Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Waterfall Hideaway: Hays, NC


While most of the waterfalls in North Carolina are on public lands, there are a few that are on private property which makes them a little more difficult to visit.  One of these waterfalls happens to be near Stone Mountain, and is part of the property for a very nice mountain cabin rental.  Unlike most of my entries in this waterfall directory, I will not be providing directions to its location in order to protect the privacy of those who stay there.  However, I will recommend that you pay the Waterfall Hideaway website a visit and consider booking your own trip.

The waterfall itself was not impressive when my wife and I went there in late January 2011.  I was suspecting the water to be flowing a bit more forcefully from all the precipitation that we had been experiencing.  However, that was just not the case.  There was but a trickle coming down over the rocks.  The size of the falls is impressive though.  It is about 70 feet top to bottom and there are several cascades along its path.  I imagine that with proper flow this would be a very nice waterfall to photograph.

The owners of the property have done a great job in showcasing this waterfall.  It is directly behind the cabin, and there is a walkway from the back door right to the base of the falls.  It is quite literally 40 feet or so from the cabin, and you can walk it bare foot if you are so inclined.  They have a nice place to sit by the base as well as a fire pit for warmth or even marshmallows I suppose.  At night the cascade portions of the waterfall are lit so this can be enjoyed 24 hours a day.

Mountain Bungalow

The real story with the Waterfall Hideaway is the cabin itself.  It sets in a large secluded lot with no signs of life anywhere around.  The community where it was built is a gated community with a long winding gravel road.  I would recommend taking a truck or something with good ground clearance in the winter months.  While there was no snow or ice on the roads when we went, the road was very soggy and muddy.  Four wheel drive is probably recommended in inclement weather.  That was actually part of the charm of this quaint cabin, you really get the feeling you are in the middle of nowhere.

Below the cabin you will find a walkway that leads down to a well done man made pond.  This pond is stocked with fish, and has a nice picnic table where you and the family can grab a relaxing lunch.  A little further down is a hammock with another couple of chairs tucked into the woods.  Great place for a nap!  Behind the cabin there is the waterfall which is linked to the pond by a short nature trail.  As you look to the right of the waterfall, there is a continuation of the trail that winds through the trees to an elevated lookout point.  There is a table and two chairs where you can just sit and take in the beauty of the 60 mile view ahead.

While the waterfall might not be the best out there, if you enjoy seeing different cascades, you really should consider staying at the Waterfall Hideaway at least once in your life.  The experience isn't something you will soon forget.  I am planning several return trips and hope to be able to photograph the waterfall in its full grandeur at some point.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Unnamed Waterfall: NC 68, Guilford County


Falls at Guilford Mill

North Carolina has hundreds of waterfalls throughout the state, only about half of them are named, and a good many of them don't even exist unless there has been a lot of rain recently.  The waterfall featured here is unnamed as far as I'm aware and appears to be manmade.  I believe it serves as a dam for the Old Mill of Guilford which is located across the street.  For most of the year this has a steady flow of water, but nothing all that spectacular.  However, after a heavy rain it comes alive and really takes on a different character...one that is worth including in this directory.

The waterfall is located on NC 68 in Guilford County, just north of Greensboro, NC.  It is on the West side of the road, and is on private property.  You can view it from the roadway, and there is no hike needed.  There is not much here for the photographer due to a lot of ground vegetation and trees which obstruct the view.  For those that wish to get closer, you will be trespassing, and I'm not so sure that you will be able to safely get closer anyway.  The brush is quite thick, and footing is very unstable.

Even though this is not all that great of a waterfall for photography purposes, it is nice to see as you are driving down the road.  It also makes for an interesting stop when you are visiting the mill across the street.  It is the water from this waterfall that powers the wheel for this still functioning grist mill.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

MP 305, Drainage Waterfall: Blue Ridge Parkway


Rocky Runoff

It's rare that I will include a waterfall such as this one in this directory.  It does not have a name, and is not listed as a waterfall in any documentation that I have found.  However, I think that under the right circumstances this is one that is worthy of a little attention....and I think that opinion is shared by several people that I saw slam on brakes as they came passed it.  You can find this small cascading waterfall right off of the Blue Ridge Parkway near the Linn Cove Viaduct.  The exact mile marker is 305, but the cascade is a little past it, but not beyond the intersection with Hwy 221.

