This report is about a day trip which consists of 3 very nice medium size waterfalls, Roaring Fork Falls, Setrock Creek Falls, and Toms Creek Falls. All 3 waterfalls are fairly close together, all have short, easy to moderate hikes , and make an excellent day trip when combined. There are a number of ways to access these, the right way depends on where you are coming from. For this story I will use the most general. On I-40 in Western NC, find your way east or west to exit 86. This is the big exit with the Love’s Truckstop, and several other stations & restaurants, also the exit for Marion, NC. Take NC 226 north until it meets with US 221. Follow this into town and take US 70 west for a short distance until you see a right turn for NC 80. Highway 80 will be the highway that will take you to Roaring Fork Falls and Setrock Creek Falls. The mileage on NC 80 is about 15-20 miles but it is the elevation gain and how it does it that makes this drive a fun and memorable one. Once the highway goes around Lake Tahoma, it then follows the main tributary up the mountain. It may be the curviest highway in NC. At the Blue Ridge Parkway, it begins to go back down. In a mile or so, you will arrive at the left turn for the South Toe River Rd. Turn here, cross the creek and immediately turn left again. This short road dead ends soon, park here at the trail head for Roaring Fork Falls.
Walk around the gate and head up the grassy forest road. This trail gently ascends for about 1/2 mile. Both times I have been here, I have noticed there is a very nice sweet smell to the air. That and the gentle hike help make this waterfall trip even more desirable. You will notice a few old concrete, abandoned sheds. From what I have read, these were once used to store explosives, but they lie vacant now. As you get closer, Roaring Fork will begin to make some noise. At the 1/2 mile mark, the road makes a sharp left turn, however a small footbridge keeps going straight. Stay straight, cross the small bridge and look up! There is Roaring Fork Falls, a gorgeous, free flowing 100 ft long, and 45 ft high cascade.
After the short stroll back, hop in your car and head back down to the South Toe River Road. Instead of getting back on NC 80, turn left and drive past the Mount Mitchell Golf Course. Stay on this road 2 1/2 miles or so, the road will turn to gravel. When you see the Black Mountain Camp Ground, you have arrived at stop #2. Park outside the campground and walk accross the South Toe River into the campground. Take an immediate left and follow the road up and out of the camping area. At 1/2 mile or so is the trailhead for Setrock Creek Falls. You will have just passed the trailhead for the 5.6 mile Mount Mitchell Trail which I hear is as tough as they come. Once at the trailhead for Setrock Creek Falls, the waterfall is maybe 1/4 at most up the trail. The main challenge here is crossing the creek for the best photo opportunities. The creek is not deep, but it has been chilly both times that I have been here and staying dry requires crossing on a large but decaying tree. I am a big guy with big feet so most people should have an easy time with this. Setrock Creek Falls is a beautiful 75 foot waterfall with 6 tiers.
After this, I returned to my vehicle, and headed down the twisty NC 80 and stopped in Marion for some lunch. Afterwards I headed up US 221 towards the Linville Falls area. About 5 miles north of Marion, I took a left on Huskins Branch Road. At the corner of Huskins Branch and US 221 will be the old Woodlawn Motel. The travel on this road is about a mile and a half, and the paved road will turn to gravel briefly then paved again. The pull-off/parking will be on the right, with a decent parking area and a large sign that currently has nothing on it. This is the trailhead for Toms Creek Falls. A beautiful, wide trail surrounded by lots of new green growth greeted me for this short hike. The hike along Toms Creek is about 1/2 mile, maybe less with a slight ascent, but really a nice walk. The only real hill to climb brings you to the beautiful 60 foot Toms Creek Falls.
These 3 falls are all different and very beautiful. The ease to hike to each one of them makes accessible for most people, no extreme hiking involved. If you are thinking about a day or weekend waterfall trip here to the Mount Mitchell area in NC, and these 3 just are not enough for you……well you are in luck. Close by is the very beautiful Crabtree Falls, Grassy Creek Falls , Linville Falls, Douglas Falls, Walker Falls, even Catawba and Upper Catawba Falls a short ways to the west. This doesn’t even mention the 10 or so named waterfalls in the nearby Wilson Creek wilderness area.