waterfall near Bearpen Gap
6-6-15 - This hike is in the higher elevations of the Parkway and includes part of the Mountains to Sea Trail in the Nantahala National Forest. You aren't likely to see anybody else, so you should have a map and a good sense of direction to find this 15' waterfall. Since the waterfall is high on the mountain, water flow can be rather low during a dry spell, so it's best to go after a period of good rain. Mid spring will offer up a variety of wildflowers including Trout Lily and Trilliums, early fall will be good for mushrooms and cooler temps. The hike is about 3 miles round trip and is mostly moderate with a gradual elevation change and parts of the trail being overgrown.
Directions: Get on the Blue Ridge Parkway and your favorite access and head towards MP427.6 and the Bearpen Gap Overlook. The trail begins at the north end of the parking area and is marked with a carsonite stake.
The first part of the trail is a spur trail for the Mountains to Sea Trail. Follow it for 15-20 minutes until it meets with the white blazed MST. Turn right here and follow the trail downhill for about 30 more minutes. When my friend Harry and I first hiked this back in 2005, there was a distinct old road at this point. The 'road' is still there, but when my wife and I rehiked it in June 2015, we could make out a faint trail to the left, but it didn't look anything like a road. At this point, the MST bears to the right, but the waterfall is to the left. Follow this path for about 10 more minutes and the road (which now looks more like an old logging road) crosses the creek right below the waterfall. There are more cascades above and below this waterfall if you care to bushwhack up or down to see them.
We didn't continue up any higher than this, but you would have crossed the same creek farther up as you came down the trail. On a return trip years ago, we did some more exploring down the old road, but didn't find any more falls. There's still more to check out following the MST the other way.
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