NORTH CAROLINA: Big and Little Bradley Falls

An easy hike in the Green River Game Lands off Hwy 26 just over the North Carolina line and right up the road from Saluda, this hike rewards you (usually) with just a single fall. Read on to find out why…

Is it goat approved? You could take a goat if you wanted, but the hike in is pretty short. 

How you get there: Parking is located at 35.262304, -82.284552 or you can Google “Little Bradley Falls”. There are numerous pull offs in the general area to take advantage of. 

Parking pull off

Time for hike: The trail to the little falls is visible on Google and is about 0.6 mi one way with 2 water crossings.  The trail to the big falls is placarded as hazardous, and with the river up I had to turn around at the first water crossing.  However, the trail to the big falls is scenic, and worth walking down to the ridiculous water crossing that requires swimming to cross. 

Best season to do this hike: Winter and preferably NOT in ice or after a heavy rain as the the water flow at the crossings you have to do is substantial. Significant down trees and signs of flood damage suggest this area is prone to catastrophic flooding after periods of prolonged rain and landslides. 


Trails to Take

Start off at the pull over. If you came in from Hwy 26 you want to cross over the river and the trail (RED BLAZE) goes up on the side of the mountain on the other side to your right. It is a bit hard to see the start – the trail climbs up the side of the mountain, it doesn’t run through the small flood plane at the base.  Once you are on the trail though it is easy to follow. 

Trail maintenance? Pah, we don’t have money for that!

The trail winds out through the woods. During my visit there were numerous fallen trees and significant ground subsidence and slides, probably from the heavy rain. While this area was protected, much of the route in had ice on the trees and the power lines were low over the road – visiting in winter storm advisory periods may not be advisable.

Beautiful stretches of scenic river

Anyway, the trail continues following the red blazes till you reach an intersection. The red blazes do in fact cross the stream – the trail that goes off to your left is an interesting (if covered in fallen trees) route out to more scenic and wild river. However, it doesn’t go to the falls – it appears to be the remains of an abandoned road given it’s width and the wild roses growing on it, which probably ran from the old home site at the parking area up to possibly another home site, though I turned around before reaching anything definitive. In any case, it won’t take you to the falls, go across the river to continue. 

First water crossing to Little Bradley. Don’t go left! 

You continue onwards, crossing another river and passing an old chimney stack at another home site, before ending at Little Bradley Falls at about 0.6 mi. Now turn around and head back!

Little Bradley Falls

Big Bradley Falls is on the same side of the road as the majority of the parking, and the trail begins behind a big wooden sign. It enters a wildlife opening, passing an old home site marked by periwinkle and day lilies. Follow the biggest trail through the wildlife opening and over to the mountain side.

Consolation falls before the impassable crossing to Big Bradley

The trail is wide, obvious, and  for a trail placarded as a death trap every twenty feet, surprisingly downed tree and deadfall free. There are numerous warning signs about the number of people who have died, how there are no safe viewing locations for the falls, and in general “abandon hope all ye who enter here” type signage. On this trip I didn’t even get to see the falls because the water crossing was flooded. Even when it is not flooded the center of the crossing is probably a good 4 to 5 foot deep, necessitating a swim rather than a wade. The trail continued beyond it and was well trodden, but it will have to wait for summer before I try swimming to the falls! If you happen to go in winter though, the river is beautiful, and a small consolation falls is worth a visit on this section of trail if it has recently rained. 


TRAIL MAP

Trail map – there is an unmarked trail to Big Bradley Falls

BE WARNED

  1. Not a lot of parking.
  2. Tends to be popular.
  3. You will have to cross water TWICE to reach Little Bradley Falls.
  4. Numerous signage indicates Big Bradley Falls may be a somewhat dangerous area to visit and the Forest Rangers are tired of fishing dead bodies out of the falls from people falling to their deaths. 

In sum: 

Good day out in an ice storm! 

SOUTH CAROLINA: Miuka Falls

This one is a nice beginner hike with some opportunities to bushwhack and increase the level of difficulty if you get bored easily. However, I would suggest no super small kids, gravity prone dogs, or lazy people. Also, ignore what the internet tells you – there is only 1 waterfall on this trail you don’t have to bushwhack (read: go off trail) to find, and it is not super spectacular!

Is it goat approved? Actually, I am thinking yes, and will be going back with a goat in the near future.

