Trail Blog

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! 

Advertisements

NORTH CAROLINA: The Back Way into the North Carolina Arboretum

If you like to be cheap you can walk into the North Carolina Arboretum from Lake Powatan for FREE. Yes, I did say FREE. It’s only about 4 miles round trip, so strap on some hiking boots and go check out Asheville’s world class arboretum without spending a dime – just a few calories. 

Is it goat approved? Not in the arboretum portion as they don’t take kindly to critters nibbling their plants. 

How you get there: Park just before Hard Times Trail head at 35.488179, -82.623145. This is a paved pull off, the connector trail goes off down the power lines. 

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is about 4 mi out and back total if you go to the main building at the arboretum and out to Lake Powatan then back to the car. The entire route is pretty much flat, and much of it runs in the bottom land next to the stream/lake. 

Best season to do this hike: Year around. While a decade ago this back way in was pretty much unknown, today it is very popular not just with mountain bikers (who have always frequented the area around Lake Powatan) but also hikers and the casual 3 year old cruising down the dirt trail on tricycles and pink sneakers. You will have company no matter when you go, so just wait for stuff to be in bloom or covered in Christmas lights at the arboretum.


Trails to Take

Starting off at the parking area, following the powerlines into the woods. Ignore Hard Times Connector Trail – just follow your little unofficial trail till it dead ends into a large, flat trail running along the creek. Go left to go the arboretum, or right to go to Lake Powatan. The route is flat, following the creek until you get to the big metal gate that separates Lake Powatan from the North Carolina Arboretum property. The gate closes promptly at 5pm so make it back out before then because the fence is tall and would be annoying to climb. 

The gate into the arboretum

The route continues until you come up on a sign and a trail running gently up hill towards the greenhouses. You want to go this way, either on the Carolina Mountain’s trail, or up the gravel road, (they both go the same place). You will pass a small childrens garden and the greenhouses are up on the hill. The greenhouses are no longer open – they are used for production. However, you can see inside the greenhouse through the big glass windows – they have some interesting plants usually on display. During the winter in the shade houses out behind the greenhouse you will find the majority of the arboretum’s bonsai collection. The rest of the year they are on display in the bonsai garden, but here, in the back stage area of the arboretum, they have a beauty all their own. 

From the green house take the trail that leads out of the greenhouse’s main parking area (think this is more of Carolina Mountains Trail). It will wind out through the woods on a picturesque, main trail and take you up to the main original building of the arboretum and the main gardens. Explore, enjoy, remember to stop by the gift shop and spend your money on something more meaningful than admission, then head back the way you came, satisfied in the knowledge you had a fun day out on the cheap. 

Chill’in at the arboretum Christmas event

Once you return to where you started, instead of going back up the powerlines, go straight ahead, in a few minutes you will pass a stone lined chute, the dam, and finally the picturesque and wintry lake Powatan under the steel grey sky. 

Lake Powatan
Chute down from the dam
Lake Powatan Dam

Then go home. Cause that’s about it on the interesting stuff for this hike. 


TRAIL MAP

Generally, its a straight line from Lake Powatan along the creek to the arboretum

BE WARNED

  1. Not a lot of parking.
  2. Tends to be popular.
  3. The gate out of the arboretum closes at EXACTLY 5pm. Don’t be caught on the wrong side – climbing the fence would be pretty hard. 

In sum: 

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).

20181111_104607
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

Untitled

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.

 

 

 

NORTH CAROLINA: Looking Glass Rock Trail in Pisgah National Forest

A kid/dog/lazy person friendly hike up Looking Glass Rock Trail is a great way to see it all without actually, you know, doing it all. The trail winds up on a series of moderate switch backs, past some nice rock faces, and dead ends at a spectacular summit frequented by rock climbers and photographers. For those interested in tacking on a little additional mileage to this 6.2 mi roundtrip out and back, the nearby Slick Rock Falls Trail (#117) and Sunwall Trail (#601) provide additional ways to enjoy this popular tourist hike.

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

How you get there: Google Davidson River Campground in Brevard, NC. When you reach the turn for the campground, keep going. The road will fork sharply just after crossing a bridge. You want to go left here, and the trail head is on your right a few miles ahead. If you miss the fork you will unfortunately pass the heavily trafficked Looking Glass Falls, at which point, once you wade through the RVs and the minivans, you need to turn around and try again.

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is about 6.2 mi out and back to the summitThe trail varies from flat to moderately steep inclines/switchbacks.

Best season to do this hike: Year around. However, in the best weather you will have the hardest time finding a place to park!


Trails to Take

The trail head is obvious, well marked, and frankly, has a big freaking paved parking area and a huge sign. You can’t miss it.

20180930_073937

The trail begins behind the sign, climbing first through foggy morning forest frequented with tended hemlock groves and hardwoods. The first switch back is just the start of the climb – the next 2 miles will be a continual steady progression up a series of switch backs until you reach the summit. At the summit the rock faces begin to appear. Keep an eye on those to the left side of the trail. One of these is the emergency helicopter landing location for air lifting out injured hikers who got a little too up close and personal with gravity. It contains some old carvings on the rock from some semi-historical destroyers of natural beauty too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The trail dead ends at the final rock face of Looking Glass Rock, which has an impressive view when the weather is clear, and an eerie one as we enter the seasons of fog in the southern Appalachians.

