waterfall on Phillips Branch
waterfall on Phillips Branch

10-19-15   This is one of those waterfalls that I wouldn't make a special trip to the area to see, but would definitely add it to the agenda if you are visiting other waterfalls in the area.  I have visited this waterfall twice now and was more impressed the second time.  It's a 10-15 minute easy to moderate hike to this 40' high falls, but a difficult scramble down a bank to get the view in the above photo.  If you are really adventurous and careful, there are 2 other small waterfalls above the main falls.

Directions: From Morganton traveling north on NC 181, reset your mileage where the 4 lanes goes to 2 lane and drive 10.3 miles to Brown Mountain Beach Road. Turn right before the church and continue for 5 miles to a bridge across Wilson Creek. Turn left on SR 1328 just after the bridge and drive 6.5 miles following Wilson Creek to a 1 lane bridge across Harper Creek. (This road begins as pavement, then turns to gravel.)  Cross the bridge over Harper Creek and park on the left. There's room for at least 3-4 vehicles here. To begin the trail, walk back across the bridge and look for the old logging road on the right. The trail to the waterfall (#252) is immediately on the left and heads up the bank just as soon as you turn on to that old road. Don't follow any type of foot trail up Harper Creek.

The trail to the waterfall is easy to follow with a few ups and downs and logs to crawl over and under.  In a little over 0.1 miles, the trail picks up Phillips Branch and continues to follow it for the remaining 0.3 miles up to the waterfall.  The falls is visible from the trail in the winter, but may be obscured by foliage in warmer weather.  I didn't see any scramble path down to the base, so I'm assuming this waterfall isn't visited very much.  Just pick the least steep place to descend.  Both times that I visited this waterfall were after some decent rainfall, but I'm guessing the flow would be very meager in drier weather.  Most of the waterfall is a slide over some moss covered rock with a cascade area at the top of the falls.

waterfall on Phillips Branch - Wilson Creek area
waterfall on Phillips Branch  10-19-15

From here the trail gets a little sketchy.  Follow it up next to the waterfall, then look for it to turn to the right, then back to the left towards the top of the falls.  Once you get to the top of the waterfall, there's a good size rock area that's safe to get out on when the rock is dry.  There's a smaller waterfall to the right and up creek at this point.  Do not get too close to the edge here!  If you fall, you will die.  To continue up the trail to another nice little waterfall, you have to rock hop across the creek, then follow the very skinny trail up a very short and steep section, then bear to the right.  The waterfall is a short distance up from here.


top of the waterfall


small waterfall just above the main waterfall


small nicer waterfall above the previous waterfall

From here the trail crosses Phillips Branch above the waterfall, and follows the creek up.  After about a mile, it connects on to the Pine Ridge Trail, then follow it up to an intersection with the Mountains to Sea Trail and the Raider Camp Trail.  There's not much up here to see, but you might check the map for loop hikes or backpacking possibilities.  

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