Triple Falls / High Falls

These are popular waterfalls in DuPont State Forest. We haven’t been on this hike in a while and it’s hunting season so it was time to do it again. First of all, the parking area at Hooker Falls is greatly improved with one of the nicer trail head restrooms in… well.. anywhere.

Hooker Falls is a small river wide ledge about 0.4 miles from the parking lot.

Hooker Falls

Triple Falls is a three-drop cascade about a half mile from the parking area in a different direction than Hooker Falls. It’s one of the more impressive waterfalls in the area.

Triple Falls, lower drop
Triple Falls, DuPont State Forest

High Falls was the final stop on our hike. It’s another half mile above Triple Falls but you can walk the two mile High Falls Loop from Triple Falls to avoid backtracking (and we always want to avoid backtracking, right?)

High Falls, DuPont State Forest

Chimney rock

It had been many years since we visited Chimney Rock (last time it had not yet become a state park). There were some evident differences. The admission is a bit high as state parks go, however the elevator is now included. If there’s not much of a line it’s worth taking the elevator just to go through the rock tunnel.

The views are still wonderful up there and the various platforms and stairs seem far better constructed than they did before. We took the elevator up and then hiked back down through the rock formations before taking the waterfall trail.

Hickory Nut Gorge Falls

The waterfall is high but not visible from any one place all at once. As you can see here, at low water there’s not a whole lot coming over, it might be worth visiting after more rain when this is probably very impressive.

Beech Bottom Falls

This was a last minute addition to our outing in South Carolina and we didn’t really know a whole lot about it. This was apparently formerly called Pinnacle falls and was accessible from the lower level via a difficult descent. The forest service improved the trail earlier this year and added an impressive overlook clinging to the side of the opposite mountain. The trail head is just south of the NC line, or just north of the ‘town’ of Rocky Bottom on Van Clayton Memorial Highway. The parking area is the same as the Foothills Trail parking here (the FH trail is a little ways up the road). Beech Bottom leaves from the parking area, crosses a ravine and then follows a forest road for about half the distance.

At around the halfway mark, you’ll leave the forest road, cross a bridge and follow a narrow trail along the mountain. It will eventually end at a switchback to a small observation deck. This is the view in early September but it’s clear the cascades continue both above and below this section. The total height of all of it may be as much as 150 ft but it’s difficult to determine. The hike is about one mile each way, possibly just a bit over that.

Clemson Forest

Clemson forest stretches mostly north of campus and includes a lot of lakeshore frontage. There are some pretty long trails in this area but they are intended more for biking than hiking. We did a couple short waterfall trips.

First we went to Todd Creek Falls. There is a very small pullout along the road here, maybe good for three optimally parked cars. The trail is a half-mile down the power line through meadow and a little bit of the river bed too. The falls will be obvious on the right side of the trail as you approach. The trail continues along the power lines but we didn’t go any further than the falls.

Waldrop Stone Falls

Next up was Waldrop Stone Falls, AKA Clemson Falls. This area has a loop trail of just under a mile in length which has a short spur down to the falls. The falls aren’t particularly interesting at low water levels but it’s a nice hike and they’ve labelled a number of local trees and shrubs along the way.

Riley Moore Falls

This is our favorite waterfall in South Carolina and not coincidentally our favorite swimming hole too.

It’s a river wide drop of maybe 12 to 15 feet into a series of rocks and then a large friendly swimming hole with a sandy beach on the near shore of the river. A little further downstream is an area we refer to as the kiddie-pool which was convenient when Alaric was younger.

This is the view if you’re sitting under the falls on the opposite side of the river from the trail / parking area / beach. You can swim over here or walk (carefully) across the slippery rocks.

These little mossy grottos are fun too but the water feels quite cold, even in mid-Summer. This is generally a safe swimming area but just for posterity remember that high water levels can change that fairly easily.

Gee creek

Gee Creek is a wilderness area near Etowah, TN. We were camping in the area so that we could kayak the Hiwassee River so on our non-river day we came here. The wilderness area is small, basically it’s Starr Mountain on the west, Chestnut Mountain on the east and the wilderness covers from ridge to ridge including the Gee Creek drainage between them.

The valley heading up is very scenic and remote. There is a foundation from an iron mine that used to be here and you’ll also pass a concrete sluice that encloses the river for a bit upstream of the mine ruins. The first river crossing is by bridge but once you enter the wilderness (there is no sign), all future river crossings are rock-hops.

This falls which may or may not be called Gee Creek Falls is near the upper end of the “trail”. From here the trail ascends, crosses the river again and sort of runs out in a hemlock grove upstream. There is a path beyond this which becomes increasingly steep and less traveled. Different maps show the trail going different distances but on none of them does it ever approach the wilderness boundaries. The cliffs here are substantial and it would be a very challenging connection.

