Thursday, November 19, 2009

Waterfalling in Western NC

My husband and I went to several waterfalls while hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In South Carolina, Twin Falls, Raven Cliff Falls, and the falls at Jones Gap and Table Rock State Parks. And in North Carolina, Moore Cove, Little Moore Cove, the falls at Graveyard Field, Twin Falls (Avery Creek), Crabtree Falls and the always beloved Looking Glass Falls, to name a few.

If you watched www.ncwaterfalls.com's Rich Stevenson's WRAL interview, you know Transylvania County has over 500 waterfalls. In the ultimate waterfall guide, North Carolina Waterfalls, author Kevin Adams estimates there are between 1,000 and 1,500 cascades/falls in North Carolina.

I won't, and can't, begin to cover them all. Nor will I go into depth on the subject. North Carolina residents and visitors have three complete sources at their disposal: ncwaterfalls.com and Mr. Adam's book, both of which should be used when planning a waterfall outing, and Mr. Adam's new waterfall map (see website for details).

But I can give you a few good tips!


When visiting any waterfall, it is imperative that you first consider safety. It's so important, the resources I mentioned above dedicate space to it. Waterfalls mean wet rocks. Wet rocks mean slippery conditions. And even if you think you're as sure footed as a gazelle, human weight and wet rocks don't go together. Elisha Mitchell, the man who determined the peak now known as Mt. Mitchell was the highest in the eastern US, slipped over a waterfall and died, and we've been hearing about waterfall deaths since then. So before you plan your trip, read my waterfall warning, and then read the warnings on Rich Stevenson's page and in Kevin Adams' book. It's that important.

Planning is Key

To avoid wasting time or getting lost in the woods searching for waterfalls, plan your trip carefully. This is where Kevin Adam's material and ncwaterfalls.com comes into play.

In North Carolina Waterfalls, Mr. Adams separates the state into "hubs". Within each hub, he not only lists the waterfalls in that region, he also provides descriptions along with travel and trail directions. So why use ncwaterfalls.com? To quote from Mr. Adam's website:
Using Rich’s site, this update page, the North Carolina Waterfalls book and the Waterfalls Of North Carolina Map, you’ll have the most detailed and up-to-date information available for the waterfalls in North Carolina.
So pick up the book or map, determine which hub you'd like to visit, and then carefully read the descriptions there and on Rich's website. You'll see that a few waterfalls, such as Looking Glass Falls, pictured above, are visible from the road. Some, like Skinny Dip Falls and the falls at Graveyard Field, are located along a trail. For others, you'll need to use a topo map. If you're not into using a map and compass, or you have mobility issues, you'll want to avoid the latter. As you'll see below, I learned this the hard way.


Some hubs have more waterfalls than others. For our waterfall expedition, we originally chose the falls near Cashiers, NC. Both Cashiers and nearby Highland contain a number of falls (though Lake Toxaway appears to top the chart in number of waterfalls within a region.)

Eager to view as many falls as we could in one day, I made the mistake of changing our route. Instead of driving straight to Cashiers, we proceeded north on Hwy 276 in Pisgah Forest, where, after visiting Log Hollow Branch Falls, we would then drive south on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Hwy 215 (what I call Waterfall Lane) and then head down to Hwy 64 and eventually, Cashiers.

Because I didn't plan this portion of the trip, we wasted a great deal of time searching for several waterfalls while other falls, more accessible we later learned, were nearby. We did find a few, though, and also, while heading to Courthouse Falls, we stopped to enjoy the bubbling waters of the creek that runs alongside the narrow, unpaved road.


The day now waning, we doubled back and headed to Skinny Dip Falls off the Blue Ridge Parkway. As I mentioned earlier, this falls is located at the end of a rock-and-root-littered trail. But it was worth the bumps getting there:



So while we didn't see the dozen that I'd hoped to see (I dream big), we did enjoy five waterfalls and some lovely cascades along a creek. Not bad for a single day. But the waterfall visits on this trip didn't end there. In my next post, I'll discuss one fall the Piedmont has to offer.

If you do visit a Carolina waterfall, I highly recommend that you check out both Kevin Adam's book and ncwaterfalls.com. And please, use extreme caution around water and on wet rocks.

8 comments:

Kelvin Taylor said...

Enjoyable read Kimberli.

Kimberli said...

Thanks, KT. I felt a bit audacious covering this subject, but the Carolinas have soooo many beautiful falls, I couldn't ignore it either. I thought it best just to discuss our experience and then turn it over to NC's experts!

Lisa Buffaloe said...

Enjoyed the information and loved the photos! I met my sweet hubby in North Carolina, and we absolutely adored exploring the moutains, rivers, and waterfalls. So many happy memories. Thank you for sharing!

Kimberli said...

Hi Lisa! How wonderful that my post and photos reminded you of good memories. Thanks for letting me know, and for stopping by!

Brian Christopher said...

great photos !

Kimberli said...

Thank you, Brian. One of my goals for this trip was to practice waterfall photography. Author, photographer, Kevin Adams, provides wonderful information on the subject on his website, and in North Carolina Waterfalls. The information he provided played heavily into my setting choices on this trip.

I also utilized tips from my hiking group, though I'm sure they long ago gave up on me where this subject is concerned, lol.

The Waverly Inn said...

These are FABULOUS pics. I've lived in WNC for 22 years and you have now given me two places to hike to that I did not know existed. Thanks for sharing!

Kimberli said...

You warmed my heart, Waverly Inn, thanks! And thanks for stopping by. I'm glad the post inspired you.

Have a safe hike!

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