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.
Parking for High Falls and other Waterfalls on the Thompson River is at the Brewer Road Intersection with NC Hwy 281, just south of Gorges State Park and a few miles north of the Upper Whitewater Falls area. Park on the right hand side of Brewer Road, walk back towards NC 281′ and look uphill for the old, gated logging road.
This old road is fairly wide and a nice hike. It does start out by going uphill, but not too steeply, and not for a long distance. Once at the top, the trail follows the ridge line and if anything, it descends slightly for most of the way. There are a number of other old forest roads that branch out. Just stay on the main road until about 0.9 miles into the hike. This is a hike that is guided by the sound of falling water. As you approach the turn to High Falls, the main trail passes by the Waterfall on Reid Branch. There is a trail that descends down to the left, but I passed on it. I only had time for High Falls as it was approaching 6:00 pm. As the trail moves past the waterfall, and the sound of falling water fades away, a fairly large trail intersection appears.
This is the trail that breaks away from the main trail to the right, at 0.9 miles. I haven’t been any further along the main trail yet, but I have read that the road soon fords the Thompson River. Take the right turn, onto another trail that is nearly as wide as the one coming in from the highway. In a short distance, the loud sound of falling water reappears. I just knew that this was High Falls. For some reason, the trail kept going away from it though until there was no longer any sound . I never did find out what the source of that falling water was.
After 1/2 mile on this trail, which was fairly level, I came to a large tree with a yellow flagging tape around it. At this point, the loudest waterfall heard yet, can be heard down the hill to the left . This yellow flagged tree marks the point to turn left, down the most difficult part of the hike. That being said, it is not that bad, just somewhat steeper and down a more narrow trail. This trail is marked by pink flagging tape.
The trail comes out at the Thompson River below the High Falls. It can not be seen here though, as the waterfall is kind of tucked away, and hidden. In order to see it, the river must be crossed to be able to enter the semi-enclosed waterfall. The water wasn’t very deep at the crossing. I did decide to lose the shoes and enjoy the icy cold Thompson River water.
After crossing, and navigating a few large rocks bare footed, I came into full view of High Falls. I have seen a number of photos for this waterfall, but I was still surprised at how tall it was. I have seen it listed as 50 and 55 ft. It looked taller than that to me, but I will stick with experts on this one. I would like to say I have great photos for this but the light was uneven and a little troublesome for me at the top.
The entire area down here was very scenic. After making my return hike, which was more uphill, I begin to compare this hike in my mind with a hike to Harper Creek Falls in Wilson Creek. Both start with an ascent , then 1.5 mile or so ridge line walk, then both require steep scrambles at the end. This one was beautiful, but I have a feeling it is only a teaser for what lies ahead 2 miles further downstream. The 125 ft Big Falls is waiting for me, I must visit it soon!