How you get there: Park at Cherry Hill Recreation Area (34.941790, -83.087822) and the trail head is inside the camping area and is well marked. There is also a trail head at the roadside.

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is about 7 mi out and back total if you go down to Winding Stair Campground, but to the falls it’s only about 2 miles out and backThe trail stays a continual moderate incline down a series of well made switchbacks on what was once an old gravel road bed. Very easy hiking for the terrain it covers!

Best season to do this hike: Advertised as a beginner trail, this one may be busy in summer. Winter and late Fall however, are very pleasant times to visit. Winter particularly would make the view of Miuka Falls a lot more impressive because the leaves won’t be blocking the water.


Trails to Take

The trail starts off at the Cherry Hill Recreation Area. You can park in the entrance to this campground during the off season (November till Spring) or if you come during the camping season at the trail head access just off the road. This access is just south of the entrance to the rec area.

The trail head and a part of the trail are visible on google maps as dotted lines – this can be helpful in figuring out where the trailhead is inside the camping area if you get turned around. The only area shown on google is the trail section down to Miuka Falls, NOT the full trail, which does in fact go down to Winding Stairs Rd/Winding Stairs Campground (3.5 miles one way from Cherry Rec to Winding Stairs Campground).

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Miuka Falls (the bottom can be reached by bushwhacking)

Anyway, once you find the trail its easy, obvious, and follows the old road bed down the mountain in a series of very manageable switch backs. When you start hearing water at about 1 mile in look for a left hand side trail leading off. This takes you out to an overlook of Miuka Falls – the only waterfall easily accessed from the trail.

If you decide to continue the trail continues at the same easy grade. When the switchbacks end listen for water – there are waterfalls off to the right hand side of the trail if you are willing to bushwhack to them (google has Cane Creek Falls actually marked for you!). As you continue the hike if you have time spend some of it buckwhacking out to each spot of loud water – there are numerous little cascades and falls out here, but no others will be easy access from the trail or without the usual perils of buckwhacking, like falling to your death or getting eaten by bears :).

Anyway, have fun, and don’t get eaten by bears!

SIDE NOTE: If you go slightly north of Cherry Hill Recreation Area on Hwy 107 you will see Moody Spring, which my family always said George Washington drank at (who knows if it is true). You can drink at it yourself, it’s right off the highway, but make sure the warning signs aren’t up. They put up signs if the spring tests as unsafe with too much bacteria.


TRAIL MAP

BE WARNED

  1. Not a lot of parking.
  2. Trail head is at a campground with camper septic service – could get crowded in the summer. Trail ends at another campground!
  3. Saw a kind of strange dude going up and down the trail. Not sure what was up with that. Might not be a great place to join up with strangers to hike.

In sum: 

Hiking with dogs is a great way to get pushed off rocks to your death. Hiking with goats isn’t much better.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Yellow Creek Falls

Yellow Creek Falls is a short, easy hike starting at a picnic shelter off Hwy 28 near Wahalla, SC. This is a great one for kids and fat dogs because the trail is mostly flat, it ends in a spectacular fall, and it is out and back. So let the kids run on ahead! Let the fat dog lay in the creek for a while! And take it easy on this 1.5 mile round trip hike.

Is it goat approved? No, but it is dog approved.

How you get there: Parking entrance  is at 34.804926, -83.127007 OR you can google “Yellow Fall’s Trail”. Parking is free here, unlike at the nearby Stumphouse Tunnel.

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WARNING: Parking area is smaller than it appears!

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is about 3 miles out and back. The trail is pretty easy, with a few minor creek crossings. It ends at the falls.

Best season to do this hike: Year around, but may be excessively busy during the summer and other serious tourist seasons.


Trails to Take

From the central parking area, (which lies at the main large picnic shelters and has the pit toilet), the trail runs off to your left. It is the only trail leading away from the parking area. The path crosses several pretty creek crossings, peppered with dog hobble and foam flowers. Then it descends down a series of hills, following the curve of the slope  None of the route is very challenging. The final reveal is the 3 story tall Yellow Creek Falls at the terminus of the trail. For those wanting more excitement to their day than 3 miles the nearby Issaquena Falls and Stumphouse Tunnel offer further exploration opportunities, though you will have to pay to park there.

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Yellow Creek Falls

 


TRAIL MAP

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BE WARNED

  1. Okay, there really isn’t much to warn you about this one. Except the picnic area is a little overgrown and the parking area is kind of small for the number of visitors.

