8-31-21 A combination of heavy rains before the remnants of tropical storm Fred blew through 2 weeks ago and the additional rainfall from the storm have caused considerable damage to the Pisgah Ranger District. To add insult to injury, the remnants of hurricane Ida are now passing through western NC and more flooding is expected. Yesterday, the national forest service issued forest closure orders for both the Pisgah Ranger District and Appalachian Ranger Districts that will last until the end of the year. These include certain forest roads and recreation areas and include Looking Glass Falls and Sliding Rock. You can go to the overlook view of Looking Glass Falls, but you can not go down the stairs and you can not swim at the base of the falls. A huge pile of debris is in the pool at the base of Sliding Rock and it is completely closed. Do not enter these areas for any reason unless the order states you can do so by foot only. You can check here for all of the alerts issued for the national forests in North Carolina. The Blue Ridge Parkway provides access to some of these waterfalls. Sections of the parkway were closed for a bit while landslides were cleared, but were since reopened. Parts of the Parkway have closed again while Ida blows through, so be sure to check the Blue Ridge Parkway closure page before heading that way.
The Pisgah Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest is home to numerous beautiful waterfalls and has miles of hiking trails to explore. If you are coming to North Carolina to visit waterfalls for the 1st time, this would be an excellent area to begin your journey. Some of the trails are multiple use - hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding - and I would highly suggest stopping at The Hub and Pisgah Tavern and buying a trail map if you are not familiar with the area. The Hub is an excellent outdoor gear and bike shop and they have just recently expanded into a new facility at the main entrance to the Pisgah NF in Brevard. You can also enjoy a local brew after a tough day on the trails. You'll pass right by it if you are entering the forest from Brevard at the 280/276/64 highways intersection. Turn north on to US276 from that intersection, pass the Pizza Hut and The Hub and Pisgah Tavern is on the right just before you enter the forest. It's also worth your while to stop into the Pisgah NF visitor center to get the latest info on what's happening in the forest. Once you enter the forest on US276 north, drive 1.5 miles and the center is on the right. They also have maps, books, tee shirts and other gifts and the volunteers are friendly and knowledgeable about the area. The phone # is 828-877-3265 if you need to call for info. You can also visit the National Forests in North Carolina web site for more detailed information on all of the forests including the Pisgah.
Camping is also available in this section of the Pisgah National Forest. The Davidson River Campground is on the left before the visitor center on US276. Reservations and more info on the campground can be found here. There is also quite a bit of free dispersed camping available along some of the forest roads like FR475, FR475B, FR477, and FR1206. You can pull your vehicle (no RV's!) right up to these site, but there are no facilities. Many are along streams that you can filter water from, but there are no bathrooms. These sites are on a first come basis - no reservations - and are marked as sites for camping. If you have a large group, you can rent one of the group camp areas. Call the visitor center for details. There are also numerous back country sites scattered around the forest for backpackers. These are also free and first come only. Please practice No Trace camping and pack out ALL of your trash!
When I talk about roads that begin with FR in the directions to some of the waterfalls, this indicates a forest road and will probably be gravel. Most of these are narrow and you should drive slow! No telling if another vehicle might be coming around the next bend. If you spot another vehicle coming, try to find a wide area to pull off. Parts of these roads are only wide enough for one vehicle. Do not attempt to drive an RV down any of these forest roads! Also, forest roads are subject to temporary closings - especially in the winter - so call ahead to the visitor center during business hours or have a Plan B just in case. More and more forest roads are becoming seasonal which means they are generally closed from January 1 - March 31.
