Tise Falls – Hanging Rock State Park

Hanging Rock State Park is one of my favorite places to explore, partly because it’s very close to home and I can visit it any day of the week after work.  Any time I want to get away for a nice hike without having to go too far away, or don’t have much time, I look to Hanging Rock.  I have recently learned that the general area that we all know of as Hanging Rock State Park, was all once a booming resort area, with 3 resorts named for “springs with healing waters: Vade Mecum,  Piedmont Springs, and Moore’s Springs.   This dates back quite a ways, to the 1800’s and early 1900’s.  The property for Hanging Rock State Park wasn’t donated to the state of North Carolina until 1935. This history has recently become more easily accessible as Hanging Rock State Park has opened a new section of the park called Vade Mecum along Moore’s Spring Rd. It is marked by a large new brown sign that is pretty hard to miss.  If you have any interest in this fascinating North Carolina history, I encourage you to come by and visit this area. Currently, in 2018, it is only open to visitors on the first weekend of the month and is hosted by the Friends of Sauratown Mountains. In the 15 minute video that they show, a post card from way back, was of the nearby Tise Falls. I had already visited Tise Falls twice before visiting Vade Mecum and being introduced to the history before Hanging Rock State Park. A friend online known as “Smell N Roses” published a YouTube video documenting the experience he had on his hike to Tise Falls. If you would like to view it, you can check it out here: Tise Falls -Smell N Roses. After seeing this video, I absolutely had to visit. Being a waterfall lover and always a craving to see new waterfalls, I was amazed that there was a waterfall like this in my nearby Hanging Rock State Park that I knew nothing about. They do have 5 official waterfalls named with fairly easy to moderate trails to each of them.  Tise Falls is not one of them.

Tise Falls, I learned was named after Jacob Tise.  He was once the Mayor of Winston, when Winston and Salem were separate towns.   I am just beginning to dig into the history,  and will learn more.  At this point,  I simply want you as a reader to know is that Tise Falls, currently unknown to most in 2018, has a history dating at least back into the 1800’s, which to me is quite surprising.  Photo From “North Carolina Postcards - North Carolina Collection - UNC Chapel Hill”

Photo From “North Carolina Postcards – North Carolina Collection – UNC Chapel Hill”

Here is a postcard from Vade Mecum Springs dating back to 1906, or 112 years ago.  It shows this Tise Falls and surprisingly, it shows 2 people standing under the main falls, and 2 people sitting on one of the ledges. They are dressed very nicely for enjoying a waterfall.  It makes me wonder how difficult it was to get to this waterfall in 1906.  Nice clothes like that would not survive the trek down there in 2018.

Knowing that people used to come here in nice dress clothes, I just find it amazing to think that this was once a much more visited area. It is difficult to get to, and as I mentioned, in 2018, not that many people know about it. There are some that do, but searching for it online, there just isn’t much there about it. Certainly, a decision was made to let nature reclaim this one.  This is somewhat of a surprise. Even though it is a series of smaller falls and cascades, the entire view of the waterfall is quite stunning as it is easily 50 feet or so in total height.  And, it is just a short distance off the path to Upper Cascades.

Before visiting this one, consider not going. It is a steep bushwhack on a faint trail that goes in and out. There are several places where some the rock drops 6-8 feet and it is somewhat of a struggle to get down and up. Also, with several fallen trees, there is not much room at the bottom to enjoy this one. But if you must visit like I did, park in the large visitor center parking lot and head down the easy trail to the Upper Cascades. The waterfall is downstream from the Upper Cascades and you will need to leave the trail before you get there. I have been two different ways. Both were difficult, and easiest way for me to describe is to begin at the rock bench about 2/3 of the way down.

Enter the woods just to the right of this resting spot and make your way to the left on the bottom or backside of the large rock that you see above. You should be able to pick up a faint trail from there. Follow it down the best you can, hang on to what you can. The waterfall will be down and to the right some. Take your time, and make sure each step is secure.  There is no rope on this descent unless you bring your own. If you miss some of the trail and keep going down, you may find yourself at the top of the falls, which is the way I went on my second visit. Just keep working your way downstream. There are several faint paths or drainages running through here. The faint paths will all come out at the base and there is an old, rotting tree crossing the stream here. Your best photos will come right here. It is possible to work your way below the tree, cross the stream to a small rock area to view the falls, but the tree will hinder your photos. As testing as the climb down was. The return hike will be just as much of a huff and puff experience. This is ok for me.  Personally, I always feel safer climbing than descending. You are in more control while climbing, while you are fighting gravity pulling you down, on the way down. Take these words seriously, as this is not an easy hike. A better, safer option may  be to join the Friends of Sauratown Mountains. They do guided hikes all over Hanging Rock and nearby Pilot Mountain State Parks. I attended a guided shike last fall to Tise Falls. While still a very difficult hike, you would be led by someone of considerable knowledge of the area, and there is always safety in numbers, you know…just in case…OK safety rant over, surely you get the picture on this one.

So , this was my third hike down here. This first time, exploring after the “Smell N Roses” Youtube Video, conditions were way too bright. The second time down, with the Friends of the Sauratown Mountains, the waterflow was so low, that I didn’t even take my camera out of my bag. The main highlight of that trip was that it was my first time meeting any of the Friends of the Sauratown Mountains. The third visit however, was timed just right. With green now exploding everywhere in mid May, and thunderstorms the day before and the day of the hike, I was sure to get better photos this time. The steep trail had the added hazard of being muddy, and by the time I reached the falls, I was a muddy, wet mess from all the rain water on the trees, bushes and weeds I had to work through. However the view was totally worth it, and it was the best that I had seen it in my 3 visits.I was even able to catch a little swirl in the pool below, always a bonus. Here is a YouTube link for a short video of Tise Falls:

Then the climb back up…it was tough, but was over quickly, and I was back on the main trail. Since I was already 2/3 of the way to Lower Cascades, I figured that I might as well go see it. Just before I reached the large viewing stairs/boardwalk area for Upper Cascades, I passed the spot where we left the trail for Tise Falls on the Friends Hike. Looking down, I could see part of another waterfall. I’ve always heard some fast water below Upper Cascades, but never once went down there to further explore.  Today, that changed as I was already in the exploring mindset. The climb down was a little sketchy but nothing like Tise Falls. Once down the first thing I saw was a beautiful “Rock Room” with rock walls on three sides.  It is a cool place. Just past the rock on the right was the creek with the sound of loud, falling water just around it. There was one problem here…I ran out of dry places to walk. To get in view of the waterfall, I would have to get my feet wet. Luckily, I am a tall guy and can take long steps, and managed to use a fallen tree in the middle of the creek and only got one foot wet. It was so worth it though, as the small 15 foot waterfall was quite scenic. Once I posted it on Facebook, the guide from the “Friends” hike, said that he refers to this as “Lower Upper Cascades”. Seeing that the Upper Cascades are just upstream and you can actually see the viewing deck way above from the base if this waterfall, I thought that it was a very appropriate unofficial name. I will use it as well.

Then….since I was right at the edge of the viewing platform for Upper Cascades, I stopped for a quick photo or two. I usually take the stairs to the basement but after Tise, I just settled for the viewing deck.Tise Falls and Lower Upper Falls really adds great value to the Upper Cascades trail hike. It just may be my favorite trail in Hanging Rock State Park now.

One thought on “Tise Falls – Hanging Rock State Park

Leave a Reply