12-3-16 - Little Creek Falls is one of the lesser known waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The waterfall is 50-60' high and looks it's best after some decent rainfall. My most recent visit was during a severe drought period and even though the area had received some good rain a couple of days earlier, water flow was still poor. The hike to the falls is about 1.5 miles, but only if you can park at the Cooper Creek Trout Farm. You should call ahead to see if they are allowing folks to access the park's trails through their property - 828-488-2500. They don't allow it during certain hunting seasons because part of their property is right next to a portion of the Cooper Creek Trail where the hike begins. If you can't park here, you can also get to the falls from either the Deep Creek area or Mingus Mill near the Oconaluftee visitor center near Cherokee, but the hike will be 5-6 miles one way. Check your maps to see which trails you'll need to take.
Directions to the Cooper Creek Trout Farm: From US74 near Bryson City, take exit 72 for Whittier and continue on US19A (SR1195). Drive 2 miles on this narrow road and turn left on US19 at the stop sign. Drive 0.8 miles and turn right on Cooper Creek Rd. The street sign is on the left side of US19. If you are in Cherokee at the intersection of US441 north and US19, take US19 towards Bryson City for about 5-6 miles and turn right on Cooper Creek Rd. The road is paved at first, but turns to gravel at 1.3 miles. Drive about 3.5 miles on this narrow road to the Cooper Creek Trout Farm at the end of the road. If no one is outside, ring the bell and ask where you park to hike to the waterfall. Do not begin the hike without permission for any reason!
On my latest visit, I was told to drive past the house and bear to the right towards a small concrete structure next to the creek and park in that area. The hike begins on the old rocky road leading up beside Cooper Creek. You'll cross into the park in a short distance and will be on the Cooper Creek Trail. The trail is an old road bed and private property will still be on the right side of the trail. Come to some old buildings on the right and an area where the road stays wet most of the time. Look for a small trail to the left that gets around this area. At 0.6 miles from the parking area, Little Creek crosses the trail and flows into Cooper Creek. Take the log bridge on the left to ford the creek. The trail splits just after this ford and you'll take the Deeplow Gap Trail to the left. After about a 1/4 mile ascent, cross the creek on some rocks. From here, the trail gets steeper and switchbacks up the mountain for another 1/2 mile to the waterfall. Total elevation gain on the hike is about 650'. Another longer foot bridge crosses the creek right in front of the falls. This big log looks like it needs to be replaced very soon, but it was safe enough on this last trip. Just don't lean against the rail!
Little Creek Falls isn't the easiest waterfall to photograph because of all trees around it. There's also a lot of clutter at the base and a big log in the middle of the falls that has been there for several years. But, during higher water flow, you'll have a chance at some isolation shots and you'll more than likely have the falls to yourself.
Little Creek Falls 10-9-04
Little Creek Falls 12-3-16
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