Courthouse Falls Winter Hike 2/14/15

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After spending an incredible afternoon viewing a photographing the Living Waters Waterfalls, I had time for maybe 1 more closeby waterfall before I had to head for home. I was only a few miles down the highway from where Forest Rd 140 met up with NC 215 at the Courthouse Creek Bridge. I had planned on driving right past it, assuming it would be closed like many other forest roads in winter. I was pleasantly surprised to see it open, and my 2nd trip to Courthouse Falls began.

Courthouse Creek begins somewhere up on the mountain known as the “Devils Courthouse”. Any one driving the Blue Ridge Parkway near the area where it intersects with NC 215 has surely seen this beautiful, scenic rock formation atop the 5720 ft peak. This “Courthouse” has not only a mountain named after it, a Blue Ridge Parkway Tunnel, and a stunning, unique waterfall.

This waterfall has long had 2 main ways to get here. One would be to take what would surely be a several hours if not half day trip on the Summey Cove Trail. There is a trailhead along NC 215, with enough space for several cars about 1/2 mile up from the FR 140. I have yet to make this hike. Jeff Clark of Meanderthals Hiking / Internet Brothers has a really good trip report of this journey. It is a hike that probably should happen sooner as opposed to later. The word is that some upcoming forest logging projects are being discussed, and include closing this trail.
Being late in the day, I decided to “cheat” as Jeff Clark described it. I also did this this my first time here, in the summer of 2013. However, my first time here, the 2nd bridge was too low for my car to pass. So I ended up parking there and hiking up the gravel forest road, when I should have just taken the trail. I guess I got what I deserved..lol. They soon closed the road, replaced that awful bridge and is now back open for business.

As I made the turn and headed up the forest road, I approached the second bridge with caution, not sure of just how improved it was. I am happy to say that it is now the best bridge on this road, and now there is another one that is wooden and seems to have a few boards missing that could use a little love as well. The trip to this waterfall is simple in theory…. Drive the Forest road for about 3-4 miles, make 4 bridge crossings and pull over, that is it. Not so fast though, this road is quite narrow in places. Myself and a SUV had to share this road at one spot where it just wasn’t wide enough for 2 vehicles. It turns out that it was, just barely! The road also has a number of areas where it gets rough with deep grooves from water runoff and patches of sharp looking exposed rocks. It is passable though for even small cars, just don’t expect the smoothest ride.

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Just past the 4th bridge, is the trailhead for Courthouse Falls and the Summey Cove Trail. The hike along this trail was mostly flat, and very pleasant, heading downstream along Courthouse Creek. In about 1/4 mile, Courthouse Falls can be heard and seen somewhat from above. Keep going past it a little further. At 1/3 mile, the Summey Cove Trail stays straight, and the Courthouse Falls turns left, down, and back upstream towards the base. The place to turn will be marked by this.

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First thing that I noticed is that there has been quite a bit of tree and shrub removal from this trail area near the base. It makes the waterfall even easier to spot through what trees are left , but just looks strange. The trail keeps going up to the fairly steep staircase that puts you right in front of this beauty.
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Courthouse Falls
Courthouse Falls

This waterfall was beautiful, especially with the accent of ice lining each side of the chute. Courthouse Falls stands only 40 feet for so, but it is a very unique design for a waterfall. To close out, here is some video of Courthouse Falls.

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