The list now sits at 78. If I don’t make it to another one this year, 2012 will have seen me add 30 new waterfalls to my list. With a full time job and busy life, that is a sweet accomplishment. The latest additions towards the bottom include some more waterfalls from Panthertown Valley, Wilson Creek, and the great state of West Virginia. Surely 2013 will get me over the 100 waterfall mark! Here’s to happy waterfall hiking!
Today, I took the opportunity to visit one of my favorite waterfalls, North Harper Creek Falls, and another popular waterfall in the area, Harper Creek Falls. Similar names, but different waterfalls on different creeks. This means a drive into the Wilson Creek Wilderness. The weather was fantastic, deep blue sky and temps about 60. It was a perfect day to hike. I decided to do The Harpers because a very special young lady named Harper Grace is turning 1 today. Happy Birthday Harper!!!
A little on Wilson Creek to begin: This is a land where steep, winding dirt and gravel roads are the norm. The entire area is kind of nestled in between Table Rock and Grandfather Mountain. Linville Falls is very close by. Wilson Creek is a designated wild and scenic river, and runs from its headwaters on Grandfather Mountain’s Calloway Peak to its eventual confluence with the Johns River some 23 miles or so downstream. This stream is very popular with fishermen, kayakers , sunbathers, and swimmers as this river seems to have a little something for just about everyone. It does not have any waterfalls, although there are some very nice rapids with names like “Boatbuster” and “Thunderhole”. While Wilson Creek itself does not have any named waterfalls, it’s tributaries have much to offer.
There are at least 10 named waterfalls in this region, on a number of streams such as Harper Creek, North Harper Creek, Upper Creek, Raider Camp Creek, Lost Cove Creek, and Gragg Prong. There are hiking trails running just about every which way through here and right through the middle of the wilderness , the Mountains To Sea Trail makes an appearance. Before hiking here, I would certainly recommend purchasing the waterproof map of this area’s layout. The trails are not marked well for the most part and it would be easy to get lost if one is not prepared with a map and/or GPS. There is so much to do here. Overall, it is simply a fascinating place!
Today I focused on two streams in particular, Harper Creek which is probably the largest tributary to Wilson Creek in this area, then it’s main tributary, North Harper Creek. My hike today was simply two out/back hikes to the waterfalls, with a good 10 mile dirt road drive in between the two. The trip began on Trail 239-North Harper Creek Falls. North Harper Creek Falls has 2 main ways of accessing it, Trail 266 and Trail 239. Trail 266 is a shorter option, beginning at a trailhead off of Forest Road 58. While shorter, it is much steeper, with some creek wades required, and large trees blocking the trail the last time I was there. Trail 239, while a tad longer, is much more of a level hike with only a few ups and downs. However when 239 and 266 meet, it does get steep. They meet and go down the hill to North Harper Creek, coming out at the top of Chestnut Cove Branch Falls. This falls is not terribly impressive, more of a slide down bedrock than a waterfall. It also tends to flow on the side that is partially covered by bushes growing on the opposite side.
There are a few deep holes in the bedrock at this waterfall, the one above was filled with what had to be thousands of tadpoles. I am guessing it is going to be a froggy season on North Harper Creek!!
Just upstream and after a somewhat tricky creek crossing, are North Harper Creek Falls. My first reaction was ….WOW! It is not the biggest waterfall in the state, does not have the most waterflow, but the contrast of the white water, to the colorful rock and the deep blue sky just make this something to sit back and take in its beauty. It may be one of the most picturesque falls in the state. (North Harper Creek Falls is the first picture on blog. Once you are ready to leave, the only steep climb of the hike is the one to get you from the creek back to the main trail.
After a short break, I decided to complement my first hike with one to Harper Creek Falls. This is done so on trail 260 which begins on Brown Mountain Beach Road, about 2 miles from the visitor center. This trail begins with a bang, going straight up, resulting in instant huffing and puffing. Once at the ridgetop, the next mile and a half is fairly level, with a few tight spots to navigate. It is when you get to Harper Creek Falls, that things get interesting. Harper Creek Falls is a 3 tiered falls that requires a wicked rock hop from a side path, or you can go right to the falls and use the supplied rope to shimmy your way down the steep rock. I have tried both ways, and the rope is the quicker way to go. Use extreme caution either way!! Once down at stream level, the waterfall is beautiful.
The pool below the falls is very big and deep. This area is full of people in the summer, so finding it today like this was a real treat for me.
After heading back, I ended up with a hike close to 6 1/2 miles and 2 gorgeous waterfalls on a beautiful day.
Ahh, another January day where the temps are pushing 60, and I had the day off of work, what to do, what to do. With some recent rains, the answer was clear, hike to see some waterfalls.Being January, I wanted to stay in the lower elevations, by that I mean 3000 feet or less. It seemed a fine day to do some hiking in Wilson Creek.I decided to hike the Harper Creek Trail which follows Harper Creek, a
major tributary to Wilson Creek, to view and photograph Harper Creek Falls. The last time I visited this place, there were at least 30 people in my picture, I was hoping this time it would just be the waterfall and I. The trail to the waterfall is roughly 1.7 miles one way with a steep climb right out of the parking lot. It levels out at about the 0.3 mark and is mainly level with few minor hills afterwards.When I arrived at the waterfall, I was in luck, it was cloudy and I was all by myself. It was the perfect chance to get a picture of a waterfall that stays jam packed all summer long. I had one slight problem though. The only way down into the gorge to get the picture is by rope, which is down some very steep rock. I navigated this last summer, but today the rope was cut, in pretty bad shape, and the rock was soaking wet from the earlier rains. It was a recipe for disaster. A younger, dumber me would have gone down it without a second thought. Instead, I did the smart thing, got the best picture I could get and got out of there. Being the only person there made it a bad day for a serious injury. Hopefully my next trip here will provide better conditions. Here are a few photos from my short hike at Wilson and Harper creeks.