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Waterfall Tour in Brevard

posted Mar 13, 2013, 7:06 AM by Justin P
This past weekend, we headed out to the Brevard area for a couples' weekend of camping, hiking, and waterfalls!  We drove up on Friday night and camped out in Pisgah National Forest in the Avery Creek roadside campgrounds near Davidson River campground.  Saturday morning, we woke up and started our waterfall adventure with Looking Glass Falls, just up the road from our campground.  This one is right along the side of the road with a few stairs leading down to a viewing area at the base of the falls.  As such, it is one of the most popular waterfalls in the area, but there wasn't a crowd when we arrived while it was still early (and quite cold) in the morning.  After a few photos, we continued on, heading down US-64 past Brevard towards Rosman and turned onto NC-215.  Our next stop was the Living Waters Ministry, about 7.5 miles up NC-215 for two more waterfalls.  These waterfalls are on private property, but the people at the ministry are kind enough to allow public access to the waterfalls.  Heading down the short trail, we immediately came upon the first waterfall (or two depending on how you look at it).  Here, the Shoal Creek and the North Fork of the French Broad River meet up just behind an old mill, with a pretty waterfall on each.  From here, a short quarter-mile trail leads downstream to Bird Rock Falls, which is a smaller waterfall, but within a beautiful setting of a giant rock outctop over the falls.  We stopped here again for a bit and then headed back.  Along the way, I noticed several smaller cascades along the creek between the falls, but it was hard to get out and get a good picture through all trees.  Our next stop was at Toxaway Falls.  We pulled over at the bridge on US-264 and stopped for a few pictures of the falls from above.  The river flows from Lake Toxaway under US-64 and down the bedrock as it continues into Gorges State Park.  A major flood in the early 20th century swept past the dam and washed away much of the vegetation leaving exposed bedrock where the river flows downstream.  Although it's not possible to get a good picture from the road above the falls, the colorful bedrock was very pretty.  Another time, I'd like to try and hike down to get a better view of the falls.  The west side of the river is private condos with no public access, but the east side is part of Gorges State Park and as such, its possible to bushwhack down and get a better view.

Next, we headed to Gorges State Park to see some of the waterfalls along the Horsepasture River.  From the Grassy Ridge Access area, we hiked down the Rainbow Falls Trail heading out of the park and into Pisgah National Forest.  Our first stop was at Rainbow Falls, perhaps one of the most beautiful waterfalls in North Carolina.  Casey and I had been here several times before, but Sandy and the others had not.  It's always fun to see the look on people's faces when they see the waterfall for the first time.  The water level was higher than I'm used to seeing in the summer and the waterfall was much more powerful.  The area below the falls where I have swam in the past was being pounded with falling water and swimming would have been impossible even if the water was warm enough.  Even up on the trail, we were getting wet from the spray, so we didn't go down any closer.  Next, we headed up to Turtleback Falls, which was also more powerful than usual.  It was also unusual to see no one there.  I've only been here in the summer and there's always a big crowd of people water-sliding down Turtleback.  We stopped just upstream of the falls and had lunch.  Next we headed upstream just a short ways further to the end of the National Forest land for a view of Drift Falls.  This waterfall is on private property and no trespassing is actively enforced.  But with the foliage down and a telephoto lens, I was able to get some good shots while staying on National Forest property.  Then we turned around and headed back.  On the way back, we stopped at two more smaller falls along the Horsepasture River.  Hidden Falls is a small waterfall just downstream of Rainbow Falls.  It's not real impressive, but makes for a nice swim hole.  Surprisingly, there was actually someone swimming here.  Then we headed down to Stairway Falls.  I've seen this one before in the summer when the water levels are lower.  But today, with the water up, it looked much more like a stairway.  Then we headed back to the parking area and made a quick stop at the new Visitor Center for Gorges State Park.  Leaving the park and heading towards South Carolina on NC-281, we stopped at a pullout just past the Thompson River and headed down to see White Owl Falls, a small but very pretty waterfall.  Then we headed to our last waterfall for the day; and the biggest.  Just before the South Carolina state line, we stopped at the Whitewater Falls day-use area.  At 411 feet, Upper Whitewater Falls is the highest in North Carolina and the eastern US.  Walking down the paved trail to the first overlook, there was a great view of Lake Jocassee to the south.  We stopped at the upper overlook then headed down the stairs to the lower overlook, which has the best views of the falls.  Actually, climbing down just below the overlook and out on some rocks provided the best views.  After a few pictures we headed back to the cars as the sun was beginning to set.  On the way back to the campsite, we stopped at Hawg Wild BBQ just before entering Pisgah National Forest for dinner.

Sunday morning, we woke up later than expected due to the start of Daylight Saving Time.  We broke camp and headed towards DuPont State Forest, stopping on the way at Connestee Falls.  Unfortunately, due to development, it's not possible to get a good view of the falls.  Although there is a "park" at the real estate office, the only view is from the top of the falls, which makes it difficult to see.  To get a good view, one would need to live in or know someone who lives in the Connestee Falls development.  After a few minutes, we continued on to DuPont and parked in the High Falls Access area.  Heading downt Buck Forest Road, we turned left on High Falls Trail and stopped for a minute at the overlook to see the falls.  Then we continued down the trail to where it meets up with Triple Falls Trail and stopped at the overlook where we had a good view of the three falls.  Climbing up some rocks, we were able to get the best pictures of all three falls.  Then we headed down and climbed out onto the rocks and stopped for a short lunch break and to take some photos.  Heading back, we stopped again at High Falls and followed an old trail down to the base of the falls to get a close up view of the power of the falls.  Then, we took the Covered Bridge Trail for yet another view of High Falls from above.  There were some people riding horses here, also crossing the bridge after the horses stopped for a drink in the river.  Across the bridge, we hiked down Conservation Road, crossing the Lake Julia Spillway before turning on Bridal Veil Falls Road.  Reaching Bridal Veil Falls, we climbed towards the top of the exposed rock to where we could crawl behind the falls.  Near the top, almost all of the rock was covered in water and very slippery, so we took a trail through the woods to safely reach the top.  Several other people weren't so smart and tried walking up the wet rock, nearly falling.  One woman said "I'll dry off if I fall."  Yes, but broken bones will take a while to heal!  We crawled behind the falls and went to the other side, and then headed back.  On our way out of DuPont, we stopped just outside the forest to see Shoal Creek Falls, a very pretty roadside waterfall.  One more waterfall, before making the long drive back to Raleigh.