Cove Creek Falls 8-27-20
8-27-20 - The Cove Creek area of the Pisgah National Forest is absolutely beautiful. Hikes are moderate and mostly kid friendly and there are several cascades to see in addition to the 50' Cove Creek Falls. Unfortunately, a lot of logs and a fallen tree now litter the base of Cove Creek Falls as you can see in the picture above from my most recent visit in August 2020. Don't let that stop you from visiting this area, though! In addition to the hike to Cove Creek Falls, there's a 5 mile loop hike that includes Cove Creek Falls, but you also pass by Caney Bottom Falls and other small cascades on Caney Bottom Creek and hike through a beautiful part of the forest. For really small kids you could skip the main waterfall and just hang around or swim at the base of the small waterfall between the 2 group camp areas which is a short hike from the same parking area. More on that below. This area is also popular with mountain bikers who use some of the trails here to connect with old logging roads that lead to other parts of the forest that are nearby.
Directions: From the intersection of NC 280 / US64 / US276 near Brevard, drive 5.2 miles north on 276 and turn left on the paved FR475 towards the fish hatchery and Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education. Drive 3.2 miles and park on the left just before the pavement ends at the 1 lane bridge. The gated road to the group camp area is on the right and that's where the hike begins. FYI - more info on the Cove Creek Group Campgrounds can be found here. This is a popular destination in the summer, so get here early if you expect to get a parking spot. If there's no parking here, continue driving on the gravel road over the 1 lane bridge and look for a wide spot in to road to pull off without blocking traffic.
Walk past the gate and information kiosk and continue up the road towards the group camp areas. The road soon crosses through Cove Creek, but you should take the side trail to the right that crosses the creek on a foot bridge. At 0.25 miles from the parking area, you'll pass a scenic cascade on the right. It's a scramble down the bank for a good view, but there are some good photo ops here, so it's worth a look. In the summer, you may see folks playing in the creek here. The photos below are from this area in October 2014 when water levels were below normal.
cascades on Cove Creek 10-11-14
At 0.7 miles into the hike, you are just before the first group camp area. Look for the blue blazed Caney Bottom Trail on the left to get to Cove Creek Falls. This is also the beginning of the 5 mile loop trail. However, if you want to visit the smaller waterfall I mentioned in the first paragraph above, keep walking on the gravel road through the group camp area and it's on the right just past the camping area. There's a good size pool at the base of the falls which makes an excellent swimming hole, but don't count on having it to yourself. This waterfall doesn't have a name and is pictured below. If no one is occupying the group camp areas, the kids can play in the large grassy areas if they don't have the desire to hike the trails. The road past the waterfall continues a short distance to the upper group camp area.
small waterfall in Cove Creek Group Campground
Back at the beginning of the Caney Bottom Trail before the first group camp area, turn left on that trail. In a short distance, the trail turns to the right and crosses a small stream. (An unmarked trail continues straight ahead and connects to the logging road past Daniel Ridge Falls.) Look for the blue blazes on the trees and follow them. You'll pass a side trail back down to the group camp area, but stay on the Caney Bottom Trail. In another 0.3 miles, the trail meets the yellow blazed Cove Creek Trail which is one part of the 5 mile loop. The Caney Bottom Trail turns right and down hill, but if you are heading to Cove Creek Falls, stay on the Cove Creek Trail. Continue up hill for about another 0.25 miles and look for a brown carsonite trail sign indicating the trail down to the falls on the right. You will hear the waterfall before you get to the trail. This trail is steep and can be slippery when wet. You will be close to the top of the waterfall here, but avoid that area. There's nothing to see and you will die if you fall off. On the way down, 2 or 3 side trails head towards the top and middle of the falls. Don't take those. Continue down to where a trail cuts hard to the left and takes you to the base of the waterfall. You can safely wade in the shallow pool at the base of the falls, but do not try to climb the waterfall. The rock is very slippery and is much harder that your skull bone.
