Cutler Falls is a beautiful, tall waterfall on a somewhat small stream in far western NC. I have seen it listed as 80 ft, and 100 ft. I’ll just say that it is tall. The hike getting here is somewhat strenuous, roughly a mile and a half on old roads that climb constantly, steeper as you go. The real challenge for me on this one wasn’t the hike getting there, but rather, should I even BE there?
To begin this struggling decision, I’ll just start with how I learned of Cutler Falls. THE NC waterfall guru, Kevin Adams listed Cutler Falls in his book “North Carolina Waterfalls” 2016 edition. On page 91, in his short description, he did mention that is was not available to the public as of this writing but that it soon would be. He later issued a waterfall challenge list of 500 North Carolina waterfalls, and Cutler Falls was listed. There have been several people to complete this 500 list challenge by now, so I know of folks that have visited it. On the other hand, I have found nothing else posted that says it is open to the public. I have also not found any actual directions of how to get to the waterfall. It is officially on Justice Creek in the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area that is managed by Grandfather Mountain State Park. On the parks website, it has a short listing, once again, not much info provided.
There is a group named “Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy that has a few posts online showing pictures of it, but nothing on how to get there and also nothing really that was recent. It just doesn’t seem that they want people here. When I did find the location, and creek, there was nothing it indicate that I was at a trailhead, absolutely no parking, and actually on a small dirt road leading to several homes and farms. The first 2 times I tried this, I backed out and went on to a different location and waterfall.
On my third visit, however, things were different, and I was determined. I had chatted privately with several different hikers that had made this hike and was reassured that it was ok for me to do this hike. The key was that there was room for 1 vehicle to park off of a small dirt road that dead ended at a persons house. The NC state park boundary was right there and I was just barely able to fit my car there. I still did not feel comfortable. It was also here that a small overgrown road was just past the state park sign and that was the beginning of the hike.
Up until this sign, I felt like I was on someone’s land, even with the small yellow NC State Park sign on the tree where my car was. This sign and all the regulations listed, let me know that it was either ok to be here or that is soon will be. I still wasn’t quite sure, but I felt better.
After going up the overgrown road a little further, there was an old bench on the right. This marked the spot where a right turn crossing the creek was just ahead. It was an easy crossing as the creek was small. A four way old road trail intersection was just beyond the creek crossing. A left turn on the now rocky and dirt old road going uphill on river left side was the course for the remainder of the hike. The road was constantly uphill getting steeper as it goes up. It’s not one of those newer trails with nice switch backs. Eventually after thinking that I will never see the top of this thing, there it is….the road flattens out, and a “through the trees” view of Cutler Falls appears, and the road ends. A narrower, short trail to the falls takes over and has a tricky spot or two over some fallen trees.
The hike down goes much quicker than the hike up as it is now all downhill. I am still hesitant to give exact directions because of the lack of parking, and being so close to the farms. I do feel that once you are on the old road that it is safe to hike being on NC state park property. Hopefully some plans will be revealed soon that will open this up for more people as it is quite a nice waterfall.