20180930_091416


TRAIL MAP

20181002_122416

BE WARNED

  1. Come early as the parking fills up quickly and back in.
  2. The final cliff face is misleading – it is a sheer drop off, and that is NOT obvious if the fog is thick. Stay to the tree line or enjoy testing gravity the hard way.
  3. There are supposedly Peregrine Falcons that nest on the rock face. This may cause the trail to be closed or have limited access during nesting.

In sum: 

Mediation on the mountainside is the  perfect way to start a Sunday.

20180930_091707

 

 

SOUTH CAROLINA: The Paris Mountain 10 Mile

Paris Mountain is a small park near Greenville, SC that contains some day worthy mileage. Originally the site of the water reservoirs that fed Greenville in the 1800s, during the Depression the lower reservoir was converted into a swimming hole and the surrounding acreage into a state park. The park contains plenty of picture worthy Civilian Conservation Corps “parktecture” along with the ruins of a fire tower watch station and the original dam and workings of the 1800s water supply system. All of which is fully explorable and enjoyable.

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

How you get there: Google Paris Mountain State Park. To do the 10 mile hike you need to park at the very first parking area you come to, just past the entrance gate on your right above the first lake. There is a $5 entry fee per person to the park, cash only if you come early.

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is about 10 miles round trip in a loop. The trail varies from flat to moderately steep inclines.

Best season to do this hike: Year around. I did this hike in 94f and wasn’t super uncomfortable. For a relaxing weekend overnight, consider getting one of the primitive hike in only campsites on Reservoir #3.


Trails to Take

Start off in the first parking area you reach on your right after you pass the entry gate. This parking area is in front of a big picnic area above Lake Placid. Go down the hill from the parking area to the pedestrian bridge in the woods. This puts you on Lake Placid Trail. From here, follow the trail through a series of picnic areas to the main park office and swimming beach.

20180624_083634
Pedestrian Bridge

Past the park office join up with Mountain Creek Trail (orange blaze), crossing a bridge that goes over a picturesque swamp at the end of Lake Placid. Beyond the bridge lies an old amphitheater where Strom Thurmond (if you are from South Carolina you will know the name) did speeches in the 1950s. Continue on Mountain Creek Trail for 1.3 miles until it intersects with Sulphur Springs.

Stay on Sulphur Springs for about a mile, climbing up a pine tree covered and very hot hillside. The trail levels at the top, then descends down to the park road and a small parking area perched on a ridge line. This downhill is a good spot to find half-dead mountain bikers pushing their steel steeds uphill  in a Sisyphis-like attempt to reach the far side. At the parking lot you want to go straight ahead on Brissy Ridge Trail, NOT down to the right of the parking lot. Brissy Ridge wanders off through some not particularly exciting woodland, eventually meeting up with Pipsissewa Trail.

20180624_111918
Reservoir 3

Pipsissewa Trail is a bit misleading because it descends BELOW the actual level of Reservoir 3, then climbs back up to it, terminating at North Lake Trail. Go left on North Lake Trail to enjoy pictureseque and peaceful views of Reservoir 3, until you meet up with Kanuga Trail.

Kanuga Trail climbs up another hot, dry series of hillsides, twisting and turning past small springs, until it reaches the appropriate elevation, at which point it flattens out and runs along till you reach a well marked short cut trail that cuts across to Firetower Trail.

20180624_121538
Firetower Station Ruins

Firetower Trail does NOT have a fire tower at the end of it. It does have the building foundations of an old fire station where rangers watching for fires lived. To complete the full 10 miles of this hike you need to hike out to this station, (it’s only about 0.5 mile one way), and then come back and continue straight ahead onto Sulphur Springs (Hikers Only).

20180624_125653
Mountain Lake

Sulphur Springs (Hiker’s Only) is a steep downhill and contains the largest extant ruins and most picturesque scenery in the park per mile. The trail descends down and through a creek feeding into Mountain Lake, the original 1800s reservoir for Greenville. The path itself runs along what appears to be part of an original access road to the lake and the fire tower station. The downhill is steep, but the views at Mountain Lake and the large stone workings that form the dam of the lake are well worth the trip. At the lake dam you need to go DOWNHILL towards the interpretive sign and the stone cylinder to continue on the trail, not on the more obvious and wide road bed on the uphill side.

20180624_130135
Mountain Lake Dam

20180624_130228
Water Supply Ruins at Mountain Lake

Sulphur Springs passes an isolated gazebo in the woods, then terminates in a parking area. To return to your long lost car, cross the road on Sulphur Springs, make a right onto Mountain Creek, and follow it back out to the ranger station and along Lake Placid to the end of a great day of death marching.

 


TRAIL MAP

trail map

 

BE WARNED

  1. If you are planning to mountain bike this one be aware that trails do NOT allow mountain bikes on Saturdays and that during the remainder of the week some trails still do not allow biking. Mostly these sections are very prone to erosion or would be excessively challenging for bikers.
  2. The fire tower is not a fire tower – it is the house foundations of a keepers house, not the tower itself.