In sum: 

A good trail can be judged by the number picturesque creek crossings you can find on it. This one has about 5 plus  a waterfall. It is a pretty darn good trail.

 

 

GEORGIA: Desoto Falls

Desoto Falls is named after Hernando de Soto, one of the first Europeans to visit the Southeastern United States. While taking the grand, (and very bloody), tour of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, and possibly Louisiana he apparently dropped a piece of armor near these falls, giving them their name. Whether you remember him as the guy who murdered and pillaged his way across a continent while spreading diseases that would wipe out the vast and complex Mississippian Culture or you remember him as that guy who really should have gotten a haircut before the official portrait, these are still pretty good falls to go check out.

Desoto

Is it goat approved? Nah. Busy, busy, busy.

How you get there: Google “DeSoto Falls, Georgia 30528”. The parking area is not very big (20 cars tops). It is possible this is a fee parking area, but I honestly can’t tell if the box is for campsites or for parking.

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Parking Area

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is about  mile out and back. At this time the upper falls are closed.

Best season to do this hike: Year around.


Trails to Take

Leave the parking lot in the direction of the campground area. Follow the signs, which lead through the campground area, over a bridge, annd then you can go left to the lower falls (1/2 mile) and right to the upper falls (3/4 mile). Except of course for right now when the trail to the upper falls is closed due to debris and storm damage. The lower falls is kind of small and underwhelming, but I hear the upper falls is better.

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Lower Falls

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Upper Falls (courtesy of wikipedia)

BE WARNED

  1. The upper falls trail is closed due to storm debris as of 12/2017
  2. The parking area only holds about 20 cars.

In sum: 

Seriously, what was he thinking? Hernando should have stopped at a barbershop on the way to the official expedition portraiture.

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Just a little off the sides and it wouldn’t be so shaggy man!

 

 

 

 

GEORGIA: High Shoals Falls and Blue Hole Falls

 

I generally avoid washing my truck on the principle that paying a good $10 for what the rain will do for free is kind of a waste of hard earned money that could instead be wasted on goats. This has led to many an interesting detour to drive down the forestry road that will almost certainly lead to a car ford. There aren’t as many of those in Georgia as there are in New York, but the gravel road to High Shoals Scenic Area is one such spot. A quick disclaimer though: if you drive something short and two wheel drive, this may be a pretty harrowing crossing. But cross you must if you plan to go see these waterfalls!

Is it goat approved? Actually, I would take a goat on this one, I just happened to have the dog with me this time. It is busy, but it is sort of remote, unpatrolled, and in very cold weather likely to be pretty sparse on the traffic. Warm weather watch out though!

How you get there: The parking area is at 34.815687, -83.727172. Google has it mapped as “High Shoals Trail Head”. The falls themselves are around 34.815687, -83.727172 (High Shoals Falls) and 34.821386, -83.722687 (Blue Hole Falls).

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is about miles out and back. The trail is very steep, but there are lots of switch backs and the general grade is pretty okay. Old people and small children were doing it if that gives you a better idea.

Best season to do this hike: Year around, but in the event of snow/ice the road will likely be frozen over, and after really heavy rain the car ford will only be doable in Noah’s Ark.


Trails to Take

The trail is really easy. It starts behind the parking area, descending rapidly past a trail sign. There are a series of switchbacks, and the the trail finds the valley floor. It follows a significant creek, (High Shoals Creek), crossing some bridges, then descends again. At this point the sound of waterfalls is readily apparent. The trail switch backs and is relatively well maintained.

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High Shoals Falls

Blue Hole Falls is on a short side trail that comes off unexpectedly to the left. This is a small falls with a deep swimming hole in front of it. A viewing platform has been built here. High Shoals Falls is further down the trail, and can be seen from a viewing platform at the trail’s terminus. This is a significantly sized fall that collects a lot of ice in the winter!

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Blue Hole Falls

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Trail Map

BE WARNED

  1. Google will get you killed on this one. Google likes to drop people in very scary places in the North Georgia mountains and gun ownership is pretty much universal around here. So, when Google says “Go down Moody Rd”, don’t go down Moody Rd. This is a private road that dead ends and is nearly impossible to backup on. The local population isn’t too friendly either. The road you actually want is nearby, (within 0.5 of a mile). It’s a forestry service road with a sign that says “High Shoals” and other things about WMAs.
  2. The car ford was forded by cars, Jeeps, and one very worried Ford Ranger, but I saw a Mustang refuse it. Consider the value of your car and the last time it rained before you attempt the ford.
  3. The parking area is TINY. Come early, and park off the side of the road if the parking area is full.
  4. The road up runs through a lot of shade – if it iced recently try this hike on another day.

