Lower Higgins Creek Falls
1-17-20 I can't believe I haven't been to this waterfall before now - it's a beauty! Lower Higgins Creek Falls is in the Rocky Fork area of the Cherokee National forest, not too far off of I-26. It's very close to the newish Rocky Fork State Park, but not actually in the park. I've seen varying heights on this waterfall from other online sources. I'm standing off to the left in the above photo, so you can judge from that. I'm guessing 50-60' for the section you can see here, but there's more above that point and a little more below. The hike is about 0.6 miles one way and gains about 350' in elevation. The trail is an old dirt road bed and is fairly rocky. The waterfall can be seen from the trail, but to get a better view, you need to descend the steep scramble trail down to the base.
Directions: If you are in North Carolina, get on I-26 west, cross into Tennessee and continue down to exit 43. Take the exit, then turn right and proceed to the stop sign at US19W. From the Tennessee side, get on I-26 east and get off at exit 43 east (south) of Erwin. After you exit, turn left and proceed to the stop sign at US19W. Turn right on to US19W, drive 0.75 miles, then turn right on to the narrower Lower Higgins Creek Rd. Cross the bridge and continue about 1.5 mile to the end of the road. At the end of the road, you'll come to a wider area with 'Do Not Park Here' signs and a 'Parking .2 miles Ahead' sign. Continue on this single track dirt road for a .1-.2 miles until you see some wider places in the road. If you don't have a high clearance vehicle, you probably want to park here off of the road and walk the rest of the road to the trail head. If you have high clearance, you can continue the remaining .2 miles over the rocky road to the circle and park here. In other directions I saw online, an old bridge was mentioned as the beginning of the hike, but that has been replaced and the hike now begins at the blue gate at the very end of the road.
At the time of my visit, there weren't any signs indicating the trail - or anything else actually. The hike begins on the other side of the blue gate and follows the old road up and along Lower Higgins Creek. This area looks a lot like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The creek water is crystal clear and there is abundant moss and other plant life. At 0.25 miles into the hike, cross a tributary coming in from the left. In a very short distance, cross another one. There had been quite a bit of rainfall before my visit and parts of the trail in this area had running water on it. The trail gets steeper from here until it reaches the waterfall at 0.6 miles. The picture below is a view of the falls from the trail in this area.
view of Lower Higgins Creek Falls from the trail
Look for a steep side trail in this area that leads down to the base of the waterfall. You might have to butt slide down parts of it, but I've seen worse. Part of the way down is a view through the trees, that you can see from the 1st photo below. That might become more obscured when the foliage is out, however. Water levels were higher than normal today and there was a lot of spray at the base of the falls. Climbing around for better angles was out of the question today, but I'll definitely be back when water levels are lower and the leaves are back out!
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