falls that line the river. This is southern terminus of trail 88 (located on Bald River Road [aka Forest Service road 126] near the Holly Flats campground (a quiet, clean campground, hardly ever full, but has no potable water or electricity).
Trail 88 goes through the middle of what is known as the Bald River Gorge Wilderness area. You'll have total change of elevation of 480 feet. There are some nice sized poplars and maples, but the area was "severely" logged over in the 1930s, so the trees--though having an admirably high canopy--are not "old growth."
If you plan to take pictures, it may be best to enter the northern end of the trail (by the signature fall) and come in mid-day. The gorge runs from north to south and the sun shines on the bottom best at mid-day. Here's a pic of the sun FINALLY coming up about 10 a.m., rising over the top of the east side of the gorge. The trail is about a hundred feet below the gorge top and 40 feet above the river (guesstimate) until you get to the south end where the trail is right next to the river.
Following are some shots I took while walking Trail #88. Again, plenty of good and reachable water sources (water-purification is still recommended by the local literature)
and reasonably easy walking for us older people who might not otherwise get past the parking lot.
Thanks for taking time to read this post. Happy hiking!
P.S.: sorry for repeating some of the pictures but the fog on my glasses doesn't seem to rub off like it used to. Ha, thanks again for watching.