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Waterfalls in Gorges/Lake Toxaway

posted Mar 21, 2013, 7:16 AM by Justin P   [ updated Mar 21, 2013, 7:17 AM ]
Last weekend, we headed back to the Brevard area for another weekend of waterfall hunting.  I met up with Casey and LeAnna right after work and we drove out to Brevard, arriving just after sunset.  We set up camp at another roadside camping area in Pisgah National Forest, this time along Catheys Creek (KC4), just past the road to Kuykendall group campground.  Saturday morning, we woke up and headed out towards Gorges State Park, stopping along the way at Catheys Creek Falls.  This one is right along the side of the road (FR 471) not far from our camping spot.  We didn't see the trail leading down the falls and ended up bushwacking to get down.  LeAnna gave up and went back to the car, but Casey and I continued on, stopping for a few minutes to take some pictures and then taking the actual trail back up to the road.  Then we headed into Gorges at the Grassy Creek Access area.  From the Rainbow Falls parking area, we drove along the Chestnut Mountain Road to Auger Hole Trail.  Casey has his 4X4 Jeep - the only way we could drive along Chestnut Mountain Road.  This is a very steep and bumpy gravel road that requires a 4X4 with at least 8 inches of clearance.  We parked where the road intersects Augur Hole Trail and started hiking up the trail.  It's more of an old logging road than a trail, but is limited to non-motor vehicle traffic. After a short while, we had a stream crossing at Bearwallow Creek.  Heading upstream just a bit, we saw a couple of pretty cascades along the creek, and then went back to the trail and continued.  A little further, we had another stream crossing at Toxaway River and then got ready for our first falls in the park.  From the trail, it was a very difficult bushwack down a steep ridge to Chub Line Falls.  Part way down, LeAnne slipped and slid 10 or so feet, catching herself on a down tree.  I tried to go out and help, but slid too, crashing into her!  Luckily, we were both able to catch ourselves on the down tree.  A fall into Chub Line Falls would be fatal for sure.  This waterfall got its name from the fact that it marked how far chub minnows are able to swim up the Toxaway River.  Pretty impressive that they can get this far and looking at the falls, it is understandable why they couldn't go further.  Although not terribly big, the waterfall was extremely powerful.  The Toxaway River is routed through a narrow opening and flows with great force.  Unforuntately, it wasn't possible to get below the falls and get a great picture of the whole falls - just a couple looking down from the top of the falls.  We made the difficult climb back up to Augur Hole Trail and continued on for a ways.  Our next two waterfalls are at the confluence of Maple Spring Branch and Augur Fork Creek.  Although there was marking tape and a very faint trail where people had walked before, the trail down to these falls was another challenging bushwack.  Once at the bottom, it was a very beautiful site - two very tall waterfalls plunging down cliffs to join together and flow into the Toxaway River.  We climbed a bit up the waterfall on Maple Spring Branch and ate lunch while enjoying the beautiful waterfalls and jungle landscape.  It was just amazing to be looking at one waterfall and turn around and see another one.  When we were finished, we slowly made our way back up the trail and headed back towards the jeep.  After crossing Toxaway River, we stopped for the highlight of the day - Lower Bearwallow Falls.  Leaving the trail and hiking a short way along a ridge, some marking tape indicated a steep decent down into a beautiful clearing at the base of the falls.  I think this could be my favorite waterfall in North Carolina - it was absolutely beautiful.  We spent some time snapping pictures and enjoying the scene, then made one last bushwack up to the trail and headed back to the jeep.  Leaving Gorges, we stopped in Brevard at the Twin Dragons Chine Buffet and had dinner before making our way back to camp.

Sunday morning, we packed up camp and stopped at Catheys Creek Falls again, this at the actual trail, so LeAnna could go down and see the falls.  Then we headed to past Lake Toxaway on NC-281 to the "Little Canada" area.  From NC-281, we turned on Charley's Creek Road and drove a short ways to a pulloff on the side of the road.  Although Casey indicated that there had been some type of "trail" here, we couldn't see anything that even resembled a trail and so started bushwacking down.  When we had almost reached the bottom, we could see that there was some rope buried under the leaves.  So there was actually a "trail" here; it was just hard to see any signs of it, since they were buried.  Arriving along Sol's Creek, we headed upstream just a bit to reach the Upper Waterfall on Sol's Creek.  With the large number of rhododendron along the shore, even hiking up along the creek was challenging.  I had worn a leprechaun hat to celebrate St. Patrick's Day and planned to wear it all day, but with constantly ducking under trees, rocks, and branches, I decided it was too much trouble and took the hat off.  At one point, I tried to climb up a steep section and realized I might fall here.  So I let LeAnna get ahead of me, so I wouldn't crash into her again.  And sure enough, following her up this part, I slipped and fell back down.  But I made it on the second try, and shortly thereafter made it to the falls.  This was a very pretty waterfall, probably over 50 feet for the main drop.  And it's possible to climb up on the rocks and get close to the side of the falls.  I put the leprechaun hat back on for a shot with the falls and then we made our way back.  Climbing back up the mountain was a little easier using the ropes.  Knowing they were under the leaves made them easier to find.  From here, we drove back to NC-281 and headed back towards Lake Toxaway, making a turn on Rock Bridge Road, an old gravel road that leads into Nantahala National Forest.  The road dead-ended at Flat Creek and we began hiking from here.  We immediately had to cross a creek - there were a couple old logs to walk across the creek, but I opted to wade across, since the logs didn't look very stable.  The trail followed an old logging road for a bit, then ducked onto a very primitive trail through dense rhododendrons.  After a bit, it came back out on a logging road and started gradually heading downward until there were a couple of switchbacks leading down to Flat Creek.  We had two more stream crossings before getting close to the falls.  Through the trees, we could see Flat Creek Falls in the distance.  Unfortunately, it was not possible to get close enough for a good view of the falls.  The water level was much higher and rock-hopping would not have been safe.  I tried wading up the creek as far as I could go, but had to stop when I reached a cascade.  So despite the effort, we weren't able to really see Flat Creek Falls, which is an exceptionally beautiful falls.  After a few frustrating minutes of trying to figure out a safe way to go further upstream, we gave up and started making the trip back.  The uphill portions of the logging road were a little tough after all the hiking and bushwacking this weekend, but we finally made it back to the jeep and began the long ride back home to Raleigh.