Bernie's Falls

My pal Bernie and his friend John found this great waterfall back in 2005 while doing waterfall recon on Miser Creek in the Transylvania County. He said he would take me there if I promised to keep directions off of my site and I agreed - I had to see this waterfall! It's actually in the Pisgah Forest (public land), but is known mostly only to locals. Recently, Bernie changed his mind about keeping the waterfall a secret and we finally headed back over there so I could take notes for directions. Bernie has found so many waterfalls since I've known him, but this is one of his finest - thus the name Bernie's Falls.

The hike is about 2.5 miles and isn't that difficult, but it's along old logging roads and ATV trails through the forest - not on marked trails with blazes. Also remember, you have to find your way back to your vehicle which will require reading the directions backwards! It took us about an hour and 20 minutes hiking at a casual pace. If you get lost in this part of the forest, you are in serious trouble, so take that in mind. This isn't for novice hikers! You will also be near private property and if you happen to stumble into the wrong back yard, you might become the entertainment for the evening. You will probably have to get your feet wet and muddy. There is also a very tricky part to the hike right at the waterfall. The hike brings you in at the top of the waterfall on the right in the picture above. You have to cross the creek above the falls - which is safe - then continue along the ledge until you get to the place to drop down towards the top section of the waterfall. You shimmy down, then have to maneuver through the wet vegetation along a ledge to get behind the waterfall, then down to where I took that shot from. If you get freaked out by heights, that ledge thing might give you problems. If you slip and fall, you will be hurtin' for certain and could die. The video below gives you an idea of what you are in for

If you use a GPS or online mapping software, you can download the .gpx track I did here. It's uploaded to box.com and you can download it free of charge. I forgot to turn the GPS on when we left the vehicle, so I waited until we got to the waterfall and did the track backwards. Remember though - if you are relying entirely on the GPS and the batteries go dead, you are screwed.

Directions: You'll need to find Tanasee Gap Rd (SR1324) off of Hwy 215 in Balsam Grove. If you are coming from US64 near Rosman, drive about 8.5 miles up NC215 and turn left on Tanasee Gap. You will have passed Living Waters Ministry which is also on the left. If you are coming from the Blue Ridge Parkway, drive south on 215 for about 8.5 miles and look for Tanasee Gap on the right. Drive 4.6 miles up Tanasee Gap Rd and look for the gated FR 9999 on the left. There's only space here to park 1 or 2 vehicles - Do Not Block The Gate - so if there are vehicles there, you'll have to find somewhere else to safely pull completely off the road. Remember, this isn't an official trail head. Incidentally, this is the same parking spot for the waterfall on Double Branch.

The trek to the waterfall begins up FR9999. The the road soon narrows down to more of an ATV trail. In 8 minutes (at an average hiking pace) the trail forks. Go left and down. In another 3 minutes the trail takes a turn to the right and descends steeply. If you continued straight you would be following the ridge line and you don't want to do that. Go down a short way to an old logging road and head to the right. The trail forks again right away. Stay left and head down some more. In another 5-6 minutes arrive at Parker Creek. Look to the right and walk up the creek to pick up the trail again. In about another 15-20 minutes, look for an ATV bypass to the right and take it. Both paths lead to the same place, but the bypass is clearer. Come out into a wildlife clearing, continue through it and head back into the woods still on a definite path/road/trail. In less than 10 minutes, come to another clearing where you will bear to the left and head down to cross a small creek and back into another clearing. Just a note - I would probably avoid this area during hunting season. This is Pisgah Forest gamelands and looks like it would be good deer habitat.

Keep following the path/road/trail and in another 15-20 minutes, come out to a bigger wildlife clearing and head towards the big walnut tree. There was a farm here at some point and is referred to by locals as the Howard Galloway place. Our last trip was in August 2013 and the grasses, weeds, and wildflowers were quite high and the trail a bit obscured. But, it heads right for that walnut tree. Continue past the tree and the path/road/trail becomes more obvious as it heads back into the woods. It also becomes red clayish in parts and was also mucky with all the rain we've had this year. You are getting really close at this point. Look for a small campsite on the right - keep going and look for where a smaller creek feeds into Miser Creek. Both will be on the right. Just past this point is a small side trail to the right. Take it down to Miser Creek and cross the creek to the right side. Stay in the woods along the creek and come to the top of the waterfall where you will see a small cascades right above the big drop. Keep in the woods along the drop off, but look for a path/road/trail to your right where the Forest Service dropped a bunch of trees probably so the ATV's couldn't use it. Get on that path and head to the left and start looking on the left for the steep cut back down along the cliff towards the waterfall. Part way down you'll be where I shot the first part of that video. From there to behind the waterfall is where the pucker factor is extremely high. If the water is flowing like it is in these pictures, there will be water falling from the ledge and you will get a little wet and the rocks will be slippery. Just stay focused on your footing and don't take any unnecessary chances. Behind the waterfall is a little muddy and is a salamander habitat, so please don't trample the vegetation - and watch out for rattlesnakes once you get to the dry spot. There's a scramble path down the side of the waterfall to get the view above.

This waterfall is a gift to all that really appreciate what Mother Nature has to offer us. Please treat this place - and all you visit - with respect and don't litter.

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