Driving to and from the mountains near and past Asheville can be a long, and tiring ride from the piedmont. The waterfalls, mountains, peaks, trails, wildlife, and views continues to call my name though. Driving I-40 is the quickest most direct way there for me. It tends to be a fairly level and a straight route that runs east to west..along the south side of our mountains, until Old Fort where it must make quite a climb. Some of the towns in this level section include Statesville, Hickory, Morganton and Marion. I have to admit that when I learned of a waterfall that was about halfway between Morganton and Hickory, NC., and that it also was just off of I-40 and in the city, I was somewhat interested but not terribly excited. How good could it be after all? Being in the lower elevations, I expected some 10-15 foot waterfall like the ones that surround me in the piedmont. One day coming home from South Mountains State Park, I made an effort to ride by and see this “city waterfall” named McGalliard Falls. Wow! It was much nicer than I anticipated. I was pleasantly shocked and surprised. I like when it works out like that. Now, I try to visit this on a regular basis coming home from the Asheville area, time permitting of course.
The town that McGalliard Falls is located in is a small town named Valdese. It is about midway between Hickory and Morganton. There are 2 exits in Valdese, exits 111 and 112, either will get you there. Make sure from I-40, that you are heading north, or to US 70. When you reach US 70, turn left. Drive through the small town of Valdese. If you take the eastern most exit off of I-40, you will pass a building with a very nice painting of McGalliard Falls. It kind of gives you an idea of what to expect. It is a nice painting!
Once on US 70 heading west through town, look for Chuch Street and take a right. The park will be 1.5 miles on the right, and somewhere Church Street becomes Falls Road. There will be a large parking lot and picnic shelter . Some precautions have been taken here to warn off people with “less than pleasant intentions”. My guess is there have been problems here in the past, but they seem to be on the right path. For more info on coming here, checkout this link from “Visit NC”
There is an overlook behind the shelter of the falls from above. I was very unimpressed with the offering . For the real view, one must walk to the base. To get here, from the parking lot, a short, paved trail leads to the right, then turns left down hill. It approaches and crosses McGalliard Creek on a very low bridge, that is probably covered in high water.
Accross the creek, a trail heads left down stream to the remains of the old mill. Once past the large building, another trail takes you to the base of the falls. Once you look past all of the city signs saying that you are on camera, it is somewhat scenic! Lol
I particularly like the view looking back up the bank at the building and Y shaped tree, and the one that shows the falls through the water wheel. Now, finally at the base of the falls, this 35-40 foot cascade can really be enjoyed. The multiple streams of water, add to the beauty. I found my favorite spot to be out on the rocks, near an island below the falls, at a low position. This allowed the trees above me to help “naturally frame” the waterfall along with the rocks directly below me.
I also found another location a tad closer to the bank.
On a final note, this used to be a favorite location of the Waldensians, a religious group that founded Valdese in 1893. More info on this can be found at the Town of Valdese.
Just next to the park is another attraction that I have not yet visited. It is also tied in with the Waldensian theme in Valdese. It is called the “Trail of Faith”.
For more waterfalls, photos, and links, please check out my “Waterfalls Hiker Facebook Page”.