I have had Raven Rock Falls on my list for quite some time now. Accessed off of Cold Mountain Road (which runs from NC281, around Lake Toxaway, then up..towards Panthertown Valley), the first challenge is finding where to stop along this steep, winding Cold Mountain Rd, which fortunately is paved. I read from a very trustworthy site, NCWaterfalls, to drive 4.7 miles from NC 281, and look for telephone poles, in particular the one marked “61”.
It’s late November now and all the leaves have all fallen. The beautiful, brilliantly colored landscapes of a few weeks past have become a dull brown & gray, symbolic of winter. Thanks to some early season “Polar Vortex” action, it has also felt more like the middle of January. There won’t be many more waterfall hikes in 2014 for me. Looking back, I realized that I have not visited Catawba Falls this year. Being one of my favorites, this became today’s destination. This hike follows the mighty Catawba River way up near its headwaters. This river, really a creek at this stage is the same river seen for about the next 80 miles heading east along I-40, where it is channeling from lake to lake and getting much wider. Of course by this time, it has picked up tons of water from some notable mountain streams such as, the Linville River, the Johns River, and Wilson Creek to name a few.
During a recent trip to Gorges State Park in far SW North Carolina, I decided to make Stairway Falls my primary waterfall. This is accessed off of the popular Rainbow Falls Trail. Normally, hikers use this to see the magnificent Rainbow Falls. This is done by reaching the river first, and then hiking upstream. After the wonderful views of Rainbow Falls, most will either head back to their cars, or continue upstream. After climbing the steep Rainbow Falls Trail to the top of this 150 foot waterfall, 2 smaller , but but still beautiful waterfalls await. TurtleBack Falls, and Drift Falls, are just minutes upstream and are quite a fine reward for those that hike up the punishing Rainbow Falls. I have done this numerous times.
But….there are also waterfalls downstream from where you first meet the river. Most avoid this area due to a lack of good trails, and dangerously steep terrain. Stairway Falls, Sidepocket Falls and eventually the very dangerous Windy Falls can be seen to some extent downstream. This day I chose to visit Stairway Falls. This is the first one downstream, has a decent path, and is gorgeous. It is a fine addition to my new waterfalls seen in 2014, which is now at 23. To see more on this, please visit my Flickr album, “New Waterfalls Of 2014″.
To get here, find your way to The Gorges State entrance on NC Hwy 281. This is about a mile past where NC 281 meets with US 64 in Sapphire, NC. Turn into the state park, and I would suggest stopping at the visitor center. This place is only a few years old, and is very cool. The Rangers inside are also very helpful with information here. Once past the center, continue downhill a bit until you see a large parking area on the right. Park here, stretch your legs and get ready for some fun.
At this intersection, turn right and head downthe Rainbow Falls Trail. This is a nice trail that will descend slightly for most of the way until the river. After a mile and a half from the parking lot, you will notice a sign saying that you are leaving Gorges State Park. Here is the sign along with a photo of the Rainbow Falls trail in autumn.
After leaving the park, you will now be in the Nantahala National Forest. Shortly after leaving the park, there will be a thin, brown, carsonite sign on the left side of the trail. Rainbow Falls has been written with a marker and an arrow to the right. The trail that breaks off to the left here….is the one that takes you down to Stairway Falls.
The trail is immediately more narrow, but still in good shape. There appears to have been some maintenance done on it recently. It goes downhill, and in no time, you will be at the top “step”. This is the first of five 10 foot waterfalls, one after another. The trail keeps going down to the base, where a number of large rocks and boulders await to sit down, stretch out and enjoy these 5 beautiful waterfalls all working together to form the “Stairway”. I really enjoyed it down here. The water was up on an already high volume stream. The fall colors and blue sky were marvelous. Also, on a crowded Saturday in the park along the trails, I had this entire waterfall to myself to enjoy.
After Stairway, I couldn’t…not see Rainbow Falls. This is after all one of the finest waterfalls in North Carolina. So I met back up with the Rainbow Falls Trail, and kept heading upstream. Once the trail reaches the river, a large campsite will be on the right. Two streams must be crossed, dryly I am happy to report. One is rather large, with big rocks placed thereto help make the cross easier. The trail then begins to climb, steeper as you near Rainbow Falls. Nice wooden steps have been added in the last 2 years or so to make this easier and safer. After the steepest climb yet, there it is Rainbow Falls…..
