7-28-14  There are 3 more waterfalls listed below Riding Ford Falls - Elbow Falls, Red Butt Falls, and Lichen Falls. The first 2 are reasonably easy to get to - Lichen Falls is almost inaccessible and requires a tough bushwack and boulder hopping river walk. This is one of the lesser visited areas of Panthertown Valley, but Elbow and Red Butt Falls both offer great hang out areas with swimming holes

The shortest way in is from the Cold Mountain parking lot. Follow my directions to Warden's, Jawbone, then Riding Ford Falls down the Devil's Elbow Trail #448. At the fork where you would bear left down to Riding Ford Falls, stay to the right and continue up the Devil's Elbow Trail. In less than 10 minutes, look for and take a smaller side trail to the left just after a wet seepage area in the trail. You may hear the river at this point and there will be a small rock sticking up kind of in the middle of this trail. Most of this rock is underground, so it isn't likely anyone will move it. It was there on my first visit in 2004 and it was still there in 2014. Follow this trail a few minutes and it will come out at Elbow Falls shown in the first picture below. Before you get to the river look for another trail to the right and slightly up. This is the trail to Red Butt Falls and you'll want to take it after you spend some time at Elbow Falls. In this area, the river comes down over the falls and into a very deep crevice which redirects the river flow to the left. The river then flows around the rock point and continues down towards the big slide at Red Butt Falls.

Elbow Falls

 Once you finish soaking up the beauty at Elbow Falls, head back towards the Devil's Elbow Trail, and take that trail to the left down to Red Butt Falls. The trail is more of a fisherman's trail but is still well defined and easy to follow. In about 10 minutes, arrive at the top of the big slide that is Red Butt Falls. To really enjoy this area, you'll have to cross through the river and make your way down the bedrock to the base. During normal water flow, there is enough dry bedrock on the left side of the river to safely get to the bottom. If you don't see any dry bedrock, it's best that you turn around and save this for another day. I normally don't recommend crossing a stream above a waterfall, but in this case you can do it safely in normal water flow which will be ankle to shin deep. Stay to the left on the flat area in the river and the underwater moss will provide nice traction. Once on the other side, if there is mixed wet and dry bedrock, be very careful as the wet part will be very slippery! The first picture below is looking down the long slide. The slide ends in a small falls with a safe swimming area below.

Lichen Falls is on a side stream of the Tuck just up from the river and should only be attempted by experienced explorers. There's no trail from Red Butt, so you will have to wade and rock hop the remaining 1/2 mile down to see the falls. Most of the river is fairly flat in this area, and there are quite a few rock areas in between the deeper areas to stay dry from the knees up. You won't be able to keep your feet completely dry so don't even think about it. The last part is very difficult and you'll know you are there when you see huge boulders on both sides of the creek. Stay on the left side of the river and go around the left side of the first boulder, then shimmy up to the next boulder, then climb up on the ledge for the close up view of the falls shown in the next photo. You can kind of see the ledge in the 2nd shot which is from a different trip when there was more water flowing. The ledge is in the middle of that photo. Be very careful here! If you get hurt, there is no easy way for rescuers to get to you and you will be spending the night on the river. That's when the carnivores come out - and they can smell blood from miles away.

Lichen Falls


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