10-16-17 Flat Creek Falls is an incredible 200' waterfall north of Panthertown Valley in the Nantahala National Forest. There's no place to see the entire waterfall in one view except maybe from a helicopter. There's a great view from the base of the falls, but you're looking less than half of the waterfall. It's well worth going to just to see this part of the falls which is shown in the above picture. You can see most of the waterfall from a vantage point on Boardtree Knob, but there's no trail up there. You'll need map and compass or GPS skills to get there. There's no official forest service trail to this waterfall and some of the old roads that people use to access the waterfall cross private property. You can also paddle across Bear Creek Lake and follow Flat Creek up to the base of the falls. I haven't been this way, but it's the shortest distance once you get to where Flat Creek enters the lake. Burt Kornegay's Panthertown Valley map shows a trail coming up from the lake to the base of the falls.
Directions: From US64 near Lake Toxaway, take NC281 north for 9.2 miles and turn left across a bridge on to the gravel Rock Bridge Rd (SR1140). Drive 3.8 miles to the end of this road and park. This is also the parking area for Nellies Falls. There isn't much room here, so you might have to backtrack a bit and park along the road. At 0.8 miles down Rock Bridge Rd, look to the left for the trail head for the Rattlesnake Knob Trail #452 that heads into Panthertown Valley. At 1.7 miles, bear right at a fork on to FR4662. At 2.2 miles from 281, there's a large gravel parking area on the right and the trail head for the Turkey Knob Trail #469 which also leads into Panthertown.
(note - Even though the date above is October 2017, I haven't been to Flat Creek Falls in over 10 years. I hope to make a return trip soon, but am able to rewrite some of this with the help of the Burt Kornegay map, Kevin Adams' NC waterfalls book, some online blog posts, and my bad memory.) I've been 2 ways to the base of Flat Creek Falls. The first way is the way we went back in 2003 and 2005 and it does use old roads that cross through private property. I don't know if this land is now posted, but if it is, you should turn back. From the parking area you either have to wade or cross the logs over the creek to the road on the other side. Follow the road up to the big ugly camp site. We took the logging road above the campsite and kind of followed the ribbons that were there at the time, taking every right fork and turn when we came to one. The entire hike to the creek below the waterfall was on old roads. We never came across any 'no trespassing' signs, but part of the area was taped like it might soon be developed. One wrong turn in here and you could be lost for days. The hike down these roads was probably close to 3 miles and it descended drastically before reaching the creek. When the road finally reached the creek, we crossed through the creek, looped back around, then had to wet cross again. The road then turned into more of a trail up the creek. At another point before the falls we had to cross again one last time and follow a faint trail up to the base. Remember, this was over 10 years ago.
If you have the Kornegay map, look for the Old Trestle Path that will head off to the right up Flat Creek soon after crossing the creek. It heads west and connects back on to what should be one of the old roads we followed years ago. This trail (old road heads north towards Grassy Gap which is near the boundary between the national forest and private property. At Grassy Gap, look for a side trail to the right that heads out to the top of Flat Creek Falls. There's a view across to Boardtree Knob from here and down the top part of the waterfall, but there is no way to get down from here. If you fall, you will be very dead even before you reach the bottom of the falls.
If you want to stay legal, you can do what Harry and I did on our last visit in 2006. We just followed the creek about a mile and a half down from the parking area to the top of the falls. Sounds easy, but mind you there is no trail. We picked up remnants of fisherman's trails, waded in the creek some, bushwhacked some, and followed some old roads. To get to the base without trespassing, we had to go back into the woods away from the waterfall, then work our way down. The steepness kept pushing us away from the waterfall and by the time we got to the creek, we were well below the falls and had to work our way back up to the base. It is possible to get up to that free falling section also, but the steepness of the area makes it very difficult. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that in many places the soil is only a thin layer over bedrock. If the area is wet, it's almost impossible to traverse. The first picture below is the free falling section of the waterfall, the second is another shot from the base of the falls.
Flat Creek Falls
If you want the view from Boardtree Knob shown in this next shot, stay on the side of the creek you parked on. You either have to be really good with a GPS or really good at reading a topo. It's fairly obvious from the angle where this shot was taken from. It's up to you to figure out the best way to get there. There are no trails, but you might pick up some old overgrown logging roads. If you get lost in here you are in serious trouble! If you fall from this open cliff face, you will be very dead. Good luck if you decide to give Flat Creek Falls a try. Send me an email if you find a better way in!
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