Long Branch Falls
8-7-20 If you are looking for an easy hike to a waterfall that isn't visited that often, Long Branch Falls might be a good choice. The 1 mile hike to the falls is a fairly easy one along a gated forest road, and is kid friendly for the most part. To get to the view in the above photo does require a short steep climb up a side trail, though. The upper drop of Long Branch Falls is about 10' high, the creek then spreads out on a steep sloping rock face for about 20' into a narrow pool. From there the creek tumbles down towards the road, barely visible through the thick rhododendron. You can also combine this waterfall with, Cedar Rock Falls, and Grogan Creek Falls to make an excellent 3 waterfall hike that I'll describe below.
Directions: From the intersection of NC280 / US64 / US276 near Brevard, drive 5.2 miles north on US276 and turn left on the paved FR475 towards the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education. Drive 4.2 miles (passing the parking areas for Cove Creek and Daniel Ridge Falls) and park at the gated FR5095 on the left without blocking the gate. (FR475 turns to gravel after the parking area for Cove Creek.) There's only room for 2-4 vehicles at FR5095. By the way, there is an actual Long Branch Trail nearby, but if you hike up 5095 you won't be on it. More on that below also.
If there's no room to park at FR5095, check your maps for another possibility. Continue driving up FR475 for another mile and look for the gated FR475D on the left. This road will take you to the Cemetery Loop Trail. Also, if you park here and walk a very short distance up 475, you'll see the Long Branch Trail on your left. If you reference your map, you'll see how all of the roads and trails connect with each other - even leading back to the fish hatchery. Just remember that Long Branch Falls is not along the Long Branch Trail, but you can get to it from this end of the Long Branch Trail.
If you parked at FR5095, the hike begins on the other side of the gate and continues up the road. In just under a mile into the hike you should begin to hear the falling water on Long Branch. Before the road crosses Long Branch, look for a steep scramble trail on the right. The trail brings you out to the right side of the waterfall as shown in the above photo. To get a frontal shot you have to carefully scoot out on the fallen logs, branches and rock. If you are done here, head back to your vehicle the same way you came. If you would like to add either Grogan Creek Falls and/or Cedar Rock Falls to the hike, keep reading.
Long Branch Falls
Once you scramble back down to FR5095 from the waterfall, turn right and keep heading up the road. In another 0.4 miles, arrive at the intersection with the Long Branch Trail. (If you were to bear hard right and uphill on the Long Branch Trail and hike 1.5 miles, you would be back at FR475.) You will now get off of FR5095 and continue the hike straight ahead on the orange blazed Long Branch Trail. This is a popular bike trail on week ends, so keep an eye out for them. In 0.4 miles, you should begin hearing Searcy Creek on your right. Continue a short distance and cross Searcy Creek. On my last hike in August 2020, the foot bridge on the side path was gone. If water levels are high, you will probably have to get your feet wet. The creek isn't deep, but you can't jump it. In lower flow, you should be able to cross on the rocks people have added. After crossing the creek, continue another 0.25 miles to where the Long Branch Trail ends at the Butter Gap Trail. If you want to see Grogan Creek Falls, turn right on the Butter Gap Trail. (Left goes towards Cedar Rock Falls and the fish hatchery.) You'll be hiking along Grogan Creek, but it will be mostly out of sight down in the thick rhododendron. Hike another 0.5 miles and the 20' waterfall will be in plain sight on your left. Just before you get to the waterfall, you'll hear then see the top of a smaller lower falls. A scramble path heads down to the top, but on my last visit there was nothing to see. Keep going a short distance on the main trail to Grogan Creek Falls. Stay away from the top of the waterfall. If you slip and fall you will die. Look for the scramble trail that cuts had left down to the base of the falls.
Grogan Creek Falls
If you want to see Cedar Rock Falls also, head back to the Long Branch and Butter Gap Trail intersection. Stay on the Butter Gap Trail and hike about 0.5 mile to where the Butter Gap Trail ends at the Cat Gap Loop Trail. Turn left on the Cat Gap Loop Trail and in a very short distance come to a camp site on the right down a steep bank. There's a nice small waterfall down there if you care to see it. Cedar Rock Falls is a short distance down the trail from here. Pass that camp site and notice 1 or 2 steep trails heading down towards Cedar Rock Creek. These will take you to the waterfall, but for something less steep keep going about 0.1 miles farther down the Cat Gap Loop Trail. You'll hear and see Cedar Rock Falls through the shrub and trees. After you pass the waterfall, start looking for a trail that cuts hard to the right and angles back towards the waterfall. It's not marked, but is very obvious. If you were to keep going on the Cat Gap Loop Trail for another 0.8 miles, you would end up at the fish hatchery.
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