Both Starr and Chestnut mountain have trails along the ridges which appear to be aimed primarily at horse travel (a horse camp is nearby).

Hiwassee River

This was our choice river for a first-time whitewater kayaking experience for our son, sporting his brand new PFD (having finally reached 50 lbs) and a brand new whitewater helmet, yay.

The class II run on the Hiwassee consists of six rapids in the II – II+ range. We used an outfitter at the bridge in Reliance (where all the outfitters are). It’s a short drive along the north side of the river to the put-in.

The rapids are fairly evenly spaced, they generally get bigger as you go down the river and the last two are by far the best if you hit them right. Funnels (the second to last) seems best to the left of all the sizeable islands, but then the rightmost of the channels in that gap. Devil’s Shoals – the final rapid just slightly above Reliance has a wonderful wave train on the far left side of the river underneath the overhanging trees.

Overall this is a great beginner river. There are people going down it in tubes — which happens everywhere these days — but this is probably a legit tubing river. There are a couple sections where the current is minimal though and without a paddle it could be a long float. We ran the five-mile section twice in one day, it took us about 80 minutes each time in no particular hurry.

Pond Mountain / laurel falls

I put Pond Mountain (Wilderness) in the title of this post because there are a whole lot of places named Laurel Falls in the state of Tennessee, plus several more nearby in North Carolina and Georgia. This is four mile loop hike from Dennis Cove which we’ve done before but not for several years and it’s always a favorite. We follow the AT northbound to the falls to start with.

This is a wonderful picnic spot and place to let the kids play in the river below the pool. The pool created by the falls is notoriously unsafe due to strong currents and there have been drownings here (several). From here, the A.T. makes a nifty passage through a gap in the cliffs alongside the river. This would be impassable at high water. We followed the trail to the shelter and then took the high water route back to Dennis Cover. Just hiking to the falls and back would cut this hike in half to about 2 miles.

Mount Rogers / Grayson Highlands

Having broached the ten mile mark in Utah just a month before we did it again here in the Virginia High Country (this would become our son’s new longest hike at 11 miles). We were camping nearby at Grindstone and entered along the AT which quickly put us in the Lewis Fork Wilderness

See? There’s even a sign. The AT eventually runs along the edge of some large open meadow spaces where you may well find wild ponies. The wild ponies definitely make this area unique as far as hiking.

Here’s a wild mare and her foal. Don’t mess with the foals, the mares are small as horses go but still pretty solid and willing to knock people around to protect their young. Also, even when they’re being friendly (like licking the salt off of you) they have a tendency to nip.

From here the AT goes very close to the summit of Mt Rogers, although you’d still need to take a side trail to reach it. The views are spectacular at the branch for this side trail. We were told the views from Mt Rogers itself were non-existent (at least in May) so we skipped it. Thomas Knob shelter is also up here and it’s completely infested with horses.

This could well go from cute to annoying if you were actually spending the night here. We weren’t so we looped around at Rhododendron Gap and headed back towards the road on the Virginia Horse Trail. This looks reasonable on a map. It’s not that bad but the horse trail is quite a bit rougher than the A.T. even though it doesn’t have quite as much altitude change. Good news though you traverse several more meadows filled with wild ponies. We even saw a cow in this section and have no idea where it came from.

Secret Falls

So first of all, there’s a sign at the trailhead that says “Secret Falls”. Kind of ruins the Secret part of it. We happen to know the Forest Service official who put up this particular sign and he just shrugged when we pointed that out. Oh well.

Anyway, Secret Falls is in the Nantahala National Forest in the general vicinity of Highlands. It’s about a mile hike each way to a very pretty falls.

Along the way there are a couple of stream crossings, they are small and can be leapt or rock-hopped across. The trail continues beyond the falls and appears to follow the river canyon, possibly into Georgia (which isn’t far away). We didn’t follow it any further than these falls though so we don’t know what’s down there (yet).

Old Homestead Trail

This trail is found on the north shore of Lake Watauga in northeastern Tennessee. The trailhead doubles as a boat ramp and some maps mark this as trail 603. It is theoretically blazed but a wildfire has wreaked havoc on that and this is a challenging trail to follow. The lake-side of the loop follows a high ridge that at times is not much wider than the trail. Once it descends it meets a forest road which makes up the other half of the loop and that is trivial to follow. We saw bears on the forest road and bear evidence everywhere. The views of the lake are wonderful.

If you’re hiking this, we’d recommend a map and compass even though you have the lake as a handrail on one side.

Whiteside / sol’s creek

These are two short hikes we did the same day, starting with the Whiteside Mountain loop trail just outside of Cashiers, NC. This is a popular day hike, it’s only about a 2 mile loop in total. Might be more exciting if you’re nervous around heights or maybe don’t expect a few steel cables will keep you from falling over the 700 foot cliff alongside the trail.   The views are awesome though.

