Category Archives: waterfalls

Catawba Falls

Catawba Falls is now a relatively accessible hike. The Foothills Conservancy has put in a nice new trailhead with ample parking and pit restrooms at the end of Catawba Falls Rd. near Old Fort.

Catawba Headwaters

The trail is gentle for most of the hike and follows the Catawba up towards the falls. There is a crossing of the main stream a short distance from the parking area. This can be rock-hopped at normal or low water levels.

Dam near Catawba Falls

There are several falls in this area. Lower Catawba Falls is actually almost impossible to see in the summer due to trees. We don’t have a very good picture of it so here is the river flowing through an old dam instead. There are a couple of old dams along this hike and several ruined power stations and out buildings. This area is a relatively new inclusion to Pisgah National Forest.
The upper falls is not officially accessible on this trail but there is a trail up from the lower falls. I’m told it is dangerous and difficult requiring aid from fixed ropes. Not something we would attempt with the baby carrier.

Luna Moth

From the parking area to the lower falls is about a mile and a quarter. Most of the altitude gain is at the very end, or beyond the very end if you’re continuing to upper falls.

High Falls – South Mills River

High Falls of the South Mills river. It’s a beautiful spot especially with rhododendrons in bloom. There’s quite a lot to say about this one.
First of all, the name is just terrible, this is one of the least ‘high falls’ in Pisgah forest.
It’s also pretty remote. On a hot day when the cars at Looking Glass and Sliding Rock were parked a mile down the road, there was no one at all here. Of course, that may be because there are no marked trails to get here.

High Falls of the South Mills River

The ‘unmaintained’ trails are pretty well marked though and while fairly strenuous hiking, there isn’t much altitude change. The easiest way to get here is to come down the South Mills trail from the Wolf Ford road on the east side of the Pink Beds. At the S. Mills River crossing, follow the unofficial trail up Billy Branch (you can see the confluence from the bridge). Shortly up that trail there is an easy crossing of Billy Branch and the trail returns to the S. Mills. There is also a harder crossing of Billy Branch immediately after leaving S. Mills trail if you’re impatient and like climbing mud banks. This trail crosses one saddle but otherwise stays along the mills eventually crossing it. The crossing is wet and slippery. The falls is not far past that. The river trail does continue to Wolf Ford where it branches with both options rejoining the South Mills trail in different places.

Kelty baby carrier

And now – a complete and utter digression about baby carriers. Those of you who could care less about baby carriers can just quit reading right now.
We normally take Alaric for hikes in an Ergo backpack carrier. It’s comfortable (for me), has a similar feel to a well packed backpack and there’s no real danger to him. On the negative side, he can’t see much beyond my shoulders.
On this hike we tried a Kelty carrier (see picture). It has a crazy high center of balance. Alaric is free to lean over one side and then the other so it’s like 20 pounds of randomly shifting gear. His head is as high as mine so low branches are an issue. All that twisting and crouching gets tiring, but he liked being able to see more. So basically, I’d consider using this carrier again but not on a narrow trail or a hike with any sort of bushwhacking / orienteering and difficult footing. On those I’m sticking with the Ergo.

Burgess Falls State Park

Burgess Falls State Park is just a little south of Cookeville, Tennessee. The park itself is rather small, upon entering it you are almost immediately in the parking lot. There is a playground, picnic area and access to the river above the upper falls which consists of a lot of little uneven ledges and mini-cascades. This is a popular swimming and play area with kids.

Burgess Falls picnic area

A trail leads downstream along one bank of the river. This passes upper falls which is river-wide and then middle falls. The trail is well above the river when it reaches middle falls.

Middle Falls

High Falls at the end of the trail is an impressive sight. High cliff walls on the far side of the river make for a remarkable backdrop. In this picture there are people swimming in several areas at the base of the falls as well as climbing on the lower portions. From the falls viewpoint, a trail descends to the rocks / ‘beach’ at the base.

High Falls

Baskins Creek Falls

The Roaring Fork nature trail is a car trail out of Gatlinburg, Tennessee into the Smokies. There are several major waterfall hikes here of which Baskins Creek seems to be the one that no one takes. Baskins Creek Trail is an L-shaped trail that starts and ends at different locations on the Roaring Fork road. The falls is pretty much right in the middle.

Mountain Laurel

We took the trail from the eastern trailhead simply because it’s a rolling path over several spurs rather than a continuous descent (followed by a continuous ascent on the way back). The first ridge was awash in mountain laurel.

