Gragg Prong Falls
10-17-13 The 2 waterfalls on Gragg Prong are often overlooked by waterfall seekers, but I'm telling you - add them to your list if you haven't been! To get the full experience of the main (lower) waterfall, Gragg Prong Falls, you'll have to do a little off trail exploring, but you can also enjoy the falls from the main viewing area at the top of the waterfall. A good full day hike in this area would be to combine Hunt Fish Falls and these 2 waterfalls on Gragg Prong. I don't have the exact mileage, but it would be about 6-7 miles out and back beginning at the trail head for Hunt Fish Falls. There's also another shorter way to see both the waterfalls on Gragg Prong that is a little over 3 miles out and back. This way will take you to the upper waterfall first, then down stream to Gragg Prong Falls. Both ways have wet creek crossings during normal water flow. They aren't that difficult, but be prepared to get your feet wet!
Directions: If you plan on hiking to Hunt Fish Falls first, then continuing on to Gragg Prong Falls, follow the directions at this link to the Hunt Fish Falls trail head. For those of you who want to just see the waterfalls on Gragg Prong, you'll access the trail from FR981. From the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP308.2, drive south on the gravel SR1511 for 4.8 miles to a parking area on the right just after a bridge over Gragg Prong. SR1511 changes to FR981 along the way. If you are camping at Mortimer Campground or are in that area, turn right on the gravel NC90 out of the campground and drive about 2 1/4 miles to a bridge over Lost Cove Creek. Take the next left on FR981 and drive 4.1 miles to the parking area on the left just before the bridge over Gragg Prong.
If you are coming from Hunt Fish Falls, follow the directions to that waterfall in the above link. Continue down the Lost Cove Trail (#262) past Hunt Fish Falls. You'll hear more cascades and see fisherman's trails down to the creek if you care to take a look. Lost Cove Creek flattens out and you'll soon come to a large primitive camping area. This area will fill up with church groups, scouts, and others on a nice week end. Stay on the white blazed trail past the campsites and to the creek crossing. Look for the double white blazes. Good luck keeping your feet completely dry here. The Timber Ridge Trail (#261) is in this same area, so be sure you stay on the Lost Cove Trail. Head up the small slope and to the right. The trail is soon next to the creek again and you'll come to some 'Posted' signs. (I haven't been this way since 2007 and I'm assuming they are still there.) Look for the trail to bend to the left around this point. It picks up Gragg Prong to the right and you'll will soon come to a crossing of Gragg Prong. You'll be lucky if you can keep your feet dry here also. The trail continues up the right side of Gragg Prong and in about 1/4 mile, will begin to ascend noticeably. If you want to see the lower falls from below, this is your best access area. People do come down from the top of the falls, but it's a lot steeper than it looks in pictures. When you get that point where the trail turns very steep, backtrack and look for a way through the shrub. There was no type of trail at all the last time I was there. I noticed a small ridge heading down to some buried boulders and climbed down there, but had to rock hop back up to the view in the above picture. To get closer, I crossed to the left side, followed the bedrock up, then crossed again to get the shot below. This rock will be very slippery if it's wet!
If you've made it to this point, you now have a dilemma. The safest thing to do to continue is to retrace your route back to the Lost Cove Trail, then continue up to the top of the waterfall. But, you'll be looking up the right side of the waterfall thinking 'I could probably do that'. If the rock is wet - forget it. It's certain death. If it's completely dry it's still a crap shoot. Experienced boulder hoppers will probably be OK, but if you've never done this type of thing, this isn't the place to make a 1st attempt. It's steeper than it looks once you get part way up! So, back at the trail where you left it a while ago, continue up the steep section to the top of the waterfall. There's a beautiful view down the falls and gorge.
top of Gragg Prong Falls
From here, continue up the Lost Cove Trail for about another 1/4 mile and arrive at the base of the upper waterfall. If you are hiking to these 2 waterfalls from FR981, park in the area described above in the directions. Walk back over the bridge and take the dirt road down creek for a short distance to pick up the Lost Cove Trail (#262) which heads down Gragg Prong. The trail is blazed blue, but also has white blazes indicating it's also part of the Mountains to Sea Trail. The trail is rocky at the beginning and will be slippery if wet. At about 1/2 mile in, the trail crosses Gragg Prong. Be sure to look on the opposite side of the creek for the blazes on a tree. At about 3/4 of a mile into the hike, cross a small side stream, then continue to place where the trail drops off sharply down to the creek. From here it's a short distance to another creek crossing, then another back to the left side of the creek again. The trail then comes to the exposed bedrock area of the upper waterfall. Here you will find a couple of sweet swimming holes and an excellent area just to relax and enjoy the waterfall. The waterfall is less than 20' high, but in a beautiful setting - especially during peak fall color. From here it's another 1/4 mile down the trail to the top of Gragg Prong Falls.
Gragg Prong Falls
one of the swimming holes at Upper Gragg Prong Falls
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