Florence Preserve

Next up was a totally different kind of hike.   We went to Sol’s Creek just east of the town of Argula, NC.  Calling it a town is way beyond a stretch but it shows up as such on USGS maps as well as (shockingly) Google maps.    No trailhead for this one, just a guard rail to jump over.  Best way to find this one is to find Sol’s Creek and then find where it crosses 281.  You want to go a half mile upstream which can be accomplished by a combination of deer paths on both sides of the river and walking up the river itself.   We found this extremely small salamander on one of our river crossings.

Please note, the west side of the creek is private property where it meets 281.  A half mile or so from the road you’re notice the river is getting a bit wilder and steeper and then you’ll come around a bend and see this lovely view:

At these water levels it’s easy to get up to that middle level below the higher falls.   It’s kind of a fun slide too.   We didn’t try to go higher than that and wouldn’t recommend it.   If you’re experienced at orienteering and bushwhacking you can manage this hike just by following the river upstream.   A map and compass isn’t a bad idea though.

Florence Preserve / Wildcat Falls

We did a short hike in Florence Preserve, mostly just to check it out since we hadn’t been there before. Florence preserve is located just outside of the small town of Gerton, North Carolina.

Florence Preserve

There are several trails in the preserve, they are colored and blazed but not named. The ‘yellow’ trail leads up onto Little Bearwallow Mountain where the remainder of the trails are. On the way up we saw these toadshade trilliums.

Toad Shade Trillium

A left turn on the blue trail will quickly bring you to Wildcat Falls, a small waterfall that runs across an exposed rock face before funnelling into a rock chute.

Wildcat Falls

Other trails continue higher up the mountain, we’ll have to come back and try them another time.

Steel’s Creek Falls

Steel’s Creek flows off the east side of the Blue Ridge in the vicinity of Table Rock. The MST parallels the creek for several miles. The southern access point is from FS 228 off of NC 181 north of Glen Alpine. Follow this road until it ends which includes a wet crossing of a smaller stream (may be dangerous in high water) and a whole slew of campsites along Steel’s Creek.

View of Steel's Creek from MST
View of Steel’s Creek from MST

From the end of the road it’s a short walk along a trail to a swimming hole and small waterfall in the river. From here you have to figure out the best way across which is likely to be above the falls rock hopping. Across the river, you can pick up the MST and head north (MST-east) towards a whole bunch of waterfalls.

Steel's Creek Falls
Steel’s Creek Falls

Steel’s Creek Falls was very obvious to us in October foliage. It’s a huge cumulative drop through several steep gorge sections. It’s also rather dangerous to get near. This is the view from the MST. There are other view points but they generally involve some risk.

Rocks in Steel's Creek
Rocks in Steel’s Creek

Elsewhere along the hike there are some excellent swimming holes in the river and a lot of huge boulders to climb on in safer places than where the falls are. This is a pretty classic canyoneering river for the adventurous as well.

Chasteen Creek Cascade

Chasteen Creek is an easy hike in the Smoky Mountains National Park. The easiest approach is from the Smokemont campground. Drive all the way through the campground to the very back where there is parking for about 10-12 cars in front of a gated road. This is the Bradley Fork Trail which follows Bradley Fork upstream. Chasteen Creek Trail is the first right, about 1.2 miles (2 km) in. Just after the turn is backcountry campsite 50 which has good creek access. A half mile or so (~ 1km) up this trail are the cascades.

Chasteen Creek Cascades

 

It’s a relatively small set of falls but there is a nice viewing area which would make a good picnic spot on a longer hike (like the Smokemont Loop).

 

Chasteen Creek Cascades

Campsite 50 is also one of the easiest backcountry sites to reach in the park.  Just over a mile each way and relatively flat.  There are three fire pits set up there.

Hunt-Fish and Gragg Prong Falls

These falls are both located along a four mile section of the Mountains to Sea Trail in the Grandfather Mountain District of Pisgah Forest. That puts them somewhere north of Marion and southeast of Linville, and realistically you’re going to want a map. We left from the Hunt Fish Falls trail head from where it’s 0.7 miles (1.1 km) all downhill to the top of Hunt-Fish Falls.

Hunt-Fish Falls

There is a lovely swimming hole below the first two drops of the falls and above a final chute. This is quite kid friendly as it’s effectively a zero-entry beach into the pool.

If you continue along the MST, it follows the main stream to a wide campground area, crosses it and then goes up along a tributary called the Gragg Prong. There are three sets of falls between here and the next road crossing (Roseborough Rd.) This is not an easy trail in mid-summer. It is somewhat overgrown, there are stream crossings and rooty washed-out hill climbs. It’s between 2 and 2.5 miles from the Hunt Fish trailhead to Lower Gragg Prong Falls which looks like this.