Baskins Creek Falls

The falls is down a steep bit of trail into a quiet cove. There wasn’t much of a swimming hole when we visited but it would be easy enough to stand in the falls.

Salamander

We also saw this salamander at the falls. We’d normally try and ID it but that’s difficult for salamanders so we’ll just leave it at that.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls is located in the southern portion of DuPont State Forest. It’s really more or less out in the middle so there are many ways to get there from all of the access points. I don’t believe there is any way to get there that is less than a couple miles on trail though. We chose the Fawn Lake access and followed Conservation Road which takes you up across an old airstrip and then down through an old farm to the river.

Bridal Veil Falls - Upper

It’s difficult to see the whole of Bridal Veil Falls. There’s an upper section in this photo then it sort of curves off to the right along a long frothy chaotic rock slide. At low water like this it’s easy enough to climb up the edge of the falls. We should probably point out that they call this slickrock for a reason. Footing is great, as long as the rock is dry, otherwise it’s like ice.

Bridal Veil Falls - Bottom

There are lots of rocks around the bottom of the falls and even some decent swimming holes. Well they looked like they might be. We had the youngster with us so we mostly sat on the rocks and spent time setting up photos designed to look alarming – like this one.

Five-lined skink

Melanie took her usual array of nice wildflower pictures. However this skink came and sat next to us on the rock so instead of the crested dwarf iris picture we’re ending with a lizard instead.

Laurel Fork Falls

It’s been a while since our last blog post. We’ve been doing some short hikes in Bent Creek that just don’t make very interesting entries. Young Alaric is ready for a real hike though so we took him out on the A.T. for the first time (that’s him in the carrier on my back). This hike is a fairly nice loop (‘lollipop’) hike into Pond Mountain Wilderness in Tennessee.

Starting from Dennis Cove Road, the trail runs along the Laurel River past several nice campsites. Eventually it winds down a section with some impressive cliff walls and this very nice bridge inside the wilderness area.
Just below this the river really starts to drop.

AT Bridge over the Laurel River

 

After a couple of slight climbs to cross over promontories the trail branches. The ‘high water’ trail continues about 300 feet above the river along the edge of Pond Mountain. We chose to descend to the river here. This is not an easy descent. The distance isn’t all that significant (for the A.T.) but it’s a steep slope across basically a boulder field. Footing is very difficult and treacherous. At the bottom though, Laurel Fork Falls is the reward. This is a beautiful falls and a beautiful area to hang out in.

Laurel Fork Falls

 

Continuing north-bound on the A.T. the main trail runs literally right along the river’s edge. There are some rocky ledges that it crosses, like this one that would be impossible to pass another hiker on. The trail follows the river past more nice campsites and then climbs onto a ridge where it meets the other side of the high water trail. Just up the high water trail from this junction is the Laurel Fork A.T. Shelter which is not the most spacious of shelters but it occupies a very nice ledge with good views.

'Low Water' Trail

From here we return on the high water trail and then the A.T. back to Dennis Cove Road. Roundtrip this is about 3.5 miles.

Courthouse and Bird Rock Falls

Our first interesting hike since the arrival of our son (the prior hike was deemed ‘experimental’ in nature). Courthouse Falls is a favorite of ours. There are several trails to it, or if the road is good and you’re bringing along grandparents, you can just take FR 140B in Pisgah until you reach the trail head. From there it’s about a 10 minute hike. The falls is there in the background of this picture.

Courthouse Falls

From there we visited a new falls (to us). Bird Rock Falls is located near the grounds of the Living Waters Ministry on NC 215 south of Courthouse Falls. It may also be called Cathedral Falls, or possibly they are different things. We aren’t sure. Either way right at the ministry there is a trail down from the road (you’ll hear the falls). There are several cascades into what has to be a great swimming hole.

Cathedral Falls

A trail runs along the river passing several more great swimming holes, a small cave and then it turns away from the road and eventually comes out at this impressive cliff wall. Besides the nice falls in the foreground, there is water coming off the cliff in several places as well. This is a great place to wander around but the rocks are slippery as one might expect around waterfalls.

Bird Rock Falls

After a rough day of judging BBQ over in Sevierville, Tennessee we stopped at a couple easy waterfalls on the way back home. Mingo Falls is located just outside the NC side of the Great Smoky Mountains NP on the Cherokee Reservation. On the way you’ll pass the fantastic new school complex Cherokee has built.

