Paradise Falls 7-18-2010
7-18-10 Another Warning - Kevin Adams recently announced in his forum that Paradise Falls was flowing freely. Wolf Creek Lake was being drained so work could be done on the dam. You'll see farther down this page that the flow is normally puny because it's controlled by the dam. I have no idea how long this flow will last, but it's well worth the effort. This is experienced hikers only and absolutely no children. The trail crosses through the creek above the falls and the water is swift. In the normal low flow, you can rock hop across without getting your feet wet. With this flow you will be getting your feet very wet. All wet rock can be slippery - some a lot more slippery than other. The rock here is reasonably grippy. If you are experienced in this type of crossing, you shouldn't have a problem. During normal low flow, the area at the top of the waterfall is fairly safe and is used as a swimming hole. This was out of the question on the day I was there. I looked down from the trail and saw Death, so I kept going to the steep trail to the base. Read the description of it below. It will also be a wet crossing at the base as you can see in the above shot - I'm standing in the middle of the creek. The next 2 shots are from this trip, then below that are directions and pictures with the normal puny flow. If you go, please stay safe!
Paradise Falls 9-2-07
If the flow of this creek wasn't controlled by the dam at Wolf Creek Lake, Paradise Falls (aka Wolf Creek Falls) would be one of the finest around. The geology of this area is amazing. There's a large deep pool at the base of the falls and the waterfall itself is set back in a small chasm. At the top of the waterfall is a good size natural rock pool that stays full even with the low flow. It's a popular swimming hole. But be warned! Do not come to this area after heavy rains and I can't guarantee you are 100% safe in dry times. The overflow gates could open at any time sending a wall of water down creek and over the falls. There are no signs in the parking area warning of this hazard. Anyone at the falls would be washed away and that happened to 2 WCU students visiting the falls in 2004 just after heavy rains flooded the region. Misty Dawn France and Aaron Joel Esteppe both lost their lives in this tragic incident. My heart goes out to the families and friends of these 2 young people. Also, if you are there and someone gets hurt and you call rescue, tell them you are at Wolf Creek Falls next to Wolf Creek Baptist Church. There are actually 2 waterfalls in that area that are called Paradise Falls - the other one is on private property.
Directions: At the intersection of Hwys 64 and 281 north in Lake Toxaway, take Hwy 281 north for 1.3 miles and bear left on Slick Fisher Road just past the little cafe/store on the left. Drive about 4.5 miles until it ends back on 281 north. Take a left on 281 north and follow it up to the Jackson County line. This is the top of the hill at Owen Gap. From the county line, continue north on 281 for 4.7 miles to the semi-circle dirt/grass parking area on the left. You will have come around Tanasee Creek Lake on the left, then Wolf Creek Lake on the right. The grassy parking area is just after the lakes. There's a church immediately after this on the left where you can turn around if you miss it, but please don't park in their lot. If you're coming from Cashiers, head north on Hwy 107 14.5 miles from the intersection of Hwy 64 and take a right on 281 (Canada Rd). Drive 12.3 miles to the parking on the right just past the church. Coming from Cullowhee, you would turn left on Hwy 281 from Hwy 107.
The trail to the top of the falls is at the end of the parking area closest to the church. The first part of it has become fairly eroded and there's a landslide area to contend with. It's obvious where people are going, just be careful. You'll come to a fork in 5-7 minutes or so - stay to the left and down towards the creek. At my most recent visit, the old tub washing machine was still at this point. Continue down and cross the creek. The trail continues up and along the creek. To get to the top pools, look for the safest scramble trail down to the right. Try going just past this area and look for the ones that cut back towards the top. Avoid this area if the rock is wet!
Right behind where I took the previous shots from is the top of the waterfall. If you slip and fall here you will die. Just use common sense and stay away from the top of the waterfall!
The scramble trail to the base of the waterfall is extremely steep. From the top of the waterfall, continue down the path heading down creek. Not too far down is a fork with the left fork heading up. Take the one to the right and down. You should be past the top of the falls at this point. On the way down you may notice where people have gone to the right along the rock wall. This will just take you to a peek at the waterfall - at the edge of a cliff. This will not get you to the base. Instead, stay left and come to the point where the trail heads straight down the dirt bank. After the first initial drop, the trail splits. Heading to the right and along the rock wall leads to a side view of the waterfall as seen in the vertical image at the top of this page. Use your best judgment as to how far down you should go. If you stay to the left at the split, the trail will drop down towards the base. It's very steep, but there are roots for foot and hand holds on the way down. If you slip here, you are a goner. The sight that greets you at the base is truly magnificent - even in low flow. The pool is big and deep and makes a great swimming hole. If you go, please take your trash back out with you.