Lower Gragg Prong Falls

This is a beautiful remote canyon section with great rocks for sunning. It is not as kid-friendly as Hunt Fish and it’s a scramble down the falls to the rocks which would probably be quite treacherous in higher water.

Middle Gragg Prong

Further upstream there is another good section of rocks and cascades which we will call Middle Gragg Prong Falls for lack of a better name. There is an Upper falls but we were doing an out and back and had spent so long playing in the river that we didn’t have time for that on this particular hike.

Long Branch Falls

Long Branch Falls is an easily accessible waterfall in Pisgah Forest. At some point in the past few years it seems to have appeared on CMC’s Waterfall Challenge list. I was about 3 years late in noticing this but better late than never. Since we had already done a short hike to Saddle Gap and a visit to the Fish Hatchery, we thought we’d stop by to see this one.

Trillium
Trillium

Hark! The first trillium of the year (for us). Long Branch Falls is located on Long Branch (surprise!) just before it empties into the Davidson river. It can be reached by parking at Forest Road 5095 and following the road about 1 mile to the obvious crossing of Long Branch. 5095 is several miles west of the fish hatchery but before you reach Gloucester Gap. When you reach the crossing, you should be able to hear the falls in the forest to your right. We could actually catch a glimpse of it since there was not full foliage yet.

Long Branch Falls
Long Branch Falls

It’s a short but very steep scramble up the near side of the creek to reach an obvious level area between the upper and lower falls. The upper bit seems to be the highlight and that’s what we have pictured here.

Pigpen / Licklog Falls

These two falls are located a short distance apart just upstream of the confluence with the Chattooga. To reach them, take Village Creek Rd. off of SC-107, then Nicholson Ford road until it ends at the Foothills Trail parking area. It’s about a half mile west(north) along the Foothills Trail to reach the Chattooga Trail.

Pigpen Falls
Pigpen Falls

Pigpen Falls (on Pigpen Creek) is located right where the two trails meet. This is a nice little falls with a good safe swimming hole at the base. It was also rather full of very small trout when we visited.

Crayfish
Crayfish

Apart from the trout we also saw this crayfish in the very clear waters of the creek. Pretty impressive amount of mica as well. Licklog falls is located just downstream from Pigpen falls (south on the Chattooga Trail). It is more impressive than Pigpen but more difficult to get a view of. There is a goat path trail down to the confluence with the Chattooga, it is past Licklog falls right at the point where the trail makes a hard left turn.

Chattooga River
Chattooga River

If you continue just a little further down the Chattooga Trail, there is river access via a series of five or six campsite with good views and good access to the water.

Brasstown Falls (SC)

Brasstown Falls is located on Brasstown Creek south of US 76. Oconee County has good signage to the waterfalls from the Long Creek vicinity. From the parking area it barely qualifies as a hike at all. There are yellow blazes on the official trail and about 100 unofficial trails leading to all sorts of campsites and unofficial vantage points.

Middle Brasstown Falls
Middle Brasstown Falls

If you stay on the actual trail, it will bring you to the middle of the three falls that makes up this cascade. It’s a pretty series of drops with a lot of access points.

Ledges at Brasstown Falls
Ledges at Brasstown Falls

Near the bottom of the middle falls, we saw a lot of people out on the ledges, there were also swimmers at the pool at the base of the middle falls. Since the roughly 40 foot drop of the lower falls is almost immediately downstream, it made us a bit nervous about swimming there (especially with a small child).

Upper Brasstown Falls
Upper Brasstown Falls

We went back upstream, waded across the side creeks and went to the pool at the upper falls, which is the nicest swimming hole (in our opinion) anyway. There are about a dozen campsites in the area as well, they do seem to be sanctioned by the forest service and they were in use when we visited.

Riley Moore Falls

Riley Moore Falls is located west of Westminster, SC. There are signs off of US 76 as well as some other roads but once you get back onto the forest (dirt) roads, there are no further signs. If you do not have a high clearance vehicle, don’t try to get all the way to the trail head, the road isn’t that rough but it has some substantial humps. From the trail head it’s about 1 kilometer (0.6 mi) to the river. You can roughly double that if you’re parking at the beginning of the road to the falls.

Riley Moore Falls
Riley Moore Falls

The trail is easy and it deposits you at an amazing swimming hole with a sandy beach! Not only that, it’s shaded (the beach portion) in the afternoon. The pool was a few inches deep on our visit around the edges but there are some much deeper sections.

Riley Moore Falls
Riley Moore Falls

The base of the waterfall is slippery as you’d expect but a fun place to play around within reason. We saw quite a few people climbing on the falls as well which we don’t recommend because we never recommend climbing on waterfalls (unless maybe there’s a top rope). We do recommend playing in the pool at this one though.

outdoor activities around Asheville, NC