Lichen Falls

8-1-09  The Forest Service chose to name an almost inaccessible small waterfall just down the Tuckasegee River from Devil's Elbow. It's actually not on the river, but on a low flow tributary. When you see this marked on the new Forest Service map, you'll probably wonder how to get there - so here it is. First, the trail doesn't go all the way to the waterfall. Part of the hike will be off trail in the river, or down a very steep bank and should only be attempted by experienced off trail explorers. The last part of the river hike is very difficult. You don't have to go all the way to Lichen Falls to get some enjoyment from the Devil's Elbow area. A trail will take you to the top of a very cool big slide area right in the bend of the river.

The shortest way will be 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. You may hear the river at this point and there will be a small rock sticking up on the left side of this trail. Follow this a few minutes and it will come out at the rock point shown in the next photo. When you go around to the right of the fallen tree (unless someone cuts it up), you'll notice another trail to the right that will take you to the top of the slide in Devil's Elbow. But you'll want to continue down to the rock point first because it's a pretty cool area also. In this area, the river comes down over a small waterfall (2nd picture below) 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 to Devil's Elbow. I rock hopped and waded down one time. The river is very scenic, but there are deep pools to maneuver around. Right before this trail came out on the point, you may notice another smaller trail heading down river. It merges with the trail I previously mentioned and they continue as one through the huckleberry bushes down to the top of the slide. This trail is fairly easy to follow and fairly level, but it's not on either map and isn't a maintained trail. It's probably used more by fishermen than hikers and should remain visible.

 In about 10 minutes or so, you should reach the top of the slide area pictured in the next picture. If water levels are high, you should probably turn back at this point because you have to cross the river to go down the bedrock on the other side. The river flows on the right side of the bedrock and there is no way down on that side. The dark moss you can see in the water provides some anti-skid footing and you can go a little bit up river to stay away from the top of the slide.  If all that bedrock is wet from rain, turn around and go back. It is extremely slippery and there is enough of a slope to where you can easily slip and spill your brains all over the rock.

From here the river bends to the left, then makes a wicked bend to the right in Devil's Elbow. There's no trail from here, so you will have to wade and rock hop the remaining 1/2 mile down to see Lichen Falls. Most of the river is fairly flat in this area, but 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 big boulders on both sides of the creek. Stay on the left side and go around the left side of that 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 1st photo on this page. You can kind of see that in the next 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.


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