In sum: 

If you like to eat out this is the perfect hike. After 10 miles of sweat, tears, and possibly blood, you can go eat sushi, mexican, ice cream, or all 3 in Greenville in a matter of minutes.

 

 

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.

20180520_125758
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.

20180520_134228 (2)
Yellow Creek Falls

 


TRAIL MAP

20180520_121941

 

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.

20180120_102022kl
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.

20180120_103011
Lower Falls

Untitled
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.

desoto2
Just a little off the sides and it wouldn’t be so shaggy man!

 

 

 

 

GEORGIA: Brasstown Bald and Track Rock Gap Archaeological Site

Brasstown Bald is the highest point in Georgia, which makes it a pretty good place to get a good view and possibly also struck by lightning. As humans generally like to be high up and also generally forget to consider the whole lightning thing till it’s too late, there is a really cool building you can stand on the roof of at the top of Brasstown Bald. Ideally not during a thunderstorm though. For those not in to being zapped, if it is raining you can go check out the nearby Track Rock Gap Archaeological Area, which is a petroglyph site at the bottom of Brasstown Bald.

Is it goat approved? Uh. I think you can answer that one on your own.

How you get there: Google it! Brasstown Bald is the highest point in Georgia…this shouldn’t be a hard one to find. The Track Rock Gap Archaeological Area is at 34.882316, -83.878733.

20180120_114530
Parking for Brasstown Bald

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is about mile out and back at Brasstown Bald and negligible wandering around at the archaeological site. The trail runs from the parking area to the summit, and while the grade is significant the trail is paved and probably rated from even the less well made baby stroller. For a less…lame…hike try the Arkaquah Trail that runs from the Track Rock Archaeological Site to the summit of Brasstown Bald at 5.5 miles one way. and 11 mi round trip. I will be doing that on a less icy day though as I hear it has a lot of rock drop offs and I prefer not to die.

Best season to do this hike: Year around, but in the winter payment is on the honor system. However, the buildings (and bathrooms) are also closed in the winter too.


Trails to Take

BRASSTOWN BALD

The trail starts at the large parking area, (no really, this thing is huge). The trail-head is between the bathrooms as the park store in the cabins. The only spruce I have ever seen in Georgia is right next to the trail head too. The trail itself is paved and ascends rapidly through rhododendron thickets. There are benches at each switch back. Halfway up the trail cross the Wagon Trail. The Wagon Trail is actually an old wagon road constructed by convict labor. Now, the sign says it was built in the 1950s, which is contemporary with the use of convicts for really crummy construction projects in the Southeastern US. However, the sign also says that local families got together in “wagon trains” to use the road to go visit other settlements. Okay, I know this is North Georgia and all, but seriously, they had something better than buckboards as recently as the 1950s right?

Anyway, I digress. The trail continues up, crosses the road to the summit, turns and corner, and wah lah! A really awesome forestry tower comes into view. During the winter these buildings are closed, but the staircase to the roof remains open, allowing visitors to take in the 360 degree viewing platform at the top. You can see Hiawassee and Yonah Mountain from up here!

20180120_114646

TRACK ROCK GAP ARCHEOLOGICAL AREA

The archaeological area is more popular as a place to park and access Arkaquah Trail than as an archaeological site it seems like. The tiny parking area only fits about 3 cars, so you may have to park on the side of the road to go see it. The trail starts behind the forestry service sign identifying the site. It’s very short and ends at a pile of unremarkable looking rocks identified with numbers. This is the archaeological site. The petroglyphs are best viewed in glancing light like you get at sunrise or sunset because they are cut into dark, worn rock unlike their more familiar Southwestern cousins.

The petroglyphs mostly consist of animal tracks, medicine wheel like designs, and human figures, many overlapping one another as several different carvers visited the site. One boulder has jagged notches in it, theorized to be from ritualized noise making. In general, the petroglyphs are not spectacular, and the site has seen historical vandalism (two petroglyphs have been removed from one boulder), however, the fact that petroglyphs exist at all in the rainy, erosion prone and heavily populated North Georgia mountains is pretty impressive. It makes you wonder if there aren’t other sites buried in leaves and slowly eroding away under our torrential thunderstorms  somewhere.

 

BE WARNED

  1. Brasstown Bald has an entrance fee, and is a popular tourist attraction. The winter is the best time to have it to yourself.
  2. The parking area at Trap Rock Gap Archeological area can just about hold 3 cars. As it is a popular place to park to hike Arkaquah Trail it can be difficult to get a spot.

In sum: 

The say the view from the top is lonely. I say the view from the top of Georgia is really freaking cold when the wind picks up!

 

 

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.

20180120_142543
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!

20180120_141640
Blue Hole Falls

20180120_135507
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.

20180114_090228
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.

20180114_090329
From the road

20180114_090914
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.

20180114_114528
The “ice line” on the mountains from Blood Mountain – indicates the lowest elevation where nearly frozen precipitation actually manages to freeze to trees!