Journal/Blog‎ > ‎

Murphy Area Waterfalls

posted Jun 6, 2017, 5:40 PM by Justin P   [ updated Jun 30, 2017, 10:39 AM ]

Sunday, we headed to the far western part of North Carolina to visit some waterfalls in the area.  We headed west from Franklin on US-64 to Hayesville and headed into the Fires Creek area of Nantahala National Forest.  Our first stop was at the picnic area, where we could see Leatherwood Falls across Fires Creek.  The view from across the creek was rather poor as there was a lot of foliage in the way.

The water level was way up, so no safe way to cross.  There was a bridge across the creek that led to a picnic area, but no way to get to the base of Leatherwood Falls.  So we continued down FR-340 following Fires Creek upstream to the split with FR-340C where the road was gated.  After parking, we continued hiking down FR-340 past the gate, crossing a bridge over Long Branch and continuing about a mile to the point where Bald Springs Branch flows into Fires Creek.  It was a steep, but short scramble down to Fires Creek.  Since the water level was up, there was no dry way to cross, but the crossing wasn't too bad.  At this point, the hike got really difficult.  Lower Bald Springs Falls was just a short was upstream and it was easiest to creek walk to this one.  It's a real scenic waterfall even with a lot of deadfall covering it.

Then we had to make an excruciating bushwhack up the side through dense rhododendron to get above the waterfall and then headed back down to creek level to get to Bald Springs Falls.

This is a really cool waterfall with a lot steps.  We climbed up a little ways along the waterfall until it got to steep and overgrown with rhododendron and then bushwhack up the side.  It was just a short ways further to the last waterfall on this creek, but incredibly difficult.  We could hear the waterfall from high above, but it was very tough to get back down to creek level.  Backtracking a bit, we finally found a safe way to get back down to the base of Rain Forest Falls.

At only 15 feet, it's the smallest falls on Bald Springs Branch, but really scenic, even with much several huge trees fallen down on it.  After a couple pictures, we bushwhacked back up and found some semblance of an old logging road that we could follow back down to Fires Creek.  After crossing the creek and climbing back up to the forest road, it was just a mile back to the car.  Hiking back on the road, I spotted two trees near Fires Creek with shelf fungi growing out of them.

The one tree had purple fungi and the other had orange fungi. Back at the car, we continued driving west past Murphy and Hiwassee Dam to Appalachia Lake.  We turned on the unpaved Prospect Road and drove to the property line to park on National Forest property and made an easy bushwhack down to lake level.  From here, there was a trail following North Shoal Creek up to the beautiful North Shoal Creek Falls.

In high water, this was a really beautiful waterfall.

There were also some really nice cascades on the creek downstream of the waterfall.

After a few pictures, we headed back.  We had planned to go to Tellico Falls as well while we were way out here, but with the high water level, we knew we'd never make it so headed back towards Franklin.  As we got towards Standing Indian, we got off the highway and took FR-67 past the campground for about 6 miles to the trailhead for Mooney Falls.  After the really tough hikes today, it was nice to visit an easy waterfall. Mooney Falls is in two sections, though you can't see both from one point. 

First we went to the upper section which is a long cascade with some mountain laurels blooming near the top.

Then we went down to the lower main section, a 20-foot drop.

Throughout the area, there were a lot of mountain laurel blooming.  So before heading back to Franklin, we made a quick stop at Big Laurel Falls, just a short ways back on FR-67.  From the parking area, we got on Big Laurel Falls Trail (#29) and crossed Mooney Creek on a footbridge.

Across the creek, we turned right to stay on Big Laurel Falls Trail.  We soon entered Southern Nantahala Wilderness and followed Nantahala River upstream towards its headwaters.

The Nantahala is formed at the confluence of Big Laurel Branch, Gulf Fork, and Kilby Creek.  We followed Big Laurel Branch just a short ways to the falls.

A better name would be Big Rhodo Falls as there were no mountain laurel here, just rhododendron.  It's still a beautiful waterfall and worth the easy hike since we were in the area.

After a couple pictures, we quickly hiked back as it was getting late.  After that, we headed back to Franklin.  Since it was getting late on a Sunday, most places were closed so we had dinner at Fatz before heading back to the hotel.