10-17-07 - The side trail to the top of the waterfall is now obliterated. I spoke to someone working on the trail and he said that area is now 'out of bounds'. I'll keep the write up here any way for reference.
This is one of those waterfalls that you go to just to add to your list of waterfalls you've been to. Even though it's a 200' cascade, the trail takes you to the top of the falls and there's no good view down the falls. The trail is nice, however, and the fall leaf color was some of the best we saw in the 2004 season.
Directions: From the southern most end of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Cherokee, drive 10.8 miles north on the BRP and take a left on Heintooga Ridge Rd. The Balsam Mountain campground is down here also and you'll see the sign indicating that. Go 5.1 miles down Heintooga Ridge Rd and park at the pull off area on the left. The trail to the top of the falls is moderate in difficulty at worst. It begins by rapidly descending the ridge to a small creek, then crosses Bunches Creek before following a ridge towards Flat Creek. After about a mile in, a side trail to the left leads to the top of the falls. There's not much to see here, but a very steep trail continues down the left side of the creek. This trail would be very dangerous in wet conditions! We had to see what was down there, so we began the descent. The part of the falls we saw was mostly a narrow cascade and there weren't many good views. The trail then ended. We opted to cross the creek at a point where a tree had fallen across. This isn't the smartest thing I've ever done and to be honest, it wasn't really worth it. A section of the falls (3rd photo below) was nice, but it looked fairly dangerous to continue down and there appeared to be a lot of logs and branches littering the creek below. Here are 3 shots I took on the way down.
Once we got back to the top of the falls, we checked the map and saw that Flat Creek merges with Bunches Creek a ways down - hmmmm. So when we got back to Bunches Creek we decided to hit the creek and see how far we could go. There is no trail and we had to wade in water above our knees. There were a few nice cascades along the way, but the descent got a little tricky and we opted to turn back. Here's a shot from along the way.
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