History of Laurel Creek Trail

Welcome to the Laurel Creek Trail

The Laurel Creek Gorge was a corridor for travel, a pathway for westward movement of  colonial settlers.   The first trails through the wilderness were made by the buffalo.  Native Americans used these same trails.  Most of the trails followed the streams as both the buffalo and the Indians had need for a regular source of water.  The surrounding community is  known as Laurel Bloomery, so named for the abundance of mountain laurel and rhododendron in the area and ‘bloomery’, referring to a part of the process of smelting iron ore, an industry here in the 1800’s.

Daniel Boone is reputed to have camped on several creeks in the area, including Laurel Creek, originally called Steep Rock Creek,  as he trail blazed paths to Kentucky.  The Daniel Boone  Heritage Trail, along Tn Hwy. 91 is  recognized as one of the routes used by the noted frontiersman as he guided pioneer families in the initial stage of America’s westward expansion. 

In 1905, the Pea Vine Railroad, a narrow gauge track, was built along the Laurel Creek between Damascus, Va. and Mountain City, Tn.  It was primarily for the transportation of lumber and manganese, although two passenger trains ran each day.  The Mountain City depot was located across the creek from the present site of Ralph Stout Park and near Tn Hwy. 67.  All the railroad bridges on Laurel Creek were built of timber and no evidence remains of the route save a few spikes found during trail construction and displayed here.  The train ceased to operate in 1919 with the depletion of timber and manganese ore, and the rails were removed by 1924.   

In the construction of the Laurel Creek Trail, through the gap in the terrain known to locals as ‘Providence Gap’ (where the trail moves away from the stream), muleshoes were found and are displayed here.  Those early travelers had to ford the creek numerous times; later, a road with bridges was built using much of the original railroad route.  Note the concrete bridge abutments from the first road that remain visible at various points along the trail.

In the early 1900’s the Pea Vine Railroad was built to enhance the region's economy and quality of life.  Over a hundred years later that same vision has been recaptured through the construction of the Laurel Creek Trail – a route with the potential to enhance the local economy and the quality of life once again; however, the journey through this place of immense beauty rather than a destination is its purpose.  Enjoy the walk or the ride!