While you will not be able to find this waterfall for most of the year, if the conditions are right with a lot of rainfall, you will be richly rewarded from driving past this falls.  You can see it from the road, and there is sufficient shoulder room to pull off of the Parkway so you can view it up close.  I would recommend pulling off of the road to avoid any rear end collisions.  There is no trail to get to this waterfall as it is maybe 20 feet from the roadway.

The one negative to this waterfall is that there is a drainage culvert at the base that collects the water from the waterfall, as well as drainage from the roadway.  This is a necessary evil and helps to keep the Parkway safe to travel on by redirecting the water that flows on and around it during the rain.

What makes this waterfall so interesting is that it is full of sediment and minerals from the rocky face of the mountain.  This introduces a wonderful brown tint to the water which really is an eye catcher.  There is very little interest in the base of this waterfall, so those that choose to photograph it might have a difficult time composing something other than a frame filling shot. That is ok though because there is a lot of visual interest just in the patterns of the water itself.

While this is not a named waterfall, and will likely not even be visible for much of the year, if you happen to be around the area of Rough Ridge and the Linn Cove Viaduct this is worth looking for.  There are many of these little falls sporadically placed along the Parkway, but this one is the best one that I have seen.  It does need lots of recent rains, and will likely only be active for a few days here and there.

Upper Creek Falls: Pisgah National Forest


Complications

The Pisgah National Forest is home to many waterfalls, named and unnamed.  There are some that are officially part of the national forest, but are credited with being in the Grandfather Mountain District.  The Upper Creek Falls is one of those waterfalls that falls under the Grandfather Mountain Ranger District.  I have finally started to explore these waterfalls based on the descriptions from Kevin Adams' Waterfalls of North Carolina.

You can find the waterfall actually quite easily.  Since most will be coming from the Blue Ridge Parkway I will describe it from here.  You will exit the Parkway at milepost 312 which will take you to NC 181.  You will head South for a distance of 5.6 miles and will look for a gravel drive on the left with a Pisgah National Forest sign at the entrance.  This will be right at mile marker 22.  The sign will say "Upper Creek Falls".  Follow the driveway to the gravel lot where you can park.  There are two different  trail heads from this parking lot which are labeled "Upper Falls" and "Lower Falls".  Most will want to take the trail to the North which will take you to the upper cascades and the main falls.  This is actually a loop trail so you will see the same sights no matter which side you choose to take.

At less than half a mile down a fairly easy trail you will come to the upper cascades, and the top of the main falls.  As of the time of this writing this is as far as I have gotten here due to really bad weather conditions.  I will add more later when I actually finish the hike.  The upper cascades, however, are well worth the trip just on their own.  It is an unnamed waterfall, and is just considered a part of the Upper Creek Falls.  It is not very tall, but there is a lot of white water action as the water spills down over the boulders.  There is a pretty good sized pool there that apparently is popular with swimmers and sunbathers in the summer months.  Kevin says that if you don't want to be around a lot of people, then you should go early in the morning or in the cooler months.

To continue down the trail you will need to pass through the water by either wading or rock hopping.  My choice would have been to rock hop, but on this first trip, it was raining and the rocks were very slick.  It just wasn't worth it to me to continue on this day.  Speaking of slick rocks, you can also see the top of the main falls from the upper cascades.  There are some flat rocks that look like you might be able to step on them, but due to the location and the steep drop, I would not recommend doing this.


An Autumn Rain

As you can see from the photo above, even the top of the falls is quite picturesque.  I'm looking forward to returning to actually see the falls from the base so I can really soak in what this waterfall has to offer.  According to Kevin, the Pisgah National Forest Map has this waterfall on their cover.  I believe it is a waterslide, but with a near vertical drop which might make for a very interesting sight.

As far as photography is concerned, I can't speak for the main falls yet, but there is an open canopy over everything which will make sky conditions very important.  I would recommend an overcast day in order to avoid exposure hot spots.  There could be compositions that could benefit from a nice blue sky, but I'm afraid that it would be very difficult to balance out the exposure without using some digital trickery such as HDR Photography.