Trail to Mingo Falls

It’s a bit of a stretch to call it a trail to Mingo Falls. It’s basically a long staircase and then a very short walk to the cove in which the falls is located. It could be strenuous if you’re as pregnant as Melanie is in the above picture though. The falls is quite impressive.

Mingo Falls

Just south of Soco Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway is Soco falls. This is also is barely classified as a hike. It’s a pull out on the east side of the road and a couple switchbacks down to some viewing platforms. Soco Falls is actually two separate falls at right angles at a confluence. This is the larger and easier to photograph.

Soco Falls

Big South Fork NRA

We’d been meaning to visit Big South Fork for some time. As we were on the way back home from the Kentucky Derby, it seemed like a good time to stop by. Melanie was 7 months pregnant on this trip so all of these hikes are in the easy category and none of them are more than about a half-mile roundtrip.
There are many natural arches in Daniel Boone Forest in southern Kentucky. This is one of them located in the aptly named ‘Natural Arch Scenic Area’.

Natural Arch
Natural Arch in Boone NF

Yahoo Falls is the highest waterfall in Kentucky, just edging out the much more impressive Cumberland Falls. Yes, it looks like a 4 year old took this picture but it’s the best we could do. If you want a more panoramic photo, I’d suggest visiting in winter. Incidentally, if you stop by the Stearns Ranger District headquarters, you can pick up a packet of recommended hikes. This is by far the best packet of day hikes we have ever found at any national forest / park in the US (or elsewhere for that matter). It actually includes topo maps for each of the hikes.

Yahoo Falls
Yahoo Falls

The centerpiece of Big South Fork is the canyon of the Big South Fork. This photo is taken from the almost completely unsigned Blue Heron overlook (above the remnants of the Blue Heron mining colony). Signage is hard to come by in Big South Fork so we’d recommend getting a decent map. (Tragically the packet from Daniel Boone NF doesn’t include BSF hikes).

Big South Fork Canyon
Big South Fork Canyon

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

Sam Branch and Wash Hollow

These two falls are only about a 10 minute hike in from NC 215 and are practically visible from one another. It’s a little difficult to find the unmarked trail to them though. There are better descriptions out there but if you look at any good hiking map of NC 215 north of the Blue Ridge Parkway there is a hairpin turn just west of where Sam Branch and Wash Hollow meet. You can park in this turn and just up the road from there is a very steep trail up the embankment. After the initial climb, it’s quite an easy trail to the falls on Sam Branch.

Falls on Sam Branch

The falls at Sam Branch is a long series of cascades down an irregular cliff. The trail approaches this waterfall pretty much right in the middle. The continuing trail is directly across the waterfall from where the trail ends. At high water this is probably an impossible crossing. This is where we say waterfalls are dangerous. This is a relatively advanced crossing and depending on the location one choses to do it, there can be pretty serious consequences for a slip or missed jump. People die on waterfalls in western NC every year. If you die on a waterfall we can guarantee the Asheville Citizen Times will jump all over the story and run it for three or four days while assorted people who never leave their couch will ridicule you in the commentary section. You don’t want that, so don’t attempt to reach Wash Hollow Falls if Sam Branch has a lot of water in it.

Falls on Wash Hollow

Having said all that, Wash Hollow is a very nice location. There’s a lovely pool at the bottom and plenty of rocks and logs for a picnic. This is also the end of the trail. You can reach the top of these falls but it’s steep, treacherous and the view is much better from the bottom anyway.

Cedar Rock Falls

Cedar Rock Falls

Cedar Rock Creek Falls is an easy waterfall to find and an easy hike as Pisgah waterfalls go. It’s located about 0.8 miles south of the Davidson River Fish Hatchery. Park there, cross the bridge and take the trail immediately to the right. Following Cat Gap trail it’s pretty much impossible not to notice the falls down in a cove on the left side of the trail.

Cedar Rock Creek Falls

This falls seems to make a lot more noise than you’d expect for the size of it. It has a nice pool at the bottom that we had no interest in attempting after a 40(F)-degree night in the forest. There is also a sheltered cave just before the falls.

Little Bradley Falls

Little Bradley Falls is in the Green River Gamelands near Saluda, NC. Easiest access is via a red-blazed trail that leaves across the road (Holbert Cove) from the trail to Big Bradley Falls. The trail follows the creek about a mile to the falls which are quite scenic.

