Category Archives: Nantahala NF

Eastatoe / Dill Falls

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.

eastatoe_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.

dill_falls

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.

balsam_lake

Highlands Area Waterfalls

We visited three waterfalls around Highlands, NC.

The first is Glen Falls, or maybe Glenn Falls depending on which National Forest signs you believe. It’s just southwest from Highlands and is fairly well signed. This entire trail was reconstructed in the winter of 2010-2011 with multiple new viewing platforms. The first two overlooks have views above the falls. This picture is from the third platform which has perhaps the best views of the falls.

Glen Falls

The second falls here is Picklesimer Rock House Falls which besides having a difficult name is very difficult to find. It’s south of Highlands along the Georgia border. If you can find the correct gated forest service road (there are plenty of instructions on other web pages) it’s a short hike to the end of it and then trails lead up the creek to this falls. There is a substantial overhang and cave behind the falls.

Picklesimer Rock House Falls

Dry Falls is located directly along US 64 west of Highlands. Last time we were over here there were some unimproved parking areas and a trail down to the falls. Since then the park service has built some overlooks and greatly improved the parking. This is the view from the overlook.

Dry Falls

Whitewater / Silver Run Falls

These two waterfalls are both short easy hikes just south of Cashiers.

Whitewater Falls is one of the highest in the eastern US. There is a separate parking and picnic area for it now and it’s about a quarter mile hike to an overlook of the falls. A separate overlook further down towards the Foothills Trail offers a better, unimpeded view.

Whitewater Falls

A less obvious wayside waterfall is Silver Run Falls. There is a very small pullout next to a National Forest sign for the falls. Again, it’s only about a quarter mile to this small falls. There is a high quantity of mica in the rocks and the water around this falls so if the sun is out, it’s a pretty impressive effect.

Silver Run Falls

A.T. – Brown Fork Gap

This section of the A.T. runs 7 1/2 miles from Stecoah Gap at NC 143 to Yellow Creek Road. It’s not the most exciting section but we it was a bit we hadn’t done yet.

David on the AT near Brown Fork Gap

There are two waypoints of a sort along this stetch. One is Brown Fork Gap which has a shelter just above it. We stopped for lunch here. Coming northbound to this shelter you’ll have just completed the fairly hideous climb out of Sweetwater Gap. The next site of interest is Cody Gap which is also a reasonable campsite. In between is a high ridge with some great views of Lake Fontana and the Smoky Mountains.

View of Smokies

Greenland Creek and Schoolhouse Falls

Panthertown is a valley in the eastern portion of the Nantahala National Forest, just north of Lake Toxaway. It is not heavily used and this was our first visit to it – a few days after Toxaway had received more than 10 inches of rain.

Schoolhouse Falls
Schoolhouse Falls

The trails in general are not well-signed and there are old trails that are being reclaimed by the forest, new trails that will eventually be official, and then some unofficial trails. It’s generally a map and compass area. Schoolhouse Falls is easy enough to find however. Almost everyone else we saw in the forest was in the vicinity of Schoolhouse Falls which has a lovely big swimming hole at the base of it.

Greenland Creek Falls
Greenland Creek Falls

About 2 miles upstream from Schoolhouse is Greenland Creek Falls. The trails go up out of the gorge and connect back with the river about a half mile from the falls. We decided to bushwhack up the river directly. There was an old trail on the east side of the river but portions no longer exist. With high water, this is a strenuous hike that involves almost as much climbing as hiking. There are several more falls along the way. Pothole is the most impressive of these but it involved hanging over the river from branches just to get a glance at it.
The Greenland Creek Falls trail is not marked but it mostly heads upstream from an old forest road. At high water it involves crossing several tributaries.

Leaves in Greenland Creek
Leaves in Greenland Creek

Rufus Morgan Falls

Rufus Morgan falls is located on an isolated loop trail on the east side of Siler Bald.   The forest road access to the trail is off of Wayah Rd and it’s about the only maintained trail in that area.

Rufus Morgan in the Distance
Rufus Morgan in the Distance

The trail is a loop of about a half mile on either side with a decent elevation gain up to the falls.  The main falls can be seen in the background where the trail crosses the creek.

Us at Rufus Morgan Falls
Us at Rufus Morgan Falls

Up close, it’s impossible to see the entire cascade at once but the main drop is impressive and it’s about 5-10 degrees cooler in this little cove than the surrounding forest.  There isn’t much of a pool at the bottom of this one.

Rufus Morgan Falls
Rufus Morgan Falls

Probably everyone who has ever been here has a picture involving this prominent rock.  Now we do too.   Trout usually wanders out of the frame before a picture is taken but for some reason he wandered into this one and sat down nicely in the center.