Friday, March 27, 2009

High Shoals Falls: South Mountains State Park

High Shoals Falls

South Mountains State Park is located in Connelly Springs, NC, just West of Hickory. This is a very large, and recently remodeled park here in NC. It includes elevations up to 3,000 feet, 40 miles of trails, activities such as camping, fishing, and even horseback riding. However, what brought me to the park was the 80 foot waterfall, known as High Shoals Falls. I had read about this waterfall in Kevin Adams' book North Carolina Waterfalls. While I was a little skeptical about the photographic potential of this waterfall, I knew that it was one that needed to be added to this directory.

Finding the park is easy enough, and complete directions can be found at the official website. I was able to locate the park with no problem following Kevin's directions. From I-40 (near Morganton), you will exit on Exit 105 which is NC 18. You will travel South on this road for approximately 10.7 miles where you will turn right onto Sugar Loaf Rd (SR 1913). You will stay on this road for about four miles until Sugar Loaf Rd ends at Old NC 18. Here you will turn left and continue on for about two and a half miles where you will turn right onto Ward Rd (SR 1901). After 1.3 miles you will come to a fork in the road just past the bridge over Jacob Fork. Take the right fork, which will lead you to the park's entrance after about a mile. The nice thing about this trip is that there are plenty of signs to point you in the right direction from I-40. You actually don't even need directions to get to this park as long as take the right exit from the highway.

Once in the park, you will pass the new visitor's center on the right. I would recommend that you stop and pick up a map of the park, although the trails are well marked. The map contains general information about South Mountains State Park, and provides plenty of information about what is available to you within the property. As you continue down the main road, you will pass camping areas, and equestrian areas. You will stay on the road until it ends in a circular parking lot. As you are locating a parking place, you will see that each of the trail heads are marked with what trails are accessed at those points, as well as distances for the hikes. At the time of this writing, I have only taken one trail, and that is the last trail head that you come to which is labeled High Shoals Falls Trail, 1.0 miles.

You will almost immediately notice that this trail is very well maintained. It is manicured, and has benches at various points. There are also wooden overlooks which can be used to view Jacob Fork River. There are plenty of displays set up to explain things like the difference between Mountain Laurel and Rhododendrons, and what Hemlock is. Like I said, this is a very nice trail, but it is a bit of a love/hate relationship. I personally enjoy trails that are left in their natural state so you don't see the impact of man on the environment. However, there have been many times that I have accidentally wondered off-trail because of the lack of maintenance. There are only a few tricky areas to this trail, and most of that is where you are going over rock, and there just isn't much that can be done to mark the trail.

The trail to the waterfall pretty much ends at a very steep staircase that will take a bit of effort to climb. Had it not been for the stairs at the end, this trail would have rated a moderate at worst difficulty rating. The stair climb, however, elevates this trail to strenuous...but it is only for a short time. Once at the mid point on the stairs, you are at the viewing level for the High Shoals Falls. Again the love/hate relationship pops up again. The observation deck is wonderfully constructed, and allows visitors to get close enough to this large waterfall to feel the spray. I imagine that this would be very refreshing to hikers after the climb. However, the observation deck makes it nearly impossible to photograph the waterfall without including at least the railing.
Jacob Fork River

While the main attraction is a bit of a disappointment to me as a photographer, the hike along the Jacob Fork more than makes the trip worth it. There are more cascades along this river than I have seen in most parks. If you are making the trip for the purpose of photography, don't feel guilty about spending some time working these areas. I think that you will find that there are many more possibilities for great images in the river than there are at the waterfall. To be fair, on this particular visit, it was starting to rain pretty heavily which forced me to call it a day before I would have normally. I might have missed a composition or two in the rush.

I will say this...I think that the best compositions are to be had beyond the overlook on several of the boulders near the base. I can see that it would be possible to get to these locations, but with the wet conditions from the rain, I just didn't feel comfortable attempting it. There have been photographers that have fallen to their deaths trying to get a good shot of this waterfall in the past. Honestly, while a very large and powerful waterfall, I don't think that this is a particularly pretty waterfall....definitely not worth getting hurt in order to photograph it. Kevin gives this waterfall a beauty rating, as well as a photo rating of 7. Maybe it was just the conditions on this day, but I would have rated it much lower.