It is very important that you are aware that hunting is allowed in the national forest game lands at certain times of the year. You should wear blaze orange during these times!! You can pick up a vest or hat cheap at WalMart or other stores. Please check the ncwildlife.org site for a complete hunting schedule. The main seasons you should be concerned with are bear and deer season in the fall and turkey season in the spring. You are probably safe in the most popular and visited areas of the forests, but why take a chance?? In the 2008 fall season, a man was shot and killed when hunters mistook him for a deer. There was also another accidental death in 2014 and numerous other non-fatal accidents over the years. The vast majority of hunters are careful and they have just as much right to be in the forests as hikers do. You are also close to the Blue Ridge Parkway when in this area, and during bear season you'll likely see hunters along the Parkway. Don't freak out! They are allowed to track their dogs from the Parkway, but not allowed to hunt and they also have to follow other strict rules.There are numerous other trails in the forest that don't pass by waterfalls and are not included on this site. In 2015, my wife (Cindy Lemon) published the first in what will be a series of books (both ebook and paperback) describing various day hikes in the Southern Appalachian mountains. The first book - Southern Appalachian Day Hikes, Pisgah Ranger District - can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Lulu (the link to her Amazon book is here). The book includes family friendly waterfall hikes, and other hikes not on my site including hikes with views, wildflowers, and other goodies. The paperback edition can be purchased at The Hub and also at the Pisgah visitor center. She also recently completed the second edition of the series - Blue Ridge Parkway Edition - and it can also be purchased at these locations and online.
Some of the more popular areas in the Pisgah Ranger District - Sliding Rock, Graveyard Fields, Skinny Dip Falls, and Looking Glass Falls - become very crowded during the summer months and are being heavily overused. In April 2016, representatives of a variety of Pisgah user groups, in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, announced the formation of a North Carolina non-profit corporation called The Pisgah Conservancy. The mission of the Pisgah Conservancy is "to provide funding to preserve the natural resources and scenic beauty of the Pisgah Ranger District and to enhance the experience of all visitors to Pisgah. The Pisgah Conservancy’s efforts will be focused on sustainable recreational usage of the Forest, watershed improvement, eradication of invasive species, removal of waste, litter, and graffiti, wildlife habitat improvement, and education." Right now the forest service doesn't have the funding or the manpower to keep up with trail maintenance or to develop new areas for people to enjoy. I became a member of the conservancy right away because I can see the need for what these folks want to accomplish. I hope you will take the time to visit their web site here and consider donating to the cause.
I've tried to arrange the waterfalls in a way that might make it easier for you to plan a trip if you have never been to this area. Some of the sections are really close to one another, so that's why one of those trail maps will be really handy. It also has main roads, forest roads and other helpful info. These 1st waterfalls are accessed from US276.
Twin Falls on Henry Branch - these are off of FR477 which turns off US276 north of the visitor's center - very nice hike but a lot of fallen timber in the falls - this area is also good for spring wildflowers in April
waterfalls on Avery Creek - you can see Avery Creek Falls along the hike to Twin Falls, but this will take you a different way - easy hike and mostly kid friendly - I've also added Upper Avery Creek Falls
waterfall on Clawhammer Creek - also off of FR477 - the waterfall isn't very impressive, but the 2 mile round trip hike is nice.
Looking Glass Falls - perhaps the most photographed falls in the area - it's right next to the road and handicap viewable.
Moore Cove Falls - just up the road from Looking Glass - easy hike and family and kid friendly - there is now a new viewing deck for the waterfall, but you can still walk behind the waterfall
Jack's Cove Falls - accessed from the same parking as Moore Cove Falls. I made this name up and the trail is not on the map, so if you ask about this one at the Visitor's Center, they may look at you as if you have lost your mind. Update - last time I was at Moore Cove, there was a trail closed sign for the trail to Jack's Cove.
Sliding Rock - closed until the end of 2021 due to excessive debris in the pool at the base of the slide - a natural water slide area US276 set up by the US Forest Service - kid friendly - a fee is required during the summer months, but not in the off season
waterfalls on Looking Glass Creek right next to the road just before FR475B - there are several along a 2 mile stretch
Log Hollow Falls - off FR475B near the Cradle of Forestry off 276 - there are 4 waterfalls at this stop, Discovery Falls, Log Hollow Falls, Upper Log Hollow Falls, and Logging Road Falls - 2 are kid friendly and easy hikes
These next 3 waterfalls are off of FR5032 which is a gated grassy road off of FR475B. You have to go off trail to see these waterfalls, so it's up to you to determine if you have the ability or desire to do this. Some people like to save the off trail stuff for the winter when snakes and bees aren't out. These waterfalls are on small streams, so they will look their best during normal to high water flow. When I checked them out in July 2016, the area was under severe drought conditions. No Name Cove was barely a trickle, but the other 2 had just enough water to make the hike worth it for the most part. If you've never gone off trail, Bennett Cove might be a good one to begin with. If you have trouble with this one, it's best that you stick to the trails. I normally wear long pant when I do this in case of briars or bees, and always wear boots. Do not attempt these in open toed sandals or other similar type foot wear. Stay safe out there!