In sum: 

Never in my life have I had to have my truck pulled back out, but it’s comforting to know that North Georgia’s Jeep fraternity is always somewhere nearby with a handy winch for the day that “car ford” turns out to be rated for jacked up Jeeps only!

 

 

GEORGIA: Helton Creek Falls

 

Looking to spice up an otherwise ordinary day hike? If you’re near Blairsville, GA take a quick swing past the roadside Helton Creek Falls on your way to bigger fare like the Appalachian Trail and Vogel State Park.

Is it goat approved? Nope. Not a good option for goats…way too busy.

How you get there: GPS your way on over to these coordinates: 34.753684, -83.894221. You park on the side of the road, and the waterfall is literally on the side of the road beneath you. The road down from Hwy 19/129/11 is gravel, but it is in good shape.

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Roadside parking

Time for hike: Pretty much no time at all. However, you can combine it with a trip to Vogel State Park, the top of Blood Mountain, Desoto Falls, or any of the other fascinating spots in the area to make it a hike instead of just a photo op.

Best season to do this hike: Year around, but the middle of summer it fills up with swimmers.


Trails to Take

There isn’t really much of one. The trail is next to the parking area, drops immediately down to the base of the falls, then climbs up the side to a small viewing platform. A hole has been cut/hacked through the side of the park service viewing platform so you can climb down, do a great job eroding the bank, and go swimming beneath the falls. I am sure the park service just loves this.

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From the road

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Upper falls with winter ice

BE WARNED

  1. There is a gravel road. So, like that prize Mustang convertible? Probably not a good option.
  2. Roadside waterfalls tend to be popular. There isn’t a lot of parking. Do the math.

 

In sum: 

Re-hiking trails you have done before when you are almost out of buffer is pretty suicidal :D.

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The “ice line” on the mountains from Blood Mountain – indicates the lowest elevation where nearly frozen precipitation actually manages to freeze to trees!

 

 

 

 

 

MICHIGAN: Tahquamenon Falls

For a trip into a living picture postcard, grab your toboggan (that’s Southern speak for a knit hat) and your snowmobile (the Northern equivalent of a four wheeler) and take a trip to the Upper Penisula of Michigan’s most accessible falls – Tahquamenon Falls.

The “fall” is actually 2 falls in one, separated by either 4 miles of snowmobile-able road or snowshoe enabled trail. This is a great day trip to get out of the house with dogs, dependents, or dad when staying inside one more second isn’t an option. Oh, and if you’re lame you can drive to both falls too.

Is it goat approved? If the goat has snowshoes maybe.

How you get there: Lower falls parking is at 46.609447, -85.205915 and Upper Falls Parking is 4 miles north at 46.579444, -85.252585. Note that at the Upper Falls the rear two parking areas in heavy snow are reserved for snowmobile parking. There are HUGE signs for each of the falls.

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Really nice signage! You can’t miss the turns!

Time for hike: You can visit both falls in about 2 hours with photo-op time if you are with adults. With kids, plan on more like 4 hours. The lower falls is a 2.5 mi round trip out and back walk from the parking area, down the closed park road, and over to the overlook. The road is unrecognizable in snowy weather. The upper falls is a 2/3 a mile walk out and back to the overlooks.

Best season to do this hike: Come in winter for a winter wonderland worthy adventure.


Trails to Take

LOWER FALLS

The parking lot is to the right as you enter. There are no actual signs for the trail to the lower fall, it is behind the closed gate. The trail is groomed, and follows the road bed that you can drive down…if you come in the summer.

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Trail is behind the gate across the snow covered road

The view is picture postcard worthy, and the trail slopes gently down, eventually reaching the lower (closed) parking lot. The path goes through the main park area, and then off to the overlooks. The ice is not generally thick enough to go out to the island because the water is moving on the river, but the near side bank overlooks are pretty good.

