waterfall on Sam Branch

The waterfalls on Sam Branch and in Wash Hollow are both accessed from the same parking area along Hwy 215. 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 - sometimes 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.

3 Arch Bridge
Three Arch Bridge

Directions: From the intersection of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Hwy 215, head north (left) 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 miles down from the Parkway, you'll cross 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 at the guard rail just before the hairpin turn to the left. This is the parking for the waterfalls on Sam Branch and in Wash Hollow.

From the parking, walk back up Hwy 215 a few yards to the steep path that leads up the bank. This is the hardest part of the hike. At the top of the bank, take the easy trail (which is an old logging road) to the left for about 7-10 minutes to Sam Branch. The waterfall is a series of cascades heading up the mountain for as far as you can see and is really nice! The landscape in this area has changed quite a bit since the hurricane floods of 2004. The 2 boulders at the base of the falls were moved significantly moved, but more noticeably, the area down creek has been cleared of all the clutter and if you can get to the base, you'll find another nice falls! The next 2 photos are post flood. The first is up creek from where the trail crosses Sam Branch and is the view from the side of the creek you are now on. The second photo is from the very bottom. To get this view and continue on to the waterfall in Wash Hollow, you will have to cross the creek at this point. Experienced rock hoppers won't have any problem as long as the water isn't too high. Inexperienced folks may want to think twice about this crossing and it may be best to get your feet wet instead of trying to stay on dry rock. The trail picks up on the other side of Sam Branch and ends at the waterfall in Wash Hollow about 100 yards up. Kevin Adams talks about the upper waterfalls on Sam Branch in his North Carolina waterfall book. I've been up there and it is extremely rugged and should only be attempted by very experienced off trail explorers. If you get hurt up here, no one will find you and you will die.

Once you're across Sam Branch, go a short distance and look for a steep scramble path on the left that leads down to the very bottom of the waterfall on Sam Branch. The waterfall in Wash Hollow is just ahead on the trail and is 40-50' high. The creek is unnamed, but the map labels this area as Wash Hollow - thus the name. There's a nice small campsite here. If you use it, please pack out all of your trash! Below are a couple of shots during decent water flow, then a video from leaner times.

To see the waterfall on the West Fork of the Pigeon River - aka Sunburst Falls - head back to your vehicle and continue down Hwy 215 for a tenth of a mile or so and the waterfall is on the left at High Arch Bridge. There's a very small pull off on the left just after the bridge for parking, or you could just walk down from where you park for Sam Branch in case the parking at the bridge is taken.

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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