I imagine that during the warmer months, this park is filled sun-up to sun-down. If you want to have a little peace and quiet to enjoy this waterfall, I would suggest going early in the morning, or in the off season. Even in the rain with 50 degree temperatures, I ran into a total of five other hikers which really surprised me. On a pretty day, I can just imagine how many people can be found on the trails.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Elk River Falls, Pisgah National Forest

Elk Creek Falls

Located in the far Western part of North Carolina, Elk Park is almost in Tennessee, to the Northwest of Grandfather Mountain. This is a popular destination for not only the locals in the area, but also for the college kids at the various colleges in the Western part of the state. The waterfall is very easy to find as it is located pretty close to main roads. The directions that I had all seemed to start from the intersection of NC 194 and US 19E, which seemed easy enough, but I had no idea where that was. I'll start my directions in Boone, NC which is a standard location for this part of the state.

From the town of Boone, you need to take Hwy 105 South toward Blowing Rock. You can access this road from either US 421 or US 321. It is a nice little drive through Foscoe and Seven Devils. You will turn right on US 221 which will change into NC 181 going toward Newland. Right before you get to Newland, you will take a right on NC 194 and go North. The junction with US 19E is a little confusing because your inclination will be to turn left, but you need to continue straight as this road actually becomes US 19E going to Elk Park. There will be a very short street to the right leading to Elk Park that is right before you get to the fire station. You need to turn right, and take an immediate left onto Old Mill Road. You will stay on this road for about four miles when it dead ends in a gravel loop in the Pisgah National Forest.

The trail is very simple, and goes straight from the parking area to the waterfall. There is access points at the top of the falls, but the real sight is a bit lower down. the total trail length is about 0.1 of a mile, and is easy to hike. Do keep in mind that people have died at this waterfall recently, and there are a lot of hazards associated with waterfalls to keep in mind. I am told that one of the pastimes at this waterfall is jumping from the top into the deep pool of water below. This is a tall waterfall at 85 feet (Kevin Adams cites 50 feet) according to most sources so be very careful if you insist on jumping.

For those interested in photographing this waterfall, you will find that it has some unique challenges. The first one is trying to compose with the sky not in the frame. This can only be done from the right side, since as you move to the left there is nothing to block the sky from your field of view. There is a nice long rocky barrier in place that can be walked across with relative ease. There are boulders and some cascades between yet another barrier wall. If you are willing to get wet, there will likely be some interesting compositions using the rocks, but I chose to hug the right side of the falls and use the woods as a backdrop to avoid having the sky in my images.
Tree Topper

However, this is one of the few waterfalls that does photograph well in the sun. It is advisable to use a graduated neutral density filter when incorporating the sky in your compositions to keep the exposures to a tolerable level. Early morning is said to be a good time to photograph this waterfall, but I'm thinking that late evening might give a little front light for the waterfall.

This is a nice waterfall, and for shear size, it is great bang for your buck. However, be warned that if you go during the warmer months you will have a hard time finding any quiet or privacy from those swimming and sunning themselves. Judging by the bare trees near the cascades, I would imagine that fall would be a good season to visit. Whenever you go, just remember to be careful and watch your step.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Mouse Creek Falls, Great Smokey Mountains National Park

Soothing Chaos

Located in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, in the French Broad River Basin, Mouse Creek Falls is a very impressive and beautiful waterfall. With two distinct sections, the waterfall totals about 25 feet before dropping straight into Big Creek. I think that makes this waterfall a bit of a gem, as normally falls will turn into a stream that eventually flows somewhere else. Here, you get not only the cascades of the falls, but the rapids of a swift moving creek. Sharing the same water as Midnight Hole, you will also find that lovely aqua color in the water here.

To get to the trail head, you will take I-40 to Exit 451 which is on the Eastern edge of Tennessee. The falls themselves are actually located in North Carolina though. After exiting the interstate, you will continue North on Green Corner Rd which will lead you to Waterville Rd. Turn left when you approach a one way ramp (coming at you with "do not enter" signs at the base). You will cross the Pigeon River and turn immediately back to the left heading South. Continue on this road past the Walters Power Plant. The road will guide to the right, and you will cross a narrow bridge. Staying on the road will take you through the community of Mount Sterling. You will come to a four way intersection where you will see a sign straight ahead for The Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Continue into the park and stay on the narrow gravel road for about 0.8 mile. You will end your trip in a gravel parking lot.

