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Beech Creek Loop Hike

posted Jun 6, 2017, 5:39 PM by Justin P   [ updated Jun 26, 2017, 12:56 PM ]

Saturday, we woke up early, had breakfast at the hotel and started driving south on US-441 into Georgia.  After crossing the state line, we followed back roads west to Tallulah River and drove upstream through Chatahoochee National Forest and back into North Carolina, parking at the trailhead for Beech Creek Trail (#378) in Southern Nantahala Wilderness.  The trail started off steep, heading up a ridgeline and then back down Beech Creek where we had to cross and pick up the trail on the other side.  I spotted some cute little orange mushrooms growing out of a log here.

It was just another half-mile or so to Bull Cove.  After crossing Bull Cove Creek, we followed a path upstream a short ways to Bull Cove Falls.

In high water, it was a very scenic waterfall though a big log had fallen right across it and I don't think that's going anywhere any time soon.

There were also some very scenic cascade on Bull Cove Creek downstream from the waterfall.

After some pictures, we got back on main trail and continued following Beech Creek upstream to a wade across Beech Creek.

We picked the trail back up on the other side and followed Beech Creek upstream into a gorge-like area.  Several of the small, unnamed tributaries flowing into Beech Creek had a lot of water, including one that was very scenic.

I think this is Bear Creek Falls, though the tributary is unnamed.  There were a number of wildflowers blooming along the trail, including some narrow-leaved sundrops.

Down below, Beech Creek was really flowing.

Shortly, we passed a rock wall and the trail cut sharply to the left to begin a switchback.  We followed a path going straight that led a short ways to a small waterfall on Beech Creek way below High Falls.

Although dwarfed by the much larger high falls, this was a pretty scenic waterfall.  A lot of downfall on it, like just about everything in this area.

Back at the main trail, it began climbing very steeply via a couple switchbacks.  At the next one turning left, a sign indicated going straight led to High Falls.  We followed the trail to the base of the beautiful waterfall and had lunch here.

High Falls is a really cool waterfall with the water tumbling down at different angles and we spent some time here enjoying the view.

I took off my boots to wade in the water and get pictures from different angles.  The sky grew dark and I thought it was going to start raining, but it never did.

After a bit, we headed back to the main trail and continued to follow it up.  The next half-mile or so was gruelingly steep.  I stopped to see some red efts that had come out in the wet weather, a welcome relief from the climb.

We also spotted a large snail crossing the trail.

In a bit, the trail leveled off as it passed the headwaters of Beech Creek.  In about 1.5 miles from High Falls, a blue-blazed spur trail cut to the left and we followed this up towards the summit of Big Scaly.  Throughout the hike, we had seen evidence of recent Rock Mountain Fire that had burned the area in Fall 2016, but nowhere so obvious as up here.

The first part of the spur trail ran through an area where the forest was recovering and a tremendous number of ferns were growing along with many wildflowers.  As we approached the summit, it was mostly dead rhododendrons.

Even here though, a few had survived and were flowering.  We climbed up a rocky outcrop for lovely views from Big Scaly.

After a short rest, we started back down.  And it would be all downhill from here.  The Beech Creek Trail led another 2.5 miles down the mountain to the junction with Deep Gap Trail, where we turned left to head back to Tallulah River Road.  Back at the road, it was another mile or so back to where we parked.  On the way out, we made a quick stop at the Tallulah River Fishing Pier.

The views of the Tallulah River were really nice here, especially with the mountain laurel blooming along the river.  Heading back towards Franklin, we had enough time for one (or two) more waterfalls, so drove west on US-64 to Wayah Road and went about five miles to a right turn on FSR-316.  We parked right before the gate at a ford of Camp Branch.  A short path led past two concrete buildings, presumably to store explosives, and then to Camp Branch Falls.

This is a small, but very scenic waterfall and very easy to reach.

And, there's another one just upstream from the first one.  There was some deadfall over Upper Camp Branch Falls, but I thought it was just as scenic as the lower one.

After a couple pictures, we headed back into Franklin and had dinner at Boone Thai and then returned to our hotel.