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The trail has rails for some portions

The lower falls itself are underwhelming if you’re used to the Appalachian waterfalls, but the unusual color of the water makes a beautiful contrast with the snow. It’s not dirty – the dark color originates from the tannins left behind by decomposing hemlock and spruce needles. The foam at the base of the falls is from the softness of the water, rather than pollution!

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Lower Falls amid snow

If you brought your snowshoes you can go from the overlooks at the lower falls up to the upper falls. The hike is 4 mi one way. Otherwise, turn around and walk the 1.25 mi back to the car.


UPPER FALLS

The upper fall is the busier of the two falls, with the parking lot packed even in winter time. The brewery is to the right as you enter, and the car parking to the left. Don’t park with the snowmobiles (unless you are one)! Park with the cars. The trail head is readily visible, and goes past the bathrooms.

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The brewery

The trail branches, and either direction leads to overlooks of the upper fall, but the right hand, farthest over look has the best views. There are 90 something steps to the “brink” at this final and best overlook, as a forestry sign puts it, but the average person will find the trip decidedly less ominous.

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Trail

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Upper Falls

BE WARNED

  1. The lower falls is payment free if no one is in the kiosk in the winter. The upper falls has a self serve kiosk, and out of state cars are $9 a piece! Ouch. Anyway, plan ahead on how you want to deal with this. In the dead of winter no one seems to be checking if you paid or not…
  2. No four wheel drive? Not a problem so long as you don’t go during snow or right after snow has fallen. They plow the roads. We did this run in a two wheel drive Nissan.
  3. If you get hungry the brewery at the upper falls (http://www.tahquamenonfallsbrewery.com/) does do lunch and dinner, but its filled with snowmobilers and has a 15% add on charge for take out! Caveat emptor! But it is open year around. For more reasonably priced fare, go to nearby Paradise, MI.

In sum: 

A perch can survive being frozen inside ice so long as the fish itself doesn’t completely freeze before the ice thaws. Fish for the FTW.
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Bull Mountain to Jone’s Creek Campground Shuttle Hike at Jake’s Mountain

So last week I found myself staring at the Jake’s Mountain trail map going “What now?”. At which point, my primal inner 3 year old was immediately drawn to one thing about half way up the center of the map. Booger Holler.

What can I say? I was intrigued.

Which begs the question – what the heck? I mean, really, that is up there on the bizarre names list and apparently it was famous enough that the Park Service actually felt compelled to include it on their official map? The internet is suspiciously silent on the subject of Booger Holler, only noting that it may once have been a moonshiner hideout. Given the seclusion of the area and the abundance of water sources it seems like a possibility. Keep an eye out for old stills, (and away from any active ones), on this easy shuttle hike through Jake’s Mountain.

Is it goat approved? They let horses wander around, so I am guessing goats are okay.

How you get there: Park here at Bull Mountain Parking Lot: 34.580633, -84.144667. The parking lot is not so much a lot as an overgrown, rutted field. I got stuck in a 2 wheel drive pickup in the rear of the field. Be careful where you park!

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is about 5 miles one way. The going is easy, but the pretty stuff is concentrated in one area near Jones Creek Campground.

Best season to do this hike: Fall and winter. The campground is fairly popular and the road will be heavily trafficked during warmer weather.


Trails to Take

Start off at Bull Mountain Parking, then head north on the blocked off road behind the trail kiosk. Continue straight until the road dead ends into a fork, then go left to get on trail 223D.

Now, 223D is going to wind off forever along the mountain side, staying mostly flat with the occasional minor incline. Easy hiking, but not so easy navigating. Three different roads veer off the trail, each one unmarked but partially blocked by a metal T. Ignore them all.

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Booger Hollar Hunt Camp Cabin located at 34.596362, -84.148022

At the final metal T the trail jumps off the now blocked old road bed and climbs into the woods becoming more trail like as it winds off through the forest. Shortly there after Booger Hollar hunt camp comes into a view. It’s a relatively nice wooden cabin with a deck contrasting with a porta-john style outhouse that has partially collapsed into the cesspit below. Essentially, it looks like every backwoods hunt camp you’ll ever find in North Georgia, but with a cabin instead of a busted down camper.

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I feel sorry for the guy using the outhouse…when it fell into the cesspit

The trail leaves the camp, circles a small decline, and then comes up on Trail 223C. Go right here and begin a steep, never ending descent to the creek. The trail switch backs several times, some of these are hard to see until you are almost passed them.

