Sam Branch Falls
10-10-17 The waterfalls on Sam Branch and in Wash Hollow are both accessed from the same parking area along NC215. Sam Branch is fairly easy to get to, but there's a sketchy crossing of Sam Branch to see the waterfall in Wash Hollow which is just out of eye sight of Sam Branch. The waterfall on the West Fork of the Pigeon River - also called Sunburst Falls - is just down the road and is viewable from the road. You could make a part to full day exploring these and the waterfalls on Bubbling Spring Branch.
Three Arch Bridge
Directions: From the intersection of the Blue Ridge Parkway and NC215, head north on 215 for 4 miles, passing the pull off for the view of Bubbling Springs Branch Cascades on the right at 1.8 miles. At about 3.3 miles down from the Parkway, you'll drive over Three Arch Bridge shown in the picture above. Just after crossing this bridge, there's a small area on the right where you can park to explore up and down West Fork if you are so inclined. At 4 miles from the Parkway, pull over on the right at the guard rail in the hairpin turn to the left. This is the parking for the waterfalls on Sam Branch and in Wash Hollow. To experience this area fully, you should wear shoes that you don't mind getting wet. Depending on the water level, you may have to wade up to your ankles.
From the parking, walk back up 215 a few yards to the steep path on the left that leads up the bank. Take this trail up and at the top of the bank, take the easy trail (which is an old railroad grade) to the left for about 5-7 minutes to Sam Branch. It ends in the middle of the waterfall. The waterfall is a series of cascades heading up the mountain for as far as you can see and is really nice! Unfortunately, there isn't a good view of the waterfall from this side of the creek. There are 2 ways to get across. The first is very obvious. Get down in the creek away from the top of the next drop down stream and either wade or rock hop across to the other side. It's not that far. I took the first picture below looking at where you have to cross - behind me is the next drop of the waterfall. The second picture below was take on those rocks in front of the waterfall. They aren't easy to prop a tripod on, but it can be done. The trail picks up on the other side of Sam Branch and ends at the waterfall in Wash Hollow about 100 yards up. You may not notice the trail at first, but look down and you'll see it. The problem is that if the rocks are wet, they'll be slippery and you could go tumbling down the next section of waterfall. Once you are safely across Sam Branch, go a very short distance and look on the left for a steep scramble trail that will take you to the very bottom of the waterfall for the view in the 3rd photo below and the one at the top of this page.
Sam Branch Falls
If you get to the end of the trail at Sam Branch and you're thinking you might die if you attempt to cross, here's another way down. Walk back down the trail towards your vehicle and in maybe 25-50 yards (this is a guess), look for an obvious scramble trail on the right that heads steeply down towards the creek below the waterfalls. The first part is steep, but it then levels out and turns to the right heading towards the waterfall. Once you get to the creek, you'll have to rock hop and maybe wade to get up for a view. There are also numerous photo ops down stream for the adventurous types. Looking up at the falls, you'll also notice a creek coming in from the left. This is the creek that Wash Hollow Falls is on and it's a short distance up creek if you care to rock hop up to it. You'll also notice old logging cables at the base of Sam Branch Falls. Look to the left of those and you'll see the scramble trail that I mentioned in the paragraph above that leads up to the trail that will take you the very short distance to Wash Hollow Falls. The next 2 pictures show Wash Hollow Falls at it's extremes. The first was taken during a very dry period and the second was take a day after a lot of rain.
Wash Hollow Falls
The safest place to view this waterfall from is the rock on the Parkway side of the bridge. For people experienced in scrambling and rock hopping. Cross the road on the parking side of the bridge and see if you can make it down to the creek. There's a small waterfall just below the bridge and lots of exploring to be done below. As always - stay safe!!
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