To find the trail head, walk back along the driveway that lead you into the parking lot. You will see a gate with a sign for Mouse Creek Falls, and Midnight Hole. The distances are marked 2.0 miles and 1.5 miles respectively. Don't let this discourage you as the hike is an easy one on a well maintained path. Moving with a purpose, I was able to cover the 2 miles back in about 30 minutes.

A Smooth Embrace

One thing you will quickly recognize...the Big Creek is just that...a really big creek. There are lots of rocks and boulders, along with elevation drops that provide lots of small cascades and rapids along the way. Much of the way though, the trail is well above the water, making it very difficult to see the water up close. Occasionally though, the creek comes right up to the trail, or maybe I should say that the trail meets the creek in places. It is easy to get distracted looking at these sections and forgetting to look for the actual waterfall.

What you are looking for is a horse hitch post to the left of the trail in a wide section. If you look through the brush and trees you will find yourself face to face with the waterfall. While the view is great from the trail, you owe it to yourself to scramble down the bank to the creek level. Here you can rock hop on various boulders taking you closer and closer to the waterfall. Keep in mind that the force of the water is strong, and if you leave the rocks, you are likely to be in trouble in the currents. With a good water flow, I was only able to get half way across the creek, but that was plenty close enough to really be able to take in the beauty of this waterfall.

Having seen many waterfalls in North Carolina, I would have to say that this is one of my favorites to photograph. It is difficult in a way to make a great photograph of this falls because so much is going on. however, if you can isolate just the elements that you want to show, there are many different compositions available to you. Again, as with Midnight Hole, the green water is amazing.

It should be noted that the trail to both Midnight Hole, and Mouse Creek Falls is a horse trail. Therefore, no pets should be brought on this hike. For those of you with horses, this is a great trip to take. There are sections of the trail that look like they could be accessible to horses, but are clearly marked "No Horses". Looking at these locations, I would think this warning should be adhered to.

Edit 11-20-2016

I have just gotten back from a trip out to Big Creek after a month long drought.  From my experience with this location, I really didn't expect to see massive drops in the water levels, but I was shocked to see most of the area dried up.  I was happily surprised to find that Mouse Creek Falls survived quite well in the drought, and actually showed a bit more character with the reduced water flow.

An Autumn Blanket
Also, it is worth noting that you can continue on the trail past this waterfall, and you are very likely to come across some more really nice scenes.  A short distance up, you will cross over the river on a carriage bridge and will start walking along the opposite bank.  Most of the sides are too steep to easily access the water, but there are some places that will allow you to scramble down for some closer views such as this...

A Bit of Drama
So, it doesn't really matter what the water levels are like here at Big Creek.  You can still find plenty to see, and to photograph.  Just always be very careful walking on the rocks. They are pretty slick and will surprise you if you take them for granted.  With due caution, you should be just fine though.


Midnight Hole on Big Creek, Great Smokey Mountains National Park

Midnight Hole

While only about six feet tall, this named waterfall can be seen along the Pigeon River on Big Creek. The trail to Mouse Creek Falls will take you right past this section of the river. To get to the trail head, you will take I-40 to Exit 451 which is on the Eastern edge of Tennessee. The falls themselves are actually located in North Carolina though. After exiting the interstate, you will continue North on Green Corner Rd which will lead you to Waterville Rd. Turn left when you approach a one way ramp (coming at you with "do not enter" signs at the base). You will cross the Pigeon River and turn immediately back to the left heading South. Continue on this road past the Walters Power Plant. The road will guide to the right, and you will cross a narrow bridge. Staying on the road will take you through the community of Mount Sterling. You will come to a four way intersection where you will see a sign straight ahead for The Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Continue into the park and stay on the narrow gravel road for about 0.8 mile. You will end your trip in a gravel parking lot.

