Love waterfalls but feel the greatest triumph is not in visiting the biggest or the baddest, but in the search for those special hidden gems that you spend hours hiking to reach on some secluded river?
Dupont has several beautiful waterfalls that any camera toting rapids and rocks loving waterfall connoisseur can enjoy on the property. Their largest, (High Falls and Triple Falls), are easily reached from a massive, well maintained parking lot. Even their medium sized falls, (Bridal Veil and Hooker Falls), are easy hikes from the parking lot. However, there are two waterfalls that really are the hidden gems of Dupont. Wintergreen Falls is on the opposite side of the park from the big water waterfall spectaculars, and is often overlooked, (perhaps because the original trail was hiking only – this is no longer the case). Additionally, Grassy Creek Falls, on a small side trail, is also a less regarded little treasure.
So if you want Angel Falls or Niagara you’ll have to check elsewhere, but if you seek the quiet zen of sitting on a rock and eating lunch with the goats in front of an elegant plunge pool, this might be a hike for you.
Location: North side of Dupont State Forest
Is it goat approved? Yes. So long as the goat is on leash they don’t seem to care. Llama packers are also occasional vagrants to this state park so pack goats are pretty tame in comparison.
How you get there: The quietest parking lot to use to access this hike is Guion Farm Parking Area. Access it by getting on Sky Valley Road, which is on the north side of the park. This road will start off paved, then become gravel and shrink in size to just about 1.5 car widths, (this will become fun if you meet a car coming the opposite direction). Some of the bridges can be very tight as well for two cars passing at the same time, so if in doubt, do what the locals do – let the other car cross the bridge first, then you try it! Anyway, you’ll eventually see the turn off into a nice gravel lot surrounded by boulders. This is Guion Farms.
Time for hike: The distance is approximately 6.4 miles.This is mostly a loop hike.
Best season to do this hike: Any season. The Guion Farm’s parking lot is usually only mildly busy most times of the year, and the trails utilized are on the less popular side of the park. If hiking in winter be prepared for ice.
Trails to Take
Going south out of the gravel parking lot is a small dirt trail, (this is the trail that leaves from the side of the parking lot with the bulletin board with trail information). This trail leads into the woods and becomes Tarkiln Branch Road (#80 on the map). Follow this trail, ignoring any small side trails you may see come in that are not marked with big wooden brown trail signs. It will be flat, open, and easy walking.
You will reach an intersection with Wintergreen Falls Trail (#91). Not surprisingly, this is the trail you want because it goes to Wintergreen Falls. Walk down this trail, and you’ll come up to a horse tie out, (a rope between two trees with metal rings in it). If you don’t want to take the goats up to the waterfall, you can tie them out here. If you do, continue past the rings, climb up the boulders, and you’ll be at the foot of Wintergreen Falls, with some fun boulders to climb on!
After you’ve had your fill of rock hopping, leave the falls and take the short trail running to your left along the river. This will take you to the intersection of the short connector your on with Sandy Trail (#70) and Grassy Creek Trail (#28). There will be a water crossing to your left at this intersection, but you don’t want to cross the river. Go straight ahead on Sandy Trail along the river until it intersects with Tarkiln Branch Road (#80) again, and go left to hike down the road to Thomas Cemetery Road (#81). You will pass Thomas Cemetery, which is pretty small, but has another horse tie out to put the goats on so you can go investigate the cemetery if you want.
Just past the cemetery is the intersection with Buck Forest Road (#8). Buck Forest is like the main throughfare for the north side of the forest, so expect to see lots of people on this one. Buck Forest will eventually appear to dead end into another gravel road when you are walking on it, BUT the map is set up so that this “other road” is actually Lake Imaging Road (#45) coming in on your right, and Buck Forest “turns” and goes over the bridge you’ll see to your left. These two “roads” both make up the “other road” you’ve just dead ended into. You want to turn right on the “other road” and this will technically be Lake Imaging Road. Almost immediately after doing this there will be a small trail to your left. This is #27, Grassy Creek Falls Trail. This leads down to the second waterfall!
The trail down to the second waterfall is tight and can be thick with people if you come during a popular time, so don’t leave the goats up at the horse tie out or they’ll get mugged, but wait till some people clear out before trying to go down. On non-popular days, (i.e. not in the summer or memorial day), however, there are few people to deal with here.
Once you’re done, get back on Buck Forest Road, and take it all the way back to the Guion Farms parking area!
- Mountain bikers are the primary obstacle in the park, often traveling in large strung out groups. Guion Farm’s parking lot is the major parking area for bikers so there will be a lot around on this hike.
- Unofficial park rangers, (well, technically safety volunteers), may be present in the more popular areas of the park near the covered bridge. If you need help you might be happy to see these guys. If you don’t, (which is most of the time), then you might want to walk the other direction or you’ll end up having your picture taken.
- Watch out for trail closures due to logging in the forest. They do a good job of keeping the website updated on trail closures.
- This probably is obvious – but goats only work on horse tie outs when horses are not on them.
In sum: Enjoy a waterfall while attaining enlightenment through contemplating one of the most enduring koans to make it to the west:
“What is the sound of one goat hoof clapping?”