Secret Falls


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!

Getting to this trailhead by car proved more challenging than hiking the trail for me. In the center of town, where US 64 and NC 28 come together is the first place to find. At this intersection, 28 goes south, 64 goes east, 28 and 64 head together west and north. The other direction here is Horse Cove Road. Take this road. In a short distance this road enters the forest and heads down hill steeply and with lots of sharp curves. After close to 4 miles, and the road has flattened back out, look for a gravel road turning right named Walking Stick Rd. This gravel road is in decent shape. There are a number of nice mountain homes along this road and some parking areas and gated roads. It was somewhat confusing as the mileage I was expecting to drive on Walking Stick road did not match the mileage I had to drive to find the FR 4567. After some trial and error on this road, stopping at the wrong spot twice, I found the proper location to be 3 miles from the turn off from Horse Cove Rd. Turn right on FR4567, and drive just 1/4 mile. A small parking area will be on the left, with the trailhead in the back of the parking area. I will also mention that there is a side waterfall on this road on the right named Walking Stick Falls. It could barely be seen through the trees. It is on private property, and I didn’t have much time to pursue it.


This is called the Big Shoals Trail. The trail starts off pretty flat. There will be a gate to pass, indicating that this narrow path was once a wider forest road, now growing over. It was very wet on this day from earlier rain and the ground was scattered with some fallen leaves already. With a thick overcast sky, It was really just a nice fall day, for photographing waterfalls that is. After a short distance, this trail reaches another trail. Just make sure and follow the blue blazes on the trees.


Two small creek crossings await as the trail descends some. They were both easy, with one being a rock hopper and one being a fallen log crosser.



After a short uphill climb past the second creek, the trail comes close to the top of the falls. Wooden steps head down to the right to get you to the base, and a fantastic view. There are some additional cascades below the main falls, but it looked somewhat tricky. Plus I didn’t want to be late for my Dry Falls Workshop. After the short hike back, I found My round trip total mileage to be just under a mile and a half. This is a special waterfall that I can see why the locals would want to keep secret, but hey….THE SECRET IS OUT….Lol!!



Here is a short video from this wonderful hike!

3 thoughts on “Secret Falls”

  1. I have been here three times. It is a wonderful waterfall with a steep drop and very powerful but it has more meaning for me than just that because my grandmother was born on Walkingstick Road in1898 and her sister in 1895. Big Creek was called Hedden Creek by old timers because Hedden Cemetary was next to the creek.My great grandfather is buried in Hedden Cemetary and my grandmother’s mother was Martha Hedden. II am sure my grandmother and her sister were aware of Secret Falls and Walkingstick Road Falls which when the water has a good flow is well worth the visit. Wonderful description and directions as well as the best photos i have seen of the waterfall and Trail. Keep up the excellent work!

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