To find the trail head, walk back along the driveway that lead you into the parking lot. You will see a gate with a sign for Mouse Creek Falls, and Midnight Hole. The distances are marked 2.0 miles and 1.5 miles respectively. Don't let this discourage you as the hike is an easy one on a well maintained path. Moving with a purpose, I was able to cover the 2 miles back in about 30 minutes.

One thing you will quickly recognize...the Big Creek is just that...a really big creek. There are lots of rocks and boulders, along with elevation drops that provide lots of small cascades and rapids along the way. Much of the way though, the trail is well above the water, making it very difficult to see the water up close. Occasionally though, the creek comes right up to the trail, or maybe I should say that the trail meets the creek in places.

Worry Stones

The picture above just such a place where the trail and the creek merge. While not a named waterfall, the rapids in this section were just too pretty to resist. Midnight Hole is just a few more yards upstream and as you can tell from the first picture, the personality of the water changes greatly in short amounts of time.

Midnight Hole is impressive not for the cascading water, which is only about six feet tall. It is impressive (to me) because of the aqua color of the water at the base of the falls. I believe this has something to do with the sediment from the creek bed, but whatever it is, I really like it. Also, you can see how this creek suddenly just calms and forms small lagoons along the way. For the most part, this looks like a river that white water rafters enjoy going down. Personally, I enjoyed this location for the relaxation it provided in its calmness.

Islands in the Stream

It should be noted that the trail to both Midnight Hole, and Mouse Creek Falls is a horse trail. Therefore, no pets should be brought on this hike. For those of you with horses, this is a great trip to take. There are sections of the trail that look like they could be accessible to horses, but are clearly marked "No Horses". Looking at these locations, I would think this warning should be adhered to.

Waterfall on Little Branch, Pisgah National Forest

Waterfall on Little Branch

Located in the Pisgah National Forest, along the French Broad River Basin, in Harmon County, this waterfall seems to spring up from nowhere. This 40' waterfall can be found along the Little Fall Branch stream near the Harmon Den Horse Camp. Locating this waterfall is very easy to do, but you need to pay particular attention to the details as there are no actual trails that lead to the falls.

To get to the trail head, you will need to come from I-40 in North Carolina near the Tennessee boarder. From either direction, you will exit at Exit 7 and head north toward a gravel road. This gravel road is called Cold Springs Creek Road, and is also listed as FR 148. You can't miss it, as it is visible from the exit ramp from the interstate. After traveling approximately 3.7 miles, you will come across a picnic area and horse camp. There will be a sign for FR 3526 which you will turn right on. Stay on this road for about three or four tenths of a mile until you come across a gate on the left and one ahead. There is a pull out by the second gate on the right side of the road where you can park. Take care not to block the gates.

Here is where things get interesting. While the hike is no more than 0.3 mile, there is no trail. I'm not an advocate of off-trail hiking, and would not have proceeded here except that there seems to be a clear path that has been used before. As you came past the first gate, you saw a stream crossing which is Fall Branch. It is actually the second one, Little Fall Branch, that you are wanting to find. It crosses right at the gate. You will want to follow this upstream to find the falls. I found that a path of sorts has been cleared along the right side of the stream which is the route I would recommend. Keep sight of the stream so you reach your destination, more importantly....so you can get back to your vehicle.

As you walk along the stream, you will find yourself wondering about this waterfall. The hike is relatively flat, and the stream only has a few elevation drops here and there. I thought I was on the wrong path. However, in a matter of minutes you will find yourself face to face with a near vertical wall with an impressive waterfall. While this is a very pretty waterfall, photography is limited because of all the surface clutter. It is not uncommon to find large tree trunks at the base of the falls which will restrict any close-up photography. However, good compositions can be found by stepping back from the falls.

Stream Observation

Also, the stream itself introduces a few nice little jewels for the photographer. With several little cascades here and there, you can find lots of opportunities to trip the shutter. While this is not a great waterfall, it is really worth a stop if you find yourself in the area. The hike is very easy and doesn't take long at all.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Linville Falls: From the Gorge Floor

Quiet Reflection Photo Copyright © 2007 G. Kiser

The Linville Falls area is just North of the Linville Gorge along the Blue Ridge Parkway. You can find this attraction at milepost 316.5 of the Blue Ridge Parkway, just South of the Linn Cove Viaduct. A second trailhead can also be found off of Kistler Memorial Highway (Old NC 105) off of NC 183. To view the Linville Falls, your best bet would be the former where the visitor's center is.