Bennett Cove Falls
No Name Cove Falls
Poundingmill Branch Falls
The next 5 waterfalls are off of FR1206 - Yellow Gap Road - which is off of US276 past the Pink Beds picnic and hiking area
Pigeon Branch Falls - beautiful little waterfall, but off trail - not kid friendly
waterfall on the Barnett Branch Trail - easy and kid friendly
High Falls - not very high actually - more for the adventurous type
waterfall on Billy Branch - a short detour off the trail to High Falls
Bradley Creek Falls - off trail and not kid friendly
waterfall on Slate Rock Creek - fairly easy and kid friendly
This next group of falls is accessed from the paved FR475. Drive 5.2 miles up US276 north from the 276/280/64 intersection and turn left towards the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Conservation. Mileages are from the 475 / US276 intersection. The pavement used to end at the Pisgah Center, but now extends on to Cove Creek Group Campground.
update 8-31-21 FR475 sustained extensive damage from Tropical Storm Fred and is closed until at least the end of 2021. As a result, you will not have access to the trail heads to many of these waterfalls and other hiking trails.
0.4 miles - No waterfall here, but on the right is the parking area for the trail up to the top of Looking Glass Rock. Instead of this hike, check out the hike to John Rock from the Pisgah Center.
1.4 miles - The Pisgah Center and fish hatchery is on the left and there is a large parking area and access to several trail heads. This is also the parking for the hike to John Rock (which I think has a better view than from Looking Glass Rock), and several primitive camping spots that a short distance from the parking. Park here for - 2 waterfalls on Cedar Rock Creek and a falls on Grogan Creek - these are smaller waterfalls, but the hike is easy to moderate and family friendly.
1.5 miles - bear right up FR475B to get to Slick Rock Falls - kid friendly. You can also access the waterfalls in Log Hollow from this side of FR475B
2.1 miles - a small waterfall on Rockhouse Creek - viewable roadside, but you'll want to pull off and go down for a closer look - kid friendly.
3.2 miles - Cove Creek Falls and Caney Bottom Creek Falls and Cove Creek Group Campground. Park on the left - easy to moderate hike
3.9 miles - Parking for Toms Spring Falls is on the right - aka Daniel Ridge Falls and Jackson Falls. The hike to this 100' waterfall is easy and kid friendly. The Daniel Ridge Loop Trail, near Toms Spring Falls is a nice hike and has some smaller falls along the way. This is also the parking for Twin Boulder Falls which is an excellent waterfall near the headwaters of Right Fork. Accessing this waterfall requires some off trail trekking.
4.2 miles - access to the waterfall on Long Branch via FR5095 - you can also get to this waterfall via the trails to Cedar Rock and Grogan Creek Falls - fairly easy hike with a steep scramble up to see the falls.
4.8 miles - small parking area on left for access to Laurel Fork Falls and Gemini Falls - these are for experienced off trail explorers only!
6 miles - Gloucester Gap - turn left on FR471 to get to Catheys Creek Falls (or you can access it from US64 west of Brevard). Turning right on FR229 used to be the access road for the parking for Shuck Ridge Creek Falls, but this road has been gated for several years and might never reopen. This waterfall can also be accessed via the Farlow Gap Trail from the Daniel Ridge area. Kuykendall Falls is also accessed from FR471. It's an 8 mile round trip with some bushwhacking at the end. I haven't been since 2004, so I have no idea what the trail conditions are any more.
These next waterfalls are in the NC215 area south and north of the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you look at your map you'll see that you can head up US276 north, get on the Blue Ridge Parkway south (closed in the winter months), and get off on NC215 to combine waterfalls of both areas. You'll pass Graveyard Fields on the Parkway before NC215. You can also access 215 from US64 west of Brevard.
