Upper Creek Falls – Pisgah National Forest

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Synopsis: Loop hike down into and back out of scenic Upper Creek Gorge to a beautiful 80-foot waterfall, as well as a couple of smaller ones.

Total Mileage: 1.7 miles (possibly more if you explore).

Blaze Color: Yellow/Orange; Blue/Orange ribbons

Hike Rating: Moderate to Strenuous

The Trailhead: The trailhead is located off the right side of NC Highway 181 if you’re coming from Boone, in the Jonas Ridge community. Look for the sign about 5 miles inside Pisgah National Forest, past the Brown Mountain Overlook, and just across the highway from Linville Gorge. Turn right and pull into the gravel parking area. The trailhead will be obvious. You’ll see signs for both upper and lower falls on each side of the parking area. If you like a more challenging hike, start with the upper trailhead.

The Hike: The first thing I noticed was the amount of litter in the parking area and at both trailheads. It wasn’t excessive, but the fact that it was there at all disgusted me. What part of “Leave No Trace” and “Pack In, Pack Out” don’t you understand? End of mini rant.

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For this hike, to get the full effect, my suggestion would be to start at the upper trailhead and hiking clockwise through the loop. I say this because at the trail at the base of Upper Creek Falls, there are several heard paths that make holding the main trail difficult. I wouldn’t want to get lost in this area of Pisgah (or any), especially so close to Brown Mountain. That place is creepy.

As you start out at the upper trail, you’ll notice it runs parallel to NC 181. You’ll also be struck at just how beautiful the terrain is here, if not somewhat rocky and rooty. You’ll forget you’re near a major highway for the entire hike.

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The blazes are orange and yellow, with the occasional ribbon marker. The trail descends gently down into the gorge. As you near Upper Creek, you’ll come to a wooden bridge and stairs which allows you to survey a smaller waterfall and swimming hole and get the the creek safely.

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After climbing down, the trail continues on the far side of the creek. Rock hopping is the only way to get across unless you wade. In high water, I wouldn’t attempt it. You’ll want to get pics here before continuing. The waterfall is nice, as is the view of the gorge in the opposite direction.

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Please be aware that you are standing directly above a roaring 80-foot waterfall. The rocks are smooth and slick. One slip and there’s no chance you’d live going over the lower falls. Don’t allow children to get too close. People have died here.

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As you ford the creek and climb up the other side of the bank, the trail is obvious. There is a campsite on the left. Continue down the trail ignoring all the steep herd paths off to your right. A switchback will lead you down to the base of the waterfall. It is slightly off the main trail. Again, ignore the herd paths and phantom trails. I thought it’d be relatively easy for an inexperienced hiker to get lost in this area. There are trails everywhere and not many blazes. Stay on the blazed trail and/or the obvious trail.

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Upper Creek Falls is one of the nicest waterfalls I’ve seen. It tumbles vertically over the cliff and sluices through huge boulders and further down into the gorge below. The rocks here are slick with moisture and algae, so use caution. This area makes for a great picnic and rest spot. We hiked here on a Saturday at about 2:30pm and did not encounter another hiker after leaving the smaller upper falls.

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The trail continues up and out of the gorge on the far side of the creek. You’ll either have to wade or rock hop again. In high water, I wouldn’t risk it.

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This part of the trail did not appear to be as heavily used as the upper portion. Maybe because the ascent out seems much longer than a mile.

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Numerous switchbacks will lead you past a huge boulder/overhang where rock climbers had anchored their leads. I stopped and did a little bouldering before continuing on, as a storm was threatening.

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The main trail will also carry you to the top of the boulder where you can get a dizzying winter view of the creek and gorge below.

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Follow the trail back to the parking area to complete this great hike.

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See you on the trail!

02/12/2017

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Courthouse Falls

Courthouse Falls is a relatively short and easy/moderate hike off Summey Cove Trail in the Pisgah National Forest near Asheville, North Carolina. This is a great hike for the whole family to a beautiful waterfall.

Courthouse Falls
The trailhead

We drove the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville and exited onto NC Highway 215. After driving about 7 miles, we turned left onto Forest Road (FR) 140 directly after crossing the bridge over Courthouse Creek. FR140 is single lane and unpaved and quite bumpy. After driving for 3 miles, cross the bridge and you’ll see an obvious pull-off for parking on the right.
The trailhead is located on the left side of the road. You’ll see a sign that looks like this:
The hike

Even though the hike to Courthouse Falls is relatively short (about .75 miles round trip), it does have several boggy and slick spots, so wear good shoes.