Cove Creek Falls 10-11-14
You'll notice before you make that hard left towards the base, that the trail continues straight also. If you aren't doing the 5 mile loop and are a little adventurous, you can connect to the Caney Bottom Trail and back to the group camp area this way. This unmarked trail follows Cove Creek and is more scenic that the trail you came up on. It's not hard, but might be tricky in a couple of places for some folks. Follow it for 0.25 miles until it dead ends into the Caney Bottom Trail. The Caney Bottom Trail crosses Cove Creek to your left, but turn right and follow the blue blazes that way. Years ago, this used to pass through a primitive camping area, but it has since grown up and is not usable as such any more. Once you make the right hand turn, follow the Caney Bottom Trail for about 0.1 miles up to the point where it meets the Cove Creek Trail where you were earlier. Turn left to head back to the group camp area, then back to the parking area. This loop is about 2.5 miles.
If you are doing the 5 mile loop and went down to Cove Creek Falls, head back up the trail you came down to the Cove Creek Trail and turn right. The trail continues up hill, then levels off before crossing Cove Creek on a foot bridge about a mile from Cove Creek Falls. You may notice an unmarked bike path on the left in this area. I have no idea where it goes. The Cove Creek Trail bears to the right and begins heading steadily down hill for most of the rest of the hike. Cross another creek about 1/2 mile from the Cove Creek crossing. Continue another 1/4 mile and arrive at the Cove Creek and Caney Bottom Trail intersection. The Cove Creek Trail bears left and heads towards FR225, but you will stay to the right on the blue blazed Caney Bottom Trail and be on this trail for the remainder of the hike. In another 0.2 miles, you should be hearing Caney Bottom Creek on the left. The trail follows the creek for another 1/2 mile or so before arriving at a trail side view of Caney Bottom Falls. You will have passed some small cascades that were viewable years ago, but are now covered in rhododendron and dog hobble. Caney Bottom Falls isn't the most scenic falls in the area and there's no trail down to get a closer view. You may notice that the other side of the creek is more open and you can get a different perspective from there if you don't mind a little bushwhack. On my last visit in 2020, I went back up the trail past the top of the falls, crossed the creek at a semi-open area, headed away from the waterfall for a short distance, then worked my way down for the view in the second photo below. It's steeper than it looks and not really worth the effort. All the clutter in the middle of the falls has been there for years and probably won't go away in my lifetime.
Caney Bottom Falls from the trail
Caney Bottom Falls from the far side
As you leave the view of Caney Bottom Falls, keep looking back and you can catch a glimpse of the waterfall through the trees. You are now about 3.5 miles into the hike. In another 1/4 mile or so, pass under an overhanging rock and notice the sound of falling water on your left. I think it's worth a closer look if the water flow is decent. Continue a short distance to an obvious trail that leads to the base. Getting up to the huge overhang area near the chute requires some scrambling, but it's an awesome little area. Back at the Caney Bottom Trail, continue past this cascade for a short distance and look for a spur trail to the left. You can follow this for about 0.2 miles and you'll come out at the far end of the upper Cove Creek group camp. If you didn't see the little waterfall between the group camp areas at the beginning of the hike, you can do it now. Then continue on the road to the lower group camp area and back to your vehicle.
If you stay on the Caney Bottom Trail, continue following the blue blazes for another 0.2 miles to a crossing of Cove Creek. On my last visit in August 2020, the log bridge over the creek was washed out, so you might have to get your feet wet to continue. If the water is way up and the bridge is still out, go back to that spur trail to the group camp areas if you can't safely cross Cove Creek. If you do make it across, notice the unmarked trail on the right heading up the left side of the creek. That's the trail I mentioned above that comes down from Cove Creek Falls. Continue following the blue blazes for another 0.1 miles or so and up to the intersection of the Cove Creek Trail where you were earlier in the day. Turn left on the Caney Bottom Trail and follow the blue blazes back to the lower group camp area, then turn right on the road that will take you back to the parking area. Below is a video of some of the falling water you will pass by if you do the entire loop.
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