Big Bearwallow Falls - very close to NC215, but requires a steep, off trail bushwhack to see
Courthouse and Upper Courthouse Falls - off of NC215, 6.5 miles south of the Blue Ridge Parkway, then up FR140 - update August 31, 2021 - FR140 is closed to vehicle traffic and bike traffic indefinitely, but is open to foot traffic
Red Rock Falls - also on Courthouse Creek - more for the adventurous type of person - update August 31, 2021 - FR140 is closed to vehicle traffic and bike traffic indefinitely, but is open to foot traffic
Chestnut Falls - also off of FR140, on the way up to Courthouse Falls - update August 31, 2021 - FR140 is closed to vehicle traffic and bike traffic indefinitely, but is open to foot traffic
Kiesee Falls - also off of FR140, on the way up to Courthouse Falls - there are actually 2 waterfalls here but they require off trail scrambling - update August 31, 2021 - FR140 is closed to vehicle traffic and bike traffic indefinitely, but is open to foot traffic
Dill Falls and Upper Dill Falls - NC215 is the border between the Pisgah and Nantahala Natonal Forests. Dill Falls is actually in the Nantahala, but you will pass the left turn for FR4663 that leads to the parking on the way to the Parkway from FR140 up 215 north.
Herrin Knob Falls - also down FR4663 and is in the Nantahala NF, but there is no trail to this waterfall
Yellow Patch Falls - also down FR4663 and is in the Nantahala NF - there's no trail to this one either.
Bernies Falls - this waterfall is amazing, but you could easily get lost trying to find it - for experienced hikers only
Falls on Double Branch - one of the lesser known falls - same parking as for Bernies Falls
waterfalls at Living Waters Ministry - French Broad, Shoal Creek, and Cathedral (Bird Rock) Falls - This is actually private property, but the kind folks at Living Waters share the beauty of these waterfalls with the public - family friendly.
Flat Laurel Creek Falls and Cascades - accessed from the parking at the end of Black Balsam Rd near Graveyard Fields off of the Blue Ridge Parkway
Wildcat Falls - also off of the Flat Laurel Creek Trail - kid friendly
Bubbling Spring Branch Cascades and the Upper and Lower waterfalls on Bubbling Spring Branch - north of the Parkway on NC215. The first is roadside viewable, but you can go down for a closer look. The other 2 are a short hike, but part on trail, part off trail. No small kids, but bigger kids maybe OK.
Lower Wildcat Falls - just 0.1 miles from Bubbling Spring Branch Cascades, but requires a short bushwhack to get close - roadside viewable in the winter
Falls on Sam Branch, Wash Hollow, and the West Fork of the Pigeon River (aka Sunburst Falls) - the 1st 2 are not well known, but easy to get to and quite gorgeous, the latter is right next to the road.
Little Bird Falls - easy to get to, but parking is tricky
Graveyard Fields - a very popular area off the Blue Ridge Parkway, north of NC215. Second Falls is easy to get to and kid friendly - the others are a bit more difficult.
Skinny Dip Falls - update 8-21-21 - Flood waters from TS Fred devastated Skinny Dip Falls and the immediate area. The stairs leading down to the bridge over Yellowstone Prong and the bridge itself were washed away. The trail is still open, but the forest service has warned that the area is not safe.
The last group are at other locations in the forest -
waterfalls of the Horsepasture River - Drift, Turtleback, Rainbow, Stairway and others - This area in the Jocassee Gorges was previously in the Nantahala National Forest but has been transferred to the Pisgah. Parking is actually in Gorges State Park which is in the Lake Toxaway/Sapphire area.
waterfalls of the Thompson River area - White Owl, Twin, Slippery Witch, High, Big Falls - This area in the Jocassee Gorges was also previously in the Nantahala National Forest but has been transferred to the Pisgah. It's a wild area with a mix of easy to get to waterfalls and falls only for serious adventure seekers.
Dismal and Rhapsodie Falls - off of NC281 north of Lake Toxaway
Stillhouse Falls - also off of NC281 north of Lake Toxaway
Laughing Falls - near the intersection of NC280, US276 north, and US64 - not really worth it and just something to add to your list of waterfalls that you have been to
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