Sols Creek Falls

Some waterfalls leave such an impression, that even as I am way behind on posting my waterfalls, this one just stopped me in my tracks to post. I have seen photos of Sols Creek Falls for years now. Sols Creek Falls is this amazingly beautiful, 120 ft tall waterfall tucked away in this cove setting, surrounded by tall cliffs. It looks as if it is from a completely different, tropical part of the world. Seeing this one has conditions though…and they are big ones. It is on private property, and there is no driving to a hiking trail access. It is only available by water. This alone puts Sols Creek Falls out of reach for most waterfall seekers.

The only way to view Sols Creek Falls is a short but moderate trail that begins on the shores of Bear Creek Lake. Bear Creek Lake is a prisitine lake that is one in a chain of small lakes that run along the Tuckasegee River, near Cullowhee, NC. As I read over the years about how to see this waterfall, it was mentioned that kayaking across the lake was the main way to see this one unless you have a jet ski, or other small boat. Well, I do not own a kayak or any other watercraft, and have never been in a kayak. So, I had pretty much written off ever seeing this one. One by one, waterfallers that I either knew from following on social media or hiking with, were finding their way here for an amazing experience with Sols Creek Falls. My opportunity would finally come on August 1, 2020. The opportunity was thanks to Karen from Www.exploringwaterfalls@wordpress.com. Take a moment if you can to see some of her work. Her passion for waterfall seeking and photography is off the charts, as well as her creativity in composition. I am appreciative to Karen not only for inviting me to hike and kayak along with her friends, but also the effort she put in to make sure that I had a kayak available for this unique day-trip adventure. Planning trips like this with 10 or more people, from numerous states is not easy, and the kayak status seemed to change daily during the last week, but thankfully it did work out.

Bear Creek Lake at the public access point. Jennifer, the organizer of this awesome trip is preparing the kayaks as the morning fog lifts across the lake.

The adventure began in total fog. As we waited for everyone to arrive, the fog slowly began to lift, and by the time we paddled off, it was total sunshine. This may not be ideal for photography, but for kayaking in a mountain lake, it was perfect. The water was surprisingly warm for what I thought a mountain lake may be. The blue sky, clear waters with that green tint looking across the lake, and the mountains rising on every corner of the lake, made Bear Creek Lake an instant favorite of mine in NC lakes. I have been on quite a few over the years. Some that come to mind…Lake Norman, High Rock Lake, Blues Creek Lake, Lake Tillery, Badin Lake, Lake Lure, W Kerr Scott Reservoir, Lake James, Salem Lake…..etc, lots of fishing and water skiing in my earlier days. Bear Creek is much smaller than most of these, which thankfully limits the number of large boats. There were a few, especially later on, but most of the people on this lake get around on paddle power!

I must admit, I had some kayaking anxiety to overcome before the trip. This seems normal for a 50 year old that has never been in a kayak I think. Most of thoughts that my mind occupied were of kayaks that tip easy, with kayakers rolling over and stuff like that. I did not really know what I could bring as far as camera equipment goes. I stripped my equipment down to just a small minimalist waterproof bag with only the camera and 2 lenses. As it turned out, I had plenty of room for my normal camera bag, but the water proof bag was a good idea not because of kayak flipping, but just the constant splash water coming off the paddle. As it turned out, this wasn’t a simple short kayak route across the lake, but a trip out into the middle of the lake, then kayaking 2 miles up the channel to a central island which just happened to be filled with campers already. The initial 2 mile kayaking run went by really fast. The kayaks moved much quicker than I imagined, and were surprisingly stable. It was actually a very enjoyable way to navigate. I am already itching to get out and do it again.

Once at the island, this is where the opportunities for some amazing waterfalls appear. The first thing we did was to paddle right past the island to the shore for the Flat Creek Falls hike. I will describe that in a later blog. After that , we got pack into the lake near the island and paddled left, heading up the channel. Once around the corner, one of the most amazing waterfalls in North Carolina comes into view, just a small part of the top.

Sols Creek Falls view from Bear Creek Lake

This was the view that I had been waiting years to see. It has been about 3 years that I learned about Sols Creek and visited another waterfall upstream named Upper Sols Creek Falls. It was an amazing waterfall, and only made me want to see Sols Creek Falls even more. At this point, we couldn’t reach the shore quick enough. Once at the beach at the mouth of Sols Creek entering Bear Creek Lake, we made our way out of the kayaks into a very soft mud beach where the feet quickly sink, which was challenging . This reminds me, the hardest part of kayaking is getting into and getting out of the vessel. Once in it , it was very comfortable and life was good, but it is hell getting out…lol

I mentioned earlier that Sols Creek Falls is on private property. This is true. I am not certain who the owner is, but the land that it is on seems totally unusable for anything except hiking to this waterfall. There are no signs of any kind here and a pretty decent footpath though unofficial trail that leads to the falls. Between the lake and waterfall is a fairly challenging trail that even though only 1/4 mile long, includes some decent elevation gain, lots of roots, rocks, narrow paths, and some chances to get your foot caught in some sink holes if not careful. It is not a dangerous hike, but one to be cautious on. Hiking along Sols Creek at this point, there are many small waterfalls along this stretch down below your feet. If I ever stay on this lake with some real time to explore, I will do just that, but our eyes were simply on the prize and Sols Creek Falls was all that mattered at this point. Once we got there…..WOW!

Sols Creek Falls
Sols Creek Falls with a person for scale, Thanks Calvin!

Sols Creek Falls with a flowery foreground

Photo Time
Sols Creek Falls / Flat Creek Falls Kayak/Hiking Crew 8/1/20

Leaving was hard, as I didn’t know when I might make it back here, if ever. I am thank for the chance and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Sols Creek Falls at 120 ft or so, reminds me of the type of waterfall I was expecting to see when I made my trip to Hawaii in 2018. Who knew that it was right here in NC, so close yet so far away? Getting back was a tad more difficult. After hiking to Flat Creek Falls, Sols Creek Falls, and a short hike up Robinson Creek, I was quite tired. The paddling back was more work and not quite as much fun as the hike to the falls. Once I had some time to sit back and take this in, I realized how blessed I was to be able to see a hidden NC beauty like this. If you are presented an opportunity to do such, take it….enjoy it…and please be respectful of the land that is officially private property and give no reason for anyone to not allow access to others that would love to see this waterfall.

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