Laughing Falls. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? We hadn’t really and as you may know from scrolling through this blog, we’ve been to a lot of waterfalls in Pisgah. We were camping at Davidson River and I noticed it on the topo maps. Close by as the crow flies but not accessible by trail. Then, Melanie saw a sign at the campground, “Easy to Find Waterfalls” it promised. They were the usual lot we’d expect – Looking Glass, Slick Rock, Triple, Toxaway. There on the list was Laughing Falls. Well, that sealed it, we had to go check this one out.
Just in case you aren’t planning to read any further … don’t go check this one out. It is for the experienced bushwhacker only. It is not an easy hike and on top of that, there’s very little to actually see once you get there.
This is not it. We don’t have a picture that does it justice because there is no clear view of the falls. If you really must go, take Old 280 just a little east of the Pisgah Forest entrance near Davidson River. Turn left on FR 1360 and follow that uphill until it ends at twin gates. You want the lower (right) road which immediately crosses Laughing Creek at the pleasant little confluence shown in this picture. This is the absolute highlight of this hike. If you choose to go on, after this wet crossing turn left IMMEDIATELY. You’ll probably have second thoughts at this point because there really is not much of a left turn to consider taking. There is a second gate in the woods here indicating what must be one of the least used forest roads in Pisgah. This is little more than a wildlife track at this point. Sections are collapsed or completely buried in rhododendron and mountain laurel. A half mile or so of pushing through this will bring you to the falls. There clearly is an impressive waterfall in here and you’ll get glimpses of it but we were unable to find a reasonable place to get a view of it. Perhaps in winter it’s possible.
So Harpers Ferry isn’t really a day trip from Asheville but we were on our way back and it was a short detour off of I-81. We’ve been associated with the Appalachian Trail and the ATC for years but we’ve never visited Harpers Ferry (home of the ATC) until now. It’s a pretty impressive setting at the confluence of the Potomac and the Shenandoah rivers. The population is under 300 and most of the town is part of the National Historic Site.
Harpers Ferry, WV
Assuming you can park (the train station is the only real parking in town) it’s an easy walk through town to the AT bridge over the Potomac. Once across the trail merges with the 120-mile long C&O Towpath trail which is a nice flat bikeable route from DC to Cumberland, Maryland. The AT runs north bound along the river for a couple miles before it climbs to Weverton Cliffs. There are dozens of other trails out of Harpers Ferry, most of them involve a bit of a climb since it’s up in all directions.
The Sandburg Home is a National Historic Site, not necessarily where one would normally think to go hiking but now that we have a two year old along, we’re looking for shorter scenic hikes that involve farm animals. Well, not necessarily but it’s a nice bonus.
Mrs. Sandburg kept a prize-winning herd of dairy goats and their descendants still live at the home in Flat Rock, NC. Most of this site is free by the way. The goat barn and pens as well as several miles of trail that loop around the property or go up to the top of a nearby hill. The only cost is for touring the home itself.
Carl Sandburg Home
We did not tour the home as it did not have nearly as much intrinsic attraction value as say, a goat. At least for a two year old. We did take several trails around the property though and overall it’s a pretty nice location for a short hike. It is particularly popular with dog walkers.
Douglas Falls is located in a rarely visited portion of Pisgah National Forest known as the Coleman Boundary. It lies directly below the Craggy Gardens area but is difficult to get to. One way involves hiking down from the MST near Craggy which is an elevation drop of over 2000 ft. The other approach is FS 74 from the vicinity of Barnardsville. This is a very long forest road that passes several other falls visible from the road. Eventually the road ends in a parking lot.
It’s only a little more than a half mile to the falls which is a 70 ft drop. It’s relatively easy to walk around behind the falls from where this picture was taken.
This is a little confusing since the last post involved a South Carolina waterfall called Eastatoe Falls (among other things) and now this one contains a North Carolina waterfall about 10 miles up the road with the same name.
This Eastatoe Falls is located on private property just off Highway 178. The landowners have graciously allowed people to park in their yard (follow signs) and visit the falls.
Dill Falls is located up NC 215 from Rosman almost all the way to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s a bit confusing but basically follow Forest Road 4663 to 4663B and follow that one until it ends, park there and hike down the continuation of the road to the river. Incidentally if you’re considering exploring the rest of the 4663 forest road complex, we can tell you that as of late 2013 there are miles and miles of this road with no connection to anything else.
Our old map shows those roads connecting to the Balsam Lake area. They probably still do but it cannot be traversed with a car (4wd or otherwise). Balsam Lake is a nice little lake on the eastern edge of Nantahala National Forest. The building visible here is the Balsam Lake Lodge which can be rented. There are a couple easy short trails along the edge of the lake.
