Big Laurel Falls
6-5-19 I decided to put Big Laurel and Mooney Falls on the same page since they are very close to each other and a lot of folks tend to do both while they are in the area or camped at the nearby Standing Indian Campground. I first visited Big Laurel and Mooney Falls in December '02 then revisited again in 2005. I didn't get good pictures either time and had been meaning to go back, but didn't get around to it until this year (2019). Neither hike is very difficult and both are family friendly. The hike to the 25' high Big Laurel Falls is about 1/2 mile one way and the hike to the smaller Mooney Falls is less than 1/4 mile. You could combine these 2 waterfalls with Rufus Morgan Falls and have a nice 1/2 day to full day outing.
Directions: From the intersection of US441/23 and US64 in Franklin, drive west on 64 for 12 miles and turn left on West Old Murphy Rd. Drive just under 2 miles and turn right on FR67 at the sign for Standing Indian Campground. In 1.7 miles the road forks. The right fork leads into the campground, but stay left and drive an additional 5.1 miles to a pullout on the right. There's a sign here for the Laurel Falls and Timber Ridge Trails.
Begin the hike at the trail sign. In a very short distance, come to a 'T' intersection. Turn right here and continue a short distance to some nice cascades and a foot bridge over Mooney Creek. Cross the creek and bear right on the Big Laurel Falls Trail. The trail soon leaves Mooney Creek, but then picks up the Nantahala River as it heads towards it's origin at the confluence of Kilby Creek, Gulf Fork, and Big Laurel Branch. By the time you reach Big Laurel Falls at the end of the 1/2 mile hike, you will be on Big Laurel Branch and may not have even noticed the other 2 creeks that you passed a short distance back. The waterfall is in a very scenic small cove and it's a good thing the parking area is small because there really isn't much room for a lot of people to hang out. Below are 3 more images of the waterfall. There's also a video at the bottom of the page that includes Rufus Morgan, Big Laurel, and Mooney Falls.
Big Laurel Falls
To get to Mooney Falls, continue on FR67 for another 0.7 miles to the very small pullout on the right at the trail head. The trail begins by heading down, then switchbacks to the left. At the intersection, take the right trail down a very short distance to the base of the falls. The left trail leads to the top of Mooney Falls. There's no view of the falls from here, but there might still be a view of the cascades above the falls. The picture below is of those cascades, but is from 2005. On our most recent trip, it started raining hard just as we got to this point, so I didn't get a shot of the current situation. There may be fallen timber in the view now.
cascades above Mooney Falls
Mooney Falls is about 20' high and not a bad photo subject if conditions are right. There is a lot of clutter at the base, but it's in better shape than when I visited in 2005.
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