High Falls - Thompson River
8-24-20 High Falls is an incredible start in your exploration of this section of the Thompson River. Two rock walls come together in an 'L' shape with the river spilling 50' over one wall to form the waterfall. The hike is about 1.5 miles one way and is moderate in difficulty. Parts of it are rocky and it can be muddy during a wet period. The hardest part is the final plunge down to the creek and the river crossing to get to the view in the above photo. It's not a really wide crossing, but plan on getting your feet wet unless water levels are way down. If the water is running high and swift you may not be able to safely cross and you won't get to see this frontal view of the waterfall. Actually, you won't have any real view at all and you might go back disappointed.
Directions: From the intersection of US64 and NC281south in the Lake Toxaway area, turn south on 281 and drive 3.6 miles (passing the entrance to Gorges State Park on the left) to Brewer Rd (SR1189) on the left. Take the left but don't drive down Brewer Rd. Instead, park in the wide paved area next to the bank at the top of the road next to 281. The hike begins on the gated old logging road near 281 that heads uphill and away from 281.
The hike begins by heading slightly uphill on the old road which had narrowed down over the years to the width of an ATV. The uphill only lasts for 0.1 miles, then heads gradually downhill losing 300' in elevation. At 0.75 miles into the hike, you should hear the definite sounds of falling water on Reid Branch on the left. There's a nice 20' waterfall down there, but you can't see it from the main trail. Look for an obvious red clay drainage area that serves as the steep path down to the creek. Before you get to the creek, look for a side path on the left that will take you to a view of the falls through the rhododendron. To get the view in the photo below, you have to go all the way down to the creek, get in the creek and wade up the short distance to the log pile where I took that shot. The creek isn't deep, but the wet rocks are slippery and you'll have to navigate through a small bit of rhododendron. On my 1st visit to this fall in 2000, the base of the waterfall was a cluttered mess. I guess the hurricanes of 2004 washed all of that just far enough down creek so they aren't in the shot. During periods of dry weather, there might not be much more than a trickle here.
Reid Branch Falls
Back on the main trail, keep going for less than a tenth of a mile and look for an obvious side trail to the right. If you miss it, you'll end up down at the river where you would cross to see the other waterfalls farther down. Once on the side trail, you'll hear the Thompson down on your left. Continue on this trail for 0.4 miles and you should hear High Falls. Look for a steep side trail on the left that will take you the last 0.1 miles to the river near the base of the falls On my last visit in August 2020, a rock about the size of a soccer ball marked the location of this side trail. You'll have a glimpse of the waterfall through the trees near the top, but nothing once you reach the river. Be careful crossing - it's slippery! Swift moving water can sweep your feet out from under you!
fisherman at High Falls
back to the Thompson River page
places to go/links/videos/index/wildflowers/email