The heavy mist off of this large waterfall is amazing. If you get there in time…about 9-11 am, a large rainbow can be visible over the waterfall. I was there around noon, so the rainbow was in the lower right section of the photo, working its way out of the picture as the sun’s angle was changing. Enjoy the view from the trail, or walk down to the new, lower platform. If you still have energy, head on up the trail to the top of the waterfall for some amazing views at the top, and also on to view Turtleback and Drift Falls.
Here is a map of the hike. Starting point is in the upper right corner, with Stairway Falls being the first stop on the river, and Rainbow Falls being well upstream.
Always one of my favorite places to stop, at Toms Creek Falls. Here is a nice trail report from Cassandra at http://www.blueridgencguide.com
Originally posted on Blue Ridge NC Guide:
Tucked away on a little side road off Highway 221 in Pisgah National Forest is this little gem of a trail with a waterfall at the end. An easy 0.8 mile trail with a lovely reward at the end- what’s not to love?
This trail is referred to in some places as Tom’s Creek Falls and in others as Falls Branch Trail. Most of the sources I found called it Tom’s Creek Falls, including its notation on Google Maps, so that’s what I’m going with. The trailhead is easy to find and is pretty well marked. Located more in the foothills region, the trail is mostly level and goes through a mature forest with tall shady trees, a nice change of pace from the steep trails of the rugged mountains higher up. The trail mostly follows Tom’s Creek and there are several points where you can get down to the…
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Originally posted on Fabulous 50's:
A quick two-day mid-week trip to Hocking Hills State Park for hiking followed by soaking in a hot tub with girlfriends was just what the doctor ordered! Located in Southeastern Ohio, 2 1/2 hours from Cincinnati, the rugged cliffs, breathtaking gorges, cascading waterfalls, and flourishing forests of Hocking Hills State Park, afford visitors a pristine outdoor wonderland. Our first hike was to Old Man’s Cave. The well-marked one mile round trip trail, includes both man-made and natural steps. The view from inside the mouth of the wide cave looks down onto a small stream and stone bridge…
Autumn is one of my favorite times of the year to visit this park…
Although the forecast included rain, it held off until later in the evening. In the Spring, this waterfall can be quite wide…
Unique tunnels make the area fun to explore…
Checking into our rustic cabin, we were…
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It’s a fine October day in Highlands North Carolina. I was in town to attend a waterfall photography workshop at Dry Falls offered by Deborah Scannell Photography. Arriving in town several hours prior to the workshop, I planned to see a waterfall or two before it began. This is a waterfall-rich area, so there are quite a few to choose from. I looked at the ones that I had yet to see on the WC100, and chose Secret Falls. Secret Falls is also known as Big Shoals. It is a beautiful 50 foot waterfall on a fairly high volume creek called “Big Creek”. Secret Falls has helped get me officially to the halfway mark of the WC100. 50 down, 50 to go!
After a wonderful weekend viewing the colors in SW North Carolina, I had a Monday free. I decided to revisit the Tallulah Gorge in northern Georgia. My first visit here was in 2012, on a hot summer day. I had no idea what a gorge pass was then, and by the time I got there, all 100 had been distributed out. A gorge pass, allows you to enter the gorge floor, explore areas further that those on the main trails can not. Heading out early on a week day in October, I was sure to get one on this day……
As the summer comes to a close, I am trying to get in as many new waterfalls as I can. There is just something about hiking to new waterfalls, the anticipation, and all of the “unknown” factors that come with them. Summer just seems to be the best time to explore new areas, and take on he “unknown”. I have many waterfalls remaining….just in NC alone left to explore around for the first time. This mid September day, I chose Big Bradley Falls.
White Owl Falls is the perfect introduction to the Thompson River, in the far southwestern section of North Carolina. It is a beautiful waterfall and easy to get to. The Thompson River is probably the least known of the four main rivers that all make up Lake Jocasse in northern South Carolina, along with the Toxaway River, Horsepasture River and the Whitewater River. This land is waterfalls paradise. Some are easy to get to and some are not. White Owl Falls just happens to be one of the easy ones.
After spending some time at the very nice White Owl Falls, I had time for maybe 1 more waterfall before it was time to call it a day. Mother Nature had already chased me away from my planned destinations for this day. Somehow I had found myself along the Thompson River, a mysterious river that I have done very little exploring on. Since the weather was still looking promising after White Owl Falls, I figured that I would just stay where I was. Just from reading about this area, I knew that the High Falls was a reasonably short hike from the Brewer Rd area along US 281. Click on the link for more info and photos on White Owl Falls.