After beginning the hike, you will be on Summey Cove Trail. After hiking through a lush forest alongside Courthouse Creek, you’ll see a sign carved into a downed tree toward the falls:

After hiking a short distance, you’ll come upon a set of wooden stairs. On the day we hiked this trail (November 2013), the stairs were wet and slick and creaky. (I heard they’ve been rebuilt, but I cannot confirm this.) You’ll see the falls on your right, you can’t miss them. There is a nice resting area to take in the beauty of the falls. Courthouse Falls is 45 ft. high with a picturesque pool at its base. Courthouse Creek is known for garnet, and we found several.

Again, even though Courthouse Falls is a shorter hike, use caution on the rocks. The spray off the falls make for slick footing in places. This is a good hike for a beginner, or for families with smaller children, or simply for those who want to see a beautiful waterfall!

There are several other nice falls in the area also.

See you on the trail!

Daniel Ridge / Slick Rock Falls

I was off work this past Saturday, so on the spur my family and I decided to go do a little playing in the Pisgah National Forest. We thought our children (ages 3 and 11) would appreciate a shorter trail with waterfalls, of which Pisgah has plenty.

We settled on Slick Rock Falls and Daniel Ridge Falls. Since both of these are in close proximity, I’m going to include them as one. For fun we also took the kids to see Looking Glass Falls. I used to climb down the then-wooden steps with my son (age 11) and play in the stream at the base of the falls when he was a toddler. It was fun to share this with him again.

SLICK ROCK FALLS

The trailhead.

Enter Pisgah National Forest near Brevard at US Highway 276. Drive until you see the a split in the road at around 5 miles. You’ll veer left towards the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and the State Fish Hatchery. This is FR (Forest Road) 475. Immediately after passing the center, you’ll see FR475B on the right. Take this road. It is a one-lane unpaved road. Drive just over a mile and on the right is a pull-off for Slick Rock Falls. There will be a bulletin board and the trailhead for Slick Rock Trail. There is a “can’t miss” sign for the falls.
01The hike to the falls is less than .25 miles.

Slick Rock Falls was partially frozen on the day we visited (January 31). It was still nice. Be careful around the falls, because after all, they don’t call it “slick rock” for nothing.

04On the far side of the falls was an interesting cave. If you wish, you can also take the .75 mile trail up to the base of Slick Rock.

DANIEL RIDGE FALLS

The trail head.

Drive back onto FS475 from FS475B and go right. (If you’re already on 475 simply go straight.) Drive for 2.5 miles until you come to the Cove Creek Group Campground area. The paved road ends here. Drive onto the unpaved road until you pass a one-lane bridge over the Davidson River. There will be a parking area on the right just after the bridge. Park here. The trailhead is at the far end of the parking lot past the brown gate.

The hike.

This is an easy hike on a well-marked trail. The trail itself is a 4+ mile loop. If you hike just to the falls, it’s about .5 miles. One thing to be aware of is Daniel Ridge Loop Trail is popular with mountain bikers. We encountered several groups on our hike, but they were all courteous. You might also find it interesting that Daniel Ridge Falls goes by the names Tom’s Spring Branch Falls and Jackson Falls.

Shortly after beginning the hike, you’ll come upon a nice bridge over the Davidson River. On either side of the bridge are some nice primitive camp sites.

Shortly after the bridge, there will be a sign for the falls on the right. Follow it.

32You will ascend an easily graded trail to the base of the falls. The falls themselves are impressive by height alone at 150 feet. We stopped at the base and the kids threw stones in the creek.

We then hiked back and played and skipped rocks on the pebbled beaches of the Davidson River. The water was crystal clear and cold and we saw several trout swimming by.

Afterwards, we stopped by and checked out Looking Glass Falls (Take a left onto 276 off FS475 – can’t miss it), which is essential if you’re in the area of the Pisgah National Forest!

58Overall, this was an enjoyable little day trip. Not a ton of hardcore hiking, but being able to spend time in nature with my family and simply enjoy it was worth it. Try it sometime.

See you on the trail!