Big Laurel Falls

Big Laurel Falls is located deep into the Standing Indian area of the Nantahala National Forest.   If you drive in past the campground, across the creek and a few miles further on – the trailhead is along the right side of the road.

Melanie on the bridge at Betty Creek
Melanie on the bridge at Betty Creek

Melanie isn’t tired yet in this picture – the crossing of Betty Creek is only a few hundred yards into the hike but I couldn’t get her standing up and the stream under the bridge at the same time.    

It’s a short (0.6 mile) and pleasant hike along a couple different streams to Big Laurel falls.   The falls themselves form a nice pool which one might consider swimming in if one is somehow immune to hypothermia.   Maybe it’s better later in the summer but even Trout wasn’t willing to stand in this one for too long.

Big Laurel Falls
Big Laurel Falls

It’s a fairly easy rock scramble to get to the mid level of these falls but we’re probably supposed to mention that waterfalls are dangerous and you shouldn’t mess around with them.  Don’t try this at home if you happen to have a 25 foot cascade at home.  

Mooney Falls
Mooney Falls

Just a half mile or so further down the forest road from the Laurel Falls trailhead is a pull-off for Mooney Falls.   You should be able to see the falls off the south side of the road as you approach.   It’s just a couple switchbacks down to the river but the canyon is narrow and overgrown through here so it’s difficult to get a view of the entire cascade.  This picture is probably less than half of the total drop.

Cowee Bald

After our two waterfall hikes (below) we felt we needed one more short hike to round out the day.   Cowee Bald was a tempting target with it’s prominent location at the north end of the Cowee Mountains and it seemed like it might be a good place to watch the sunset over the Smokies.

Melanie at the Cowee lookout tower
Melanie at the Cowee lookout tower

Forest Service road 70 is the key to getting up Cowee Bald.  It’s sort of hard to find in the maze of roads north of Franklin.  Once found it’s a long way up with some fairly steep gravel grades.  There’s a gate about a half mile from the summit so we parked there and hiked up to the lookout tower which unfortunately was locked halfway up.

View from Cowee Bald
View from Cowee Bald

Due to towers for cell phones, radio transmitters and such the view north is non-existant.   The view in other directions isn’t bad though.  This is looking south towards Franklin, NC. and Dillard, GA.

Buck Creek

We’re pretty much willing to do anything that involves messing about in rivers or streams, so it seemed worthwhile to spend a few hours on our way through Macon County hunting for garnets in Buck Creek.

Buck Creek

It’s not really hunting.  Generally if you reach into the silt along the river you’ll pull out a dozen or so, although they’ll be so small it’s hardly worth isolating them.  Buck Creek is in Nantahala National Forest, just west of where US 64 crosses the Appalachian Trail.  We spent about an hour or so fishing around for some big enough to save before we started to lose interest and just ended up playing around in the creek.  Besides the garnets there is an old corundum mine on the hillside above the creek, and also some fairly large chunks of talc lying about the area.

Garnets

Here’s a pile of almandine garnets we found.  It’s traditional to include a coin in pictures like this to show scale but well, it’s more impressive if we don’t.

Yellow Creek Gap to Fontana Dam

This hike is just slightly under 8 miles in length.  We did it by shuttle with help from the friendly folks at the Hike Inn in Fontana.  We parked the car at the Fontana Dam, they shuttled us (and our dog) back around to Yellow Creek Gap and we started from there.

About a mile in is Cable Gap Shelter which is practically right on the trail and has a nice little stream running past it.  After Cable Gap there’s a long climb through a series of knolls.  Most of this section runs parallel to Fontana Lake and offers nice views.  This picture shows a section of the lake and the dam.
Dam Through Trees

Somewhere along here is Walker Gap where the Yellow Creek Mountain trail comes in.  This does not appear to be a well marked trail but we’ll save that for some future hike.  From Walker Gap to the road at Fontana is an endless series of steep descending switchbacks (unless you happen to be hiking up / south / towards the NOC).  There are several nice water sources through here and it ends at the road / marina / shuttle pick up for the Fontana Village (which also has restrooms).  From there, the AT continues up and over a knoll along Fontana Lake before descending to the assorted parking areas.
Dam Sign

Note that post 9/11 – this section of the trail will be closed during “security threats”.  There is an alternate path through Fontana Village and into the Great Smokies downstream of the dam.  Just off to the right of this picture is the Fontana AT Shelter which is better known as the Fontana Hilton (because of its relative size for a shelter). 

Fontana Dam

The interior of the dam is now closed to visitors although the overlooks are impressive.  On the far side is the boundary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where the AT begins a grueling ascent to Clingman’s Dome (30-some miles away by trail).  The dam is probably more impressive when the spillways are open into the Little Tennessee River below.