If you’re looking for an easy trip, the Little Stony National Recreation Trail in Jefferson National Forest is the perfect alternative to the nearby Devils Fork Loop Trail. Devils Fork Loop is gorgeous, but it includes a strenuous and often wet climb. Little Stony, on the other hand, offers similarly beautiful views within a mere 2.8 miles, and its footbridges save you from cold, slippery water crossings. You can also take breaks from the trail’s 600-foot ascent by resting at the bridges high above the rushing currents and below the hemlock canopy.
Starting at Hanging Rock Picnic Area, follow the yellow blazes marking the trail, which snakes along Little Stony Creek. The trail is rather narrow in areas where it climbs in elevation and travels over boulders, and the slope is steep for a rail-trail, but the exhilarating views are worth every step. Within a half-mile of the northern trailhead, you will find a viewing platform across from a 40-foot waterfall. Thick, waxy leaves of rhododendron and mountain laurel frame the white veil of water, and if you visit in May or June, you’ll likely catch the spectacular blooms of these plants.
Continue uphill to find two more impressive waterfalls. Several hundred feet beyond these, you will arrive at the Little Stony Falls parking area, where the 16-mile Chief Benge Scout Trail picks up from Forest Road 701.
Little Stony Falls — Northern Trailhead — This trailhead provides quick and easy access to the majestic Little Stony Falls. Highlights: 24 foot high waterfall, scenic views of deep gorges, lush cove hardwood forest
Length: 1 mile round trip to the falls (or 3 miles from the parking area to the Hanging Rock trailhead.)
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Trailhead: To reach the Little Stony Falls trailhead from Dungannon, follow Rte 72 north for 7.7 miles, then turn left onto Retford Rd (Rte 664.) After 0.4 miles, take a slight left at Corder Town Rd/Quartertown Rd. Follow Corder Town Rd. for 0.8 miles, then turn left onto Forest Road (Rte 700). Follow Forest Rd. for 1.3 miles, then take a slight left onto Rte 701. The trailhead is at the end of the road. During the winter, Rte 700 is locked.
A bridge across the top of the falls lets you stand immediately above the roaring water while a deep pool at the base of the falls tempts hikers to cool off on a hot summer’s day. Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron bloom in summer, while spring flowers and fall colors also brighten your walk.
The more intrepid hiker can continue for three miles down the the gorge to the Hanging Rock trailhead. Little Stony Falls is also part of the 19.6 mile Chief Benge Scout Trail.
Little Stony Falls — Hanging Rock Trailhead — Little Stony Trail was designated a National Recreation Trail because of its majesty and ease of access. This longer
trail to the falls is the path less traveled.
Highlights: 24 foot high waterfall, scenic views of deep gorges, lush cove hardwood forest.
Length: six miles round trip, three miles to the falls.
Directions to Trailhead: Take Route 72 north out of Dungannon toward Coeburn for 2.6 miles. Turn left at a large sign into the Hanging Rock Recreation Area at a hairpin curve.
Facilities: Restrooms, picnic areas and drinking water are available at the trailhead during summer.
Little Stony Trail was designated a National Recreation Trail because of its majesty and ease of access. This beautiful hike runs up the bed of an old railroad along a moderate incline that becomes steeper and more rocky toward the end. On the other side of the trail, steep cliffs 400 feet high cocoon the hiker within a gorge that was created when water eroded away the bedrock along the Hunters Valley fault.
Massive bridges were helicoptered in by the National Forest Service. This keeps your feet dry as you pass a series of smaller waterfalls before emerging on top of the 24 foot high Little Stony Falls. (A slightly smaller waterfall about half a mile downstream warns of the main attraction’s approach.)
A bridge across the top of the upper falls lets you stand immediately above the roaring water while a deep pool at the base of the falls tempts hikers to cool off on a hot summer’s day.
The boulders and the cliffs along the sides of the gorge makes for a beautiful four season hike. In winter, icicles cascade below mountain laurel and hemlock. Spring is the perfect time to search for delicate flowers like Spring Beauty and Hepatica in this lush hard cove hardwood forest. Summer hikers are regaled by Louisiana Waterthrushes and Swainson’s Warblers among blooming rhododendrons. Fall brings brilliantly colored foliage to round out the year.
(For an easier hike, start at the northern trailhead and walk only one mile round trip to reach the falls. At the other extreme, overnight hikers can spend two adventurous days walking the Chief Benge Scout Trail, beginning on the top of High Knob and ending of Hanging Rock.) This area has reportedly seen sightings of Big Foot, or “Woolly Boogher” as called in these parts. Once a year, a local hiking club takes a hike in search of the elusive creature. Not recommended for young children nor the “faint of heart.”