Oconee Station is a state historic site in northwest South Carolina. There’s an old outpost there and not really a whole lot else. The Palmetto Trail Connector comes through the park and about a mile north is a branch trail to Station Cove Falls.
Station Cove Falls
There are some good rocks for picnicking here and a couple good spots to play around in the water. We came across this salamander there as well.
Eastatoe Falls isn’t really related, it’s about 15 miles east on the Foothills Parkway but we visited them on the same day. This waterfall has a bunch of names, Twin Falls on some maps, Shady Cove Falls on others. It’s not even clear to us who owns this land and maintains the trail there. Either way it’s a short walk from the parking area off of water falls road in Eastatoe Community. At the end is a viewing platform and a pretty spectacular vista.
There’s a straight drop on the left and a series of cascades on the right. There are many warnings about the dangerous rocks here but the river a bit downstream of the falls looked to have some nice swimming holes accessible from the trail.
Yes, OK this is a weird title for a post. SC 107 is a relatively short stretch of north-south road in the extreme northwest part of the state. It provides access to Ellicott Rock Wilderness Area, White Rock Scenic Area and several Chattooga River access points. We spent the weekend camping at Cherry Hill which is directly off of 107. It’s a small (20-some sites), quiet, relatively unused campground with hot showers and several creekside sites.
Cherry Hill Campground
Just north of Cherry Hill is Burrell’s Ford Road which runs down to the Chattooga River. North of this is Ellicott Rock Wilderness, south is the walk in sites of Burrell’s Ford campground and a bit in from the Chattooga is King’s Creek Falls.
King’s Creek Falls
To the south from Cherry Hill is Oconee State Park and the Yellow Branch picnic area. This is Yellow Branch Falls which is about a 2 mile hike from the picnic area. There’s a small loop trail through Yellow Branch and the falls trail branches south off of it. There are several wet crossings on the loop trail.
Yellow Branch Falls
Yellow Branch Falls has a nice sandy beach area on the far side from the trail and a couple nice pools.
Both of these locations are on the Big Creek Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains NP. Big Creek is located on the eastern edge of the park on the North Carolina side, near I-40. There’s a ranger station, a horse camp, a group camp and some walk-in tent sites located at Big Creek. Big Creek Trail is one of several that lead out of here and as a horse accessible trail it’s relatively wide and an easy grade.
Midnight Hole is a fantastic swimming spot about 1.5 miles (2.5 km) up the trail. This a deep clear pool, good rocks for sunning and jumping off of (at your own risk of course) and a spectacular setting in the forest. In late May, this water is also rather on the chilly side.
Mouse Creek Falls
Another half mile (0.8 km) up Big Creek Trail is Mouse Creek Falls. You can just barely tell that the noise of Big Creek has gotten slightly louder but there’s a horse hitching rail just before the viewpoint of the falls. Mouse Creek is a tributary that flows in from the south and falls most of the last 100 feet or so into Big Creek. The trail continues from here another three miles to Walnut Bottom Campgrounds and a junction with several other trails, we however did not.
Mount Noble seems to be a practically unknown hike despite its prime location. It sits just on the southern edge of the Smokies but it is not within the park and no park trails connect to it. The main hiking trail leaves from the very top end of the ‘Unto These Hills’ parking lot in Cherokee. Just keep driving up until you see the private road sign. There’s a red sign pointing towards the trail to Mount Noble.
We saw these turkey tracks in several places near the top of the hike. The lower 80% or so of the hike is an unrelenting climb. Never particularly steep but it also never lets up. It’s a climb of about 1800 feet (550 m) from the parking lot to the summit in just 2.4 miles (3.8 km). There are a couple of nice creek crossings but really no good picnic or stopping spots until you are fairly close to the summit.
Mount Noble Lookout Tower
The namesake lookout tower is at the top. We decided not to climb it since about half the supports were broken or missing and clearly people had been using it as target practice for some time. There are also several large cell towers up here and an assortment of broken glass, barbed wire, mangled fencing and so on. It’s a very nice view of the Smokies, the Nantahala mountains and the Plott Balsams, but the summit itself could use some work. Unfortunately that seems to be true of almost every peak around here that can be accessed by a road / four-wheelers.
Mount Noble View
We’re back! After a lot of bad weather this winter we are finally out hiking again. This is a short hike we did on our way to Charlotte. Tom’s Creek Falls is just off of 221 about five miles north of Marion, North Carolina.
Trail along Tom’s Creek
This is only about a half mile hike along an easy path from the trail head to the falls. There are several nice access points to the creek along the way and a lot of mica scattered all over the place. There is an old mica mine just downstream from the falls (on the opposite of the river from the trail). The falls is quite impressive, especially in March with no foliage.
Tom’s Creek Falls