Little Bradley Falls

 There’s a lovely (if murky) swimming hole at most water levels here although it’s a substantially longer hiker than the more popular swimming holes on the way to Big Bradley Falls. On the plus side, you can actually see Little Bradley Falls close up without risking your life.

Little Bradley Falls

Another bonus is that along the trail we found several wineberry bushes with ripe berries. Wineberries are a close relative of the raspberry.

Glassmine Falls / Walker Knob

Glassmine Falls
Glassmine Falls

At 800 ft. high, Glassmine Falls is one of the highest in the Eastern US. It’s seasonal and this overlook off of the Blue Ridge Parkway is about the only vantage point. It drops into the Asheville watershed which is closed to all activity including hiking.

Painted Trilliums
Painted Trilliums

From the Glassmine overlook, the Mountains to Sea Trail runs north to the Black Mountains and Mt. Mitchell.  This section crosses over Walker Knob (not to be confused with the Walker Knob above Montreat, which is probably visible from here).   In May there are a lot of wildflowers in this area including the painted trilliums above, and the fringed phacelia below.

Fringed Phacelia
Fringed Phacelia

Twin Falls – Pisgah NF

Twin Falls, located in Pisgah Ranger District a bit north of the Davidson River campground is actually much more impressive than we expected. There are several ways to get there. We did it by parking at the horse stables off of FS 477 and hiking up the road to the Avery Creek Trail. This follows Avery Creek to a junction with Buckner Gap Trail. A mile or two up this trail is the Twin Falls branch trail, although there seem to be quite a few ‘extra’ trails around as well.

Twin Falls

The trail ends in a canyon with cliffs on three sides. Hundred foot waterfalls pour into the canyon from opposite corners. It was really difficult to get pictures of the falls as both of them complete the drop in several distinct cascades. Definately a worthwhile hike though.

Deep Creek Waterfalls

Deep Creek is a campground and trailhead in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It’s located just outside Bryson City on the North Carolina side of the park.  From the Deep Gap trailheads it is an easy 3 mile loop (or less if you backtrack a bit) to reach three different waterfalls.

Tom's Branch Falls
Tom's Branch Falls

Tom’s Branch Falls is just about 2/10ths of a mile up the Deep Creek Trail and enters Deep Creek from a side stream.

Indian Creek Falls
Indian Creek Falls

Farther up the Deep Gap trail, Indian Creek Falls is just off of the main trail.

Juney Whank Falls
Juney Whank Falls

Juney Whank Falls is actually about a half mile in the opposite direction from the trailhead. It can be reached by backtracking (which is cheating of course) or by crossing Deep Creek and doubling back on the Deep Creek Horse Trail.
The bridge over the falls is rather surprisingly close to the water. I would suspect in higher water the bridge would definately be in the splash zone.

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

High Falls / Triple Falls – DuPont SF

There are a bunch of waterfalls in DuPont State Forest, most of which we have neglected to visit so we decided to check out a couple of them.

Triple Falls
Triple Falls

Triple Falls – named for obvious reasons is only about a quarter mile hike along the river. The only vantage point where you can see all three sections is from the trail well above it but there were people scattered all over the rocks at each level of the falls.

High Falls
High Falls

Another half mile or so down the same trail is the creatively named High Falls. There are probably about 5 “High Falls” within 30 miles of our house and oddly enough none of them are really all that high. This is a rather popular picknicking area. There are several nice pavillions on the ridge above the falls which no one uses. Instead, most people prefer the rocks at the base of the falls.

Trout below Triple Falls
Trout below Triple Falls

Also partial to the base of the falls is Trout. This is actually a little ways below Triple Falls but it was a moderately hot day. This hike appears to generally be very popular with dogs.

High Shoals Falls / South Mountains State Park

South Mountains State Park is about halfway between Asheville and Charlotte, located off a confusing network of roads south of Morganton. Despite the relative difficulty in getting there, it was pretty crowded on the day we went.

South Mountains State Park
South Mountains State Park

The park has a dense network of trails in the eastern half. By far the biggest draw is High Shoals Falls which is about a mile or so from the parking area. Several different sources bill this hike as easy. While it’s short it actually involves a lot of climbing on uneven, slippery stairs.

High Shoals Falls
High Shoals Falls

Technically, there’s no swimming at the falls although we saw about 20 people directly in front of the no swimming sign. There are a multitude of decent swimming holes along the trail though which generally follows the bank of the river.