This hike took us up the West Fork of the French Broad River where it sort of magically becomes Dismal Creek. The trailhead is off of NC 281, north of Lake Toxaway. Turn west on Winding Gap Rd. and then immediately stay right onto the forest road track that looks like it might not be a road at all. This will dead end shortly at a gate with a trail beyond it. We believe there is an alternate trailhead further down Winding Gap Rd where the road turns south at the power lines but we didn’t verify the entire route so can’t really guarantee it. It seems like it would connect though.
Lots of nice falls on this hike, lots of good campsites. The first of each is at Aunt Sally’s Falls, about a half mile from the trailhead and up a small unnamed tributary. Nearly all the tributaries here are unnamed but the side trail is just before the 4th creek crossing.
This is a pleasant area to hang out in.
Back on the main trail heading west, there are many creek crossings which make the hike a bit more technical but the altitude is relatively constant so it’s not too tough.
Eventually the trails crosses the West Fork of the French Broad where there are several more good campsites. Especially on the south bank where the trail doesn’t run right smack through the middle of it. From here, the trail becomes difficult. Be prepared for the possibility of hands & knees sections as it is very steep and the addition of mud on our trip made it more like a slide than a trail.
Regardless, not long after the up starts, you’ll reach a very nice waterfall at a trail switchback. Some people seem to call this Lower Rhapsodie and some people call it Trailside. I like the latter name because you hike along the falls and the really impressive chute leading up to it as you ascend past it. Either way it’s a nice spot.
The steepness gets steeper here. You know you’re near the top when the large rocks appear. When the trail branches on the spur the left branch goes on into the Dismal Creek watershed (even more steepness!). The right branch goes down to Rhapsodie Falls which you can probably hear already. This is also a lovely area.
We did not continue on to Dismal Falls on this particular day so we went back down the otter slide (trail) after leaving Rhapsodie.