Eventually you get dumped out on, surprise, another unmarked road! The creek is now in sight, as is the car ford across it. In moderately rainy weather the ford is passable. On the far side of the creek trail 223A heads up stream, and the road bed heads off to the right. Below you and about 50 feet off the trail is a reasonably nice waterfall.

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Waterfall along one of the several large creeks in the area of the car ford

Following the road bed to the right takes you slightly up hill and then almost immediately down hill into Jones Creek Campground. Jones Creek is pretty popular, and camping with a goat could be annoying, (See Beware section). Campsites appear to be first come first serve, so if you arrive early and aren’t accompanied by hooved companions you may be able to snag a sweet spot on one of the several creeks that enter the area.

The road out of the campground (Jones Creek Rd) runs straight ahead, curving along through open woodland dotted occasionally with streams and struggling hemlock groves. The road passes over a creek, then shortly later passes through a wildlife clearing (again, no camping here), and finally meets up with Winding Stair Gap Road, the heavily trafficked gravel road you took on your way into Bull Mountain parking.

It’s at this junction that my long suffering husband gave a certain fat goat a ride back :).

map

 

BE WARNED

  1. Jones Creek Campground in VERY cold weather might be suitable for goats, however, most of the time it has a few too many yuppies to be fun. The banks of the creek, as well as all large clearings off Jones Creek Rd are marked as “no camping”. So, what to do if you actually want to camp? Camp out in the woods away from the campground, camp at the unfilled lake near Bulls Mountain Parking, or you can actually camp at the Bull Mountain Parking area if you want to talk to people a lot.
  2. Jones Creek Rd is not very small car friendly. The road to Bull Mountain Parking is okay though.

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Goat transport unit – 1 cheap plastic Walmart box and a long suffering husband’s car

 

In sum: 

When you take the fat goat for a hike, its better to underestimate his hiking ability. Or you end up with a shuttle hike instead of an out and back with camping…

 

 

Bridal Veil Falls at Dupont State Forest

While I don’t think anyone’s ever been married here, the waterfall certainly has quite a train of cascading water to go with the otherwise unassuming 4 foot drop at the top. Even better, this is the most explorable and interactive of Dupont’s available falls, and is less popular because it takes a lot more work than the main showpiece falls to reach.

Along with the waterfalls, this hike passes the horse barn, air strip, and Fawn Lake. The airstrip and barn date from a time when the current park belonged to the Dupont family and was used as a vacation retreat. The names of no longer resident horses are still on the stalls in the barn, and the old aircraft hanger and managers house still stand at the air strip. However, unlike the defunct film plant lying at the center of the park, these relics are accessible to the public, (though the managers house is now ranger housing).

Is it goat approved? Yes. I have blanket approval to hike as often as I want with goats.

How you get there: You want the Fawn Lake parking area off Reasonover Road.

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is around 4.5 miles round trip out and back. It’s pretty easy going except a serious uphill on Airstrip Trail.

Best season to do this hike: Year around.


Trails to Take

 

Start out at the parking lot. Go out to the left up Fawn Lake Road (23). This trail goes up to Fawn Lake, a small pond popular with sunbathers and swimmers. Fawn Lake Loop (22) goes behind the lake and makes a good short cut around the more popular road when the park is busy.

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Fawn Lake

Past the lake the road meets up with Conservation Road (18) on the other side of the power line cut. Conservation Road runs up to the airstrip, airplane shed (redone now as a shop), and the managers cabin. The view off the airstrip is fairly impressive, but beware as this area is extremely popular with the less polite version of the common mountain biker. The rare German mountain biker may also appear in unexpected flocks in the vicinity in nice weather.

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The airstrip

Conservation Road crosses the airstrip, descends past the workshop and the gravel pit, and then runs past Bridal Veil Falls Road (6). Turn onto Bridal Veil Falls, and no shock here…you get to go to Bridal Veil Falls. The road runs past the horse barn too.

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The horse barn

The Bridal Veil Falls Road dead ends at a turn around, then a short stretch of trail leads to a viewing platform and eventually the falls themselves. You can walk up to the upper most 4 foot fall on the rock face by climbing down some boulders.

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The 4 foot upper falls and the start of the very long cascade

The way back is via Corn Mill Shoals (19) because by midday you do NOT want to go back down Bridal Veil Falls Road – the tourist horde will be approaching. The turn for this trail is between the falls overlook and the actual gravel Bridal Veil Falls Road.

