Update 4-23-14 - Beginning May 5th, FR140 (Courthouse Creek Rd) will be closed to vehicle traffic so the low water bridge (pictured below) can be replaced. The road will remain closed through October 2014. More details can be found here. You can still access the waterfall via the Summey Cove Trail which is a really nice hike. Details about the hike are below. This area has also been selected for a big restoration project which will include timber harvesting, road and trail improvement and wildlife habitat improvement. 3 plans were presented (one plan being to do nothing) to the public for discussion and the final decision was announced in September 2013. Here it is. The plans can be read in detail from links on this page. It's a long read, but very interesting. 2 items that really stood out for me are (1) the Summey Cove Trail will be decommissioned and (2) FR140 will become a seasonal forest road meaning it will be closed from Jan 1 through some time in March. From that same link, be sure to look at the Courthouse Decision Map to see where the timber harvesting will occur along with where all of the other activities will be taking place. You can see there won't be any logging along the steep slopes towards Hwy 215 and the Blue Ridge Parkway, but it will be interesting to see what cutting will be visible from the Parkway. Also be prepared for FR140 to be closed more in the years ahead as this plan unfolds.
Courthouse Falls is one of my favorite waterfalls and I never get tired of going back. It is set in a beautiful small cove and is fairly easy to get to once you make it up the gravel road to the trail head. The pool at the base of the falls is deep and the water is clear and very cold.
Directions: From the Blue Ridge Parkway, head south down Hwy 215 for 6.5 miles. Look for the 2nd sign indicting 'narrow bridge ahead', and turn left on FR140 just after the bridge. From Hwy 64, turn north on Hwy 215 at Headwaters Outfitters. Drive 10.2 miles up 215 (passing the waterfalls at Living Waters) and turn right on FR140 just before the bridge. Drive up the gravel road for 3 miles and park in the wider area just after the bridge across Courthouse Creek. The Summey Cove Trail is on the left. FR140 isn't always in the best of shape. You will cross 4 bridges before the trail head. The 2nd one at 1.6 miles has been a problem area. The road in front of the bridge had washed out, but was partially filled in with rock on one of my recent trips. I made it OK, but a low 2WD car might not. Then between 2.3 and 2.6 miles up the road is a steep curvy section that stays eroded. The picture below is the bridge I just spoke of. You can barely see some water flowing under the bridge due to the drought when I took this shot. I've seen it when the water was flowing over the bridge, which is why the bridge is designed that way.
The hike to the 45 ft falls is easy and follows the creek. After 5-7 minutes, you'll be above the top of the falls. You'll notice a steep trail down to the creek, but there's nothing to see and only Death awaits you down there. Keep going until you see glimpses of the falls down through the trees. You'll soon notice another steep trail going straight down with maybe some debris to block it. Don't take it either, but keep going a short distance farther to a wider area in the trail and an obvious blue blaze on a tree. The trail cuts back down to the left towards the waterfall. Be careful here as there are some slippery areas from seepage. The trail ends at a set of steep wooden steps that take you down to creek level.
Another option to the trail head is to take the Summey Cove Trail from Hwy 215. The Summey Cove Trail is on the Pisgah Forest trail map - trail #125 - and is 2 miles one way. The trail head is at the bridge a little over a mile past the one at FR140 if you are heading north on Hwy 215. Park on the wide grassy shoulder on the left. If you are coming from the Parkway, the bridge is the 1st one you come to - about 5.25 miles down. Look for a yellow sign indicating 'narrow bridge ahead'. Cross the bridge and park on the right. The trail forks almost immediately from the start - stay to the right - and begins by heading slightly up hill. It then crosses a wet weather area, which can be confusing, but becomes more obvious after this point. It then starts heading more up hill with an elevation gain of 500'+ in less than 1/2 mile from the trail head. The trail then descends some 400' in the next 1/4 mile towards Summey Cove Creek. Before the creek, there are a few wooden 4x4 steps that end at an overgrown logging road. The trail crosses the road and continues down towards the creek. At another point past the steps, the trail comes to a fork. Take the blue blazed trail to the right - the one to the left is fainter.
From the creek, the trail is more or less level as far as mountain trails go. It follows a ridge line with Courthouse Creek 200' somewhere down below to the right. The trail then crosses Mill Station Creek on a foot bridge and comes out to a nice campsite. Keep heading up the trail and you'll soon come to a side trail to the right and will spot a small cascade on Mill Station Creek. Pass this and in a short distance will be the side trail to the right that takes you down to Courthouse Falls. If you continue on Summey Cove Trail for another 1/4 mile, you'll come out at FR140 at the point where you would have parked if the road were open.
There's also an Upper Courthouse Falls. To get here, keep going on FR140 past the parking area for Courthouse Falls for 0.2 miles. There's a gated (sometimes) road straight ahead which is the one to take. It initially follows Courthouse Creek, veers away, then ends at 0.7 miles back at the creek at a campsite. The trail to the top of the falls is dead ahead. Cross the creek to the right to the island to get to the base. There's also a gated road to the left back at the parking area. Harry and I took it because the map showed it crossing Mill Station Creek. Click here to see what we saw. The next 3 photos are Upper Courthouse Falls - the last is a small falls above the main waterfall. If you are really adventurous and have some experience creek walking and following faint trails, you can continue up Courthouse Creek to Red Rock Falls. This section of Courthouse Creek is really spectacular.
There's another waterfall very near Courthouse Falls. Cody Harris emailed me about it over a year ago. I tried once to find it, but apparently didn't give it a very good effort. Didn't find it, but on my July '05 trip to Courthouse I gave it another shot and I did find it - right where Cody said it was. It's a nice little 15-20' falls! There's no trail to it and finding it will require a little effort on your part. I thought about not adding it to the site because it's such a nice little secluded spot, but decided to add it for those with a little adventure in them. Find where Mill Station Creek flows into Courthouse Creek on your trail map or topo. Creek walk up Mill Station Creek a short ways to the waterfall. Very simple if you know how to read a map. I'm fairly certain that it doesn't have a name, so I'm calling it Cody Falls - thanks Cody!
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