This particular view comes from the most strenuous trail in the park, the Linville Gorge Trail. It is steep, full of rocks, ruts, and tree roots...however, for the best view of the Linville Falls, up close and personal, there is no better option. While I always recommend hiking attire and footwear, this is one of those occasions where a good pair of hiking boots will really help you along.

The trailhead starts at the visitor's center as the others. To the right of the office, you will find the trail that takes you to Upper Falls, Chimney View, and Erwin's View. To the left of the office you will find the trails that will take you to Dugger's Creek Falls, the Plunge Basin Overlook, and down to the Gorge itself. Choosing the trailhead to the left is what you want to do for this Trek.

Quickly after entering the wood line the trail will fork, take the right fork marked Linville Gorge. This trail is 0.6 mile and will probably take about 15 minutes at a good and steady pace. Not too long after starting this trail you will likely come across a very large tree that has fallen and is blocking the path. It has been there for at least the past year and is showing no signs of being removed. You can crawl over it to continue on the trail. You will reach another fork in the trail after 0.2 mile. Continue to follow the sign directions for the Linville Gorge. At this point the trail increases in difficulty as you start your descent. At one point there are 23 wooden stairs to aid in the hike and to protect the ground from sliding boots and shoes.

When you are finished with the stairs the trail does something rather funny. There is another fork, but there are no signs and there is supposed to be only one trail that proceeds through. The left fork is actually drainage from the mountains, and while it looks like a trail...it is not and will end you up on a very skinny ledge on the side of a steep slope....don't ask. What you want to do is take the right fork which is a much better trail that actually leads to the bottom of the gorge. It looks like the trail terminates at the river, but if you look closely, you will see it continues along the bank to the right. At this point, you will begin to hear the mighty Linville Falls as you get closer. You will make a shallow right turn along the rock wall and there you are...face to face with the Linville Falls.

Table Rock

There are several rock formations that you can rock hop on to get a better view, but you can also get close enough to the falls to actually touch it with just a small bit of wading. Keep in mind that there is no swimming in Parkway Waters. Of course, expect to see lots of people of all ages here in the warmer months as it is a very popular summer destination. Ifyou are like me, and want to enjoy this waterfall in the quiet, you might want to go in the winter months, or early in the morning.

For those of you who are photographers, this particular waterfall, and specifically from this vantage point, allows you to break one of the steadfast rules of waterfall photography. Due to the wide open canopy, the very fast water flow, and the fact that the sun rises in a perfect position to illuminate the falls very evenly, you can actually photograph this waterfall under a clear sky. There are very few waterfalls where this can be done successfully, so take advantage of this.

One additional note about the return hike. If you will recall, I mentioned a possible wrong turn you might take earlier. Well, it is pretty easy to avoid on the hike down, but on the hike back to the visitor's center, the chances of you missing a turn are pretty good. This is how I found out the destination of this impromptu trail. As you are hiking back, keep an eye out to your left. The trail is no better marked or worn than the drainage path, but you will see those 23 steps to your left. After you make this turn, the rest of the trail is easy to follow. There are no blazes, or other markers to keep you on the trail so be mindful of where you are headed.

This is the last trail at Linville Falls that I had left to hike. I now feel pretty qualified to make some suggestions for visitors. If you are there for just a short amount of time and are not that interested in a hike, you should go and see Dugger's Creek Falls. The trail is short and easy. The waterfall itself is the prettiest in the whole park, in my humble opinion. If you just have to see the Linville Falls, but are not in the best of shape, you should Trek up to Erwin's View. The hike is long, but easy with several stops along the way where you can rest while looking at the falls. The ultimate view, and the ultimate hike are the one in this entry...The Linville Gorge trail will take you right to the base of the most famous waterfall in North Carolina. You might be a bit tired after the hike, but it is well worth the effort.

Update 03-20-2008: In the second picture posted in this entry, you will see that the amount of water flowing through the crevas will have a profound effect on the personality of this waterfall. While low water flow still has plenty of visual interest, the power of this waterfall is best seen after several days of rain.  This is also the case with Dugger's Creek Falls.