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Pools on the Bridal Veil Falls rock face sometimes have tadpoles and salamanders in them

Corn Mill Shoals will dump out on Shelter Rock Trail (67). At this point, turn left, proceed across a few creeks and listen for the screaming. The way back to the parking area is up Airstrip Trail (1), the mecca of mountain biking for the park. The crazy wheeled nutcases come screaming down the trail at regular intervals and slide to a stop at the bottom. Can you go up this on foot? Yes. Should you? Well, that depends on how relaxed you are about confrontation and how fast you (and the goat) can get out of the way. I made it to the top, so you can too! The trail itself is rather fun to walk, and it comes back up at the, no shock here, airstrip. Then you can take Conservation Road and Fawn Lake Road back to the parking lot.

TRAIL MAP

Map

BE WARNED

  1. Parking fills up fast in reasonable weather. Come early to get your pick of parking!
  2. Bridal Veil Falls is popular with tourists. Don’t get trapped by hordes of small screaming kids.
  3. Airstrip Trail is very popular with screaming mountain bikers. Don’t get run over by hordes of screaming twenty somethings on mountain bikes.
  4. When the fourth person asks if they can pet or take a picture with the goat…the correct and appropriate answer is no. Embrace it. Own the “no”. It’s not rude, it’s standing up for your red blooded American right to be left the heck alone. If you don’t, you won’t get off the trail till after dark.

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Bridal Veil Falls Overlook

 

In sum:  

Life is better in the woods. Well, in the woods with a goat.

NORTH CAROLINA: Waterfalls of the Cherokee Reservation

 

Waterfalls aren’t really what you go to Cherokee for, but if you are interested in taking in a few the most reasonably nearby ones are Soco Falls between Cherokee and Maggie Valley on Hwy 19, Mingo Falls behind the Cherokee KOA, and The Deep Creek Trilogy of Indian Falls, Tom Branch Falls, and Juney Whank Falls. All these falls are FREE to visit, open pretty much all the time, and are family and kid friendly.

Is it goat approved? The Smokey Mountains National Forest guys aren’t too big into goats I can tell you from personal experience. However, the Deep Creek Trail is partially on a horse trail, and if you are there in the winter when the tourist traffic is much lower you could probably get away with it.

 


SOCO FALLS: A Kid’s Waterfall

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Soco Falls

How you get there: 35.492680, -83.169191. The waterfalls is right off Hwy 19 between Cherokee and Maggie Valley. Parking is VERY limited and difficult because it is an unmarked heavily trafficked pull off on a bend in Hwy 19. All the warning you will get is one little sign about 0.5 miles from the pull off. This park is free and despite what it says online, there is no signage indicating that it ever closes.

Time for hike: There is a short and extremely vertical trail down to the falls. The trail itself is very worn as of my visit, making it exciting for kids, challenging for easily bored husbands, but probably not for your 90 year old grandmother or the arthritic 17 year old Labrador.

Best season to do this hike: Any time of year, but probably not in a heavy downpour as the trail is very steep.

 


MINGO FALLS: The Falls of the Vomiting Bird

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Mingo Falls

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Chinese temple worthy stairs to the falls

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Note vomiting bird. Think it has something to do with the creek name…

How you get there: 35.531855, -83.275751. The falls are right off Big Cove Rd, the epicenter of the commercial campgrounds in Cherokee. Literally, drive down Big Cove till you pass the KOA and then hang a right across the river and you are there. The parking area is small and for a tourist site the visitor level is moderate on week days. This park is free and has no signs indicating it ever closes.

Time for hike: About 15 minutes out and back. The trail is maybe 1/4 mile if that, though that section of stairs at the front is soul sucking if you slacked off all summer hiking and are out of shape. Like Buddhist temple search for enlightenment by climbing the stairway to heaven kind of sucking. This is a great trail for families being close to the campgrounds and a doable climb.

Best season to do this hike: Any time of year.


JUNEY WHANK FALLS: The Baby Falls of Deep Creek

Juney Whank falls

The least impressive of the 3 waterfalls at Deep Creek, and the second most easily accessible, (Tom Branch is 1st), it is kind of like your own little put in your pocket and take it home kind of waterfall. Not too big. Not too small. But just about right.

