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Easter at Wilson Creek

posted Apr 21, 2017, 8:50 AM by Justin P   [ updated May 1, 2017, 4:34 PM ]
Sunday, we broke camp at Price Park and headed towards Wilson Creek on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Past Grandfather Mountain, we stopped at the overlook to view the mountain we had climbed yesterday.

We got off the parkway at NC-181 and followed it south to Forest Road 982.  Heading down this gravel road, we crossed Upper Creek on a narrow bridge and turned left to follow FR-197 to the end.  Surprisingly, it looks like the Forest Service fixed this road and extended it to the large campsite at Griffiths Branch.  Previously, we had to park about a half-mile back and walk this stretch of road.  After getting our stuff together, we started hiking the Greentown Shortcut Trail (#268A).  Our plan was to get off the trail in about 1.5 miles and canyoneer Upper Creek to Raven Cliff Falls.  Unfortunately, with recent rains, the water level in the creek was way too high to get through.  So instead, we continued the trail towards Burnthouse Branch Falls.  Greentown Shortcut is little-traveled and fairly overgrown in places.  But we had an enjoyable hike viewing the many wildflowers blooming along Upper Creek.  There were a number of trillium blooming along the trail.

One section of the trail had a mess of huge trees down and it was tricky climbing around and finding the trail on the other end.  Past Raven Cliff Falls, the trail heads back down to creek level, crossing Burnthouse Branch to a small campsite.  From here, we could see that Burnthouse Branch Falls was really flowing.

We climbed around on the rocks to get pictures of the waterfall.  I have been here several times before, but this was definitely the best it has ever looked.  The mossy rocks around the falls are really beautiful.

With the leaves still down, I could also see the upper section of the waterfall.  I had never been up before, so I made the exceedingly steep climb up.

The rocky area to get out for a view was treacherous and I made sure to hold on to rhododendron or rocks the entire time.  A fall from up here would be certainly fatal.

I got a couple pictures and then scrambled back down to the base.  From here, we started making our way back.  Along the way, I was surprised to see rhododendron starting to bloom - usually that's not until May or June.

We also found a nice patch of dwarf crested irises along the trail.

Amanda spotted a small snake just off the trail - I think he was a water snake.  She always finds the snakes!

Soon we made it back to the car, but we weren't quite done yet.  Driving back down FR-197, we turned left on FR-982 and headed further into the Wilson Creek area.  Coming out on Brown Mountain Beach Road, we turned left and parked at a bridge over Harper Creek.  From here, we picked up the Philips Branch Trail (#252) and followed it about a half-mile to Philips Branch Falls.  We could see the waterfall from the trail but a lot of vegetation was in the way.

We found a very steep scramble path down to the base for some pictures and then climbed back up.  Unfortunately, it's not possible to see the entire thing from the base.

Back at the car, we headed into Morganton for dinner at Las Salsas before making the drive home.