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Laurel Fork Waterfalls

posted May 1, 2018, 2:20 PM by Justin P   [ updated May 15, 2018, 2:56 PM ]
This past weekend, Sandy and I took Alex to the mountains for camping and waterfalls.  We left before 6 Friday morning and drove out to Pisgah National Forest.  We made a quick stop at the Pisgah Ranger Station and then headed down Avery Creek Road (FR-477) and found a spot at AC5.  We set up our tent then headed down Davidson River Road (FR-475) to our first hike.  A couple miles after the road changes to gravel, we parked just after the bridge over Laurel Fork.   We got our stuff together and then began following Laurel Fork upstream.  There's no trail, but it was pretty easy to follow initially.   The wildflowers along here were really beautiful, but we planned to stop on the way back.  In about a half mile we came to a rock wall dripping with water.  At this point, we made a steep climb down to the base of Lower Laurel Fork Falls.

The water level was high and this one was really flowing.  There was a lot of downfall over the waterfall, so I had to wade across the creek for a good photo.  Some nice cascades were just downstream of the waterfall.

Then we climbed back up and continued on.  Past the dripping wall, the trail turned right and started following a tributary upstream.  It led to a crossing of the tributary, but a faint path continued upstream.  We followed the path for a little ways, getting away from the creek, so started bushwhacking back towards the creek.  The forest was pretty open here, so not too bad for a bushwhack.  The last bit to get to the waterfall was quite steep.

Soon we made it to Gemini Falls, a very scenic waterfall.

With plenty of downed trees, we found a nice spot for a rest to enjoy the waterfall.  Sandy spotted a Jack in the Pulpit here.

After a bit, we bushwhacked back down to the path and found a place to cross the tributary and continued upstream along Laurel Fork.  No trail here either and the going was tough.  Towards the end, it was really Rocky and we had to navigate around big boulders.  It was just too difficult for Alex, so he waited in a shady grotto and took a rest.  Getting to where I could see the waterfall, there was no good way down to the base.

The water level was way up and there was a lot of mist.  I got up right next to the waterfall about midway up, but there were a few branches in the way.

Got a couple quick pictures and headed back to Alex and then started back down the mountain.  Past the rock wall above Lower Laurel Fork Falls, the path got a lot easier and we stopped to see the wildflowers.  There were several beautiful showy orchis in bloom.

A lot of heartleaf foamflower were blooming.

And near the end, there was a lot of fleabane as we got closer to the road.

Soon, we made it back to the car. From here, we turned around on FR-475 and drove a short ways to the trailhead for Daniel Ridge Trail.  After crossing the bridge over Davidson River, we turned right on the Forest Road 5046 and hiked to Toms Spring Falls, also called Daniel Ridge or Jackson Falls.

I've been here a couple times and this was by far the highest water I've seen.  First I scrambled up for a profile view.

Then back to the road for a frontal view, though the sun prevented a good shot.  So we continued on FR-5046, eventually coming back to Toms Spring Branch after about 1.5 miles at Upper Toms Spring Falls.

Just upstream of the road was this 45-foot waterfall over dark rock.  It was really nice and easy to visit - I'm surprised I hadn't visited earlier.

Just after the waterfall, the road intersected Daniel Ridge Loop Trail (#105) and we went left to head back down.  The lighting was better, so I ran back to Toms Spring Falls for a better picture from the road.

It was still early enough for one more stop.  With all the rain, I wanted to visit Slick Rock Falls as the last time I had been here, there wasn't much falling water.  Continuing on FR-475 back to the paved part, we made a quick stop at the roadside Lower Rockhouse Creek Falls.

II scrambled down to the base of this nice little roadside waterfall.  A half mile past here, we turned sharply left on Headwaters Road (FR-475B) and headed up to the trailhead for Slick Rock Falls.  The waterfall was visible from the road and had a lot more water than on my last visit.

I climbed around on the rocks to get a picture from different angles.

Spotted a southern nodding trillium here.

After a couple picture, I headed down from the road and followed Slick Rock Creek downstream past the roadside campsites.  After crossing the creek, I hiked past a rock wall and then came to Lower Slick Rock Falls.  I couldn't get to the base but came out at a nice spot in the middle for a view of this one.

It was getting later and we were all tired so we left the forest and went to Ecusta Brewery for dinner.  They only serve alcohol, so dogs are allowed and Mama Bear food truck was in the parking lot to get some food.  After dinner and a couple drinks, we drove back to our campsite and built a nice campfire.  A tree had fallen down and there was plenty of wood to burn.