How you get there: Google Deep Creek Trail Head in Deep Creek, NC. Now, there is a big campground and blah blah blah at this location. How you should get to this trail head is by taking Tom Branch Rd. This brings you in the back way – less traffic and less likely to be fees/etc associated with visiting. Tom Branch is gravel as you approach the trail head, but it is passable gravel even for your minivan with the dog and six kids loaded in the back. Just follow it in, cross the one lane bridge next to the campground, and the trail head is right in front of you. The parking area is small and based on the “drop off loop” I suspect during high season for tourists it is nigh impossible to park here if you arrive after 11 am. As an interesting side note – this is the one area I saw locals hiking. And speaking Cherokee, which was pretty cool!

Time for hike: The hike to visit all the falls is a loop of about 2.5 miles in total. Juney Whank has its own loop, but frankly Tom Branch and Indian Creek are more impressive, and the trail is very easy…so just do them all. Start on Deep Creek Trail, (this trail head is to one side of the parking lot), and follow this mostly flat trail out to Tom Branch Falls, then up a slight incline along the river to Indian Creek Falls, and finally about a mile on increasing but not crazy incline to Juney Whank. Then its down hill to the parking lot.

Best season to do this hike: Any time of year.

 


TOM BRANCH: Deep Creek’s Place of Meditation

Tom Branch

Tom Branch Falls is actually across the river from the trail and has its own seating area and spot to go down and play in the river. A good area to let the kids cool off or to relax and enjoy the sound of the water.

How you get there: Google Deep Creek Trail Head in Deep Creek, NC. Now, there is a big campground and blah blah blah at this location. How you should get to this trail head is by taking Tom Branch Rd. This brings you in the back way – less traffic and less likely to be fees/etc associated with visiting. Tom Branch is gravel as you approach the trail head, but it is passable gravel even for your minivan with the dog and six kids loaded in the back. Just follow it in, cross the one lane bridge next to the campground, and the trail head is right in front of you. The parking area is small and based on the “drop off loop” I suspect during high season for tourists it is nigh impossible to park here if you arrive after 11 am. As an interesting side note – this is the one area I saw locals hiking. And speaking Cherokee, which was pretty cool!

Time for hike: The hike to visit all the falls is a loop of about 2.5 miles in total. Juney Whank has its own loop, but frankly Tom Branch and Indian Creek are more impressive, and the trail is very easy…so just do them all. Start on Deep Creek Trail, (this trail head is to one side of the parking lot), and follow this mostly flat trail out to Tom Branch Falls, then up a slight incline along the river to Indian Creek Falls, and finally about a mile on increasing but not crazy incline to Juney Whank. Then its down hill to the parking lot.

Best season to do this hike: Any time of year.


INDIAN CREEK: The Generic Waterfall of Deep Creek

Indian Creek

My husband described this as the most boring waterfall on the loop for photography. It is big, has plenty of water after a rain, and is, okay, yes, a waterfall. But beyond that…nothing too exciting. Unless your husband does crane stance when he doesn’t realize you have the camera out.

How you get there: Google Deep Creek Trail Head in Deep Creek, NC. Now, there is a big campground and blah blah blah at this location. How you should get to this trail head is by taking Tom Branch Rd. This brings you in the back way – less traffic and less likely to be fees/etc associated with visiting. Tom Branch is gravel as you approach the trail head, but it is passable gravel even for your minivan with the dog and six kids loaded in the back. Just follow it in, cross the one lane bridge next to the campground, and the trail head is right in front of you. The parking area is small and based on the “drop off loop” I suspect during high season for tourists it is nigh impossible to park here if you arrive after 11 am. As an interesting side note – this is the one area I saw locals hiking. And speaking Cherokee, which was pretty cool!

Time for hike: The hike to visit all the falls is a loop of about 2.5 miles in total. Juney Whank has its own loop, but frankly Tom Branch and Indian Creek are more impressive, and the trail is very easy…so just do them all. Start on Deep Creek Trail, (this trail head is to one side of the parking lot), and follow this mostly flat trail out to Tom Branch Falls, then up a slight incline along the river to Indian Creek Falls, and finally about a mile on increasing but not crazy incline to Juney Whank. Then its down hill to the parking lot.

Best season to do this hike: Any time of year.

map

In sum: 

If you wanted to get your hike on but you brought the kids, the dogs, the grandparents, and all the women who would rather go shopping, these are the waterfalls you can actually get them to go to before everyone goes out to shop for moccasins.