A Dreary Day at Roaring Fork Falls? Doesn’t sound very enticing..does it?. It was a foggy, damp, and cool day for June in the Pisgah National Forest at the base of Mount Mitchell. The temperature on my car was a blazing 56 degrees at the parking area. It wasn’t exactly “swimming” weather. It wasn’t raining at the moment, but it was very wet outside. The visibility was also very low. I had just driven up one of North Carolina’s craziest mountain drives to get here, climbing NC HWY 80 in a thick peasoup like fog, with wet roads. Any that have traveled this road know it is challenging enough to drive on a dry sunny day. What in the world would I be doing this for? To catch Roaring Fork Falls at its finest presentation. See the picture above.
I’ve visited Roaring Fork Falls a good handful of times now, always impressed by its beauty, and with various degrees of success with my photos. Most of the time in the past, the lighting conditions simply were not optimal. This visit was different. I came here expecting a good cloudy day. I had no idea it would be as good as it was though.
To find Roaring Fork Falls, simply find the Mount Mitchell Golf Course on your map. Most people seem to access it from the Blue Ridge Parkway if coming from Asheville or Boone and NC HWY 80 if coming in from I-40 at exit 86(coming from the low country). From the spot where the Blue Ridge Parkway and NC HWY 80 meet, head north on NC 80 about 2 more miles. Look for a left turn on South Toe River Road, and another left immediately after that. Drive 1/4 mile down the road until it dead ends and park there. The 1/2 mile hike begins at the trail head there. If you come to the turn in for the Mount Mitchell Golf Course Clubhouse on NC HWY 80, you have gone too far and will need to turn around and now turn right on South Toe River Rd. I say this, because I have done this..lol
The trail is 1/2 mile to the waterfall and is a very pleasant hike. The gated forest road is wide and climbs slightly. Once about halfway up, look for 2 old concrete sheds, that were once used to store explosives.
There has been a nice improvement since my last visit here. Across the trail from the sheds used to be a big pile of concrete and construction waste, which was quite an eyesore on an otherwise beautiful hike. It has been cleaned up, and looks much better.
Just past the sheds, about halfway there, the Roaring Fork can be heard downhill from the trail on the left. The trail will eventually make a sharp left turn and cross the creek. To see Roaring Fork Falls you will not cross. Just stay straight, and cross a small bridge heading into the woods. The trail is now much more narrow, and root covered. Just climb a small hill here and the waterfall comes into view. Seeing this waterfall in person is so much better than any photo I have seen. It is larger and steeper than it looks in the photos.
Once there enjoy, be careful working your way down the rocks to get a better view.
The thick fog, dark clouds above and the thick canopy made for my best afternoon shoot yet. I was taking 20 second exposure shots at 3 pm, on my Canon. This allows the water to mystically flow down the rocks. Usually the top is so bright compared to the rest of the falls, It causes problems and unevenness with photos. Today was as close to perfect afternoon conditions that I have experienced. Here is a short video.