E. B. Jeffress Park is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina at milepost 271. There is ample parking for the park, and you will also find an overlook with plenty of picnic tables set up. There is a short self guided trail that winds through the woods to a waterfall, known only as the Cascades. There is not much written about this particular waterfall, and few are really impressed with it. I have now been several times and have enjoyed it each time.
As the trail comes to the falls, you will find an observation deck lined in stone. To their credit, this actually does flow with the surroundings contrary to lots of wooden observation decks that are used. This top deck affords a reasonable view of the top of the waterfall. There is really nothing special about this location. However, if you continue down the stone steps, you will come to another stone lined observation deck. This gives you a splendid view of the main attraction of the falls. From here you can see the water cascading from the upper water slide to the lower one. This is my favorite element by far of this waterfall.
The observation deck is nice, but to really photograph the falls, the photographer needs to move to a different location. There is a worn trail just off the side of the observation deck that leads down the slope of the falls. Even in the best of conditions, this is a dangerous trail and care should be taken. For a completely unimpeded view, there is a downed tree stretching across the lower water slide. It is worn on top, I'm assuming from spectators sitting. It is a great place to take in the beauty, but I just wasn't that brave, or foolish.
For photographing the falls, I would suggest a point about a third of the way down from the observation deck. There is a slight opening in the trees where a great shot awaits. The branches naturally frame the important parts of the falls, and composition is almost a no brainer. Just be very careful of your footing as the rocks are slick, and you won't recover from this fall.
After getting that perfect shot, don't pack all the gear up. There is still a return hike that goes along the stream that feeds the falls. There are some great views along this stream, and something worth taking your time to explore.
Old Mossy Log Photo Copyright © 2006 G. Kiser
After completing my third visit to the Cascades I have a few things to report back about. The first and most important change is that the trail to the lower overlook has seen some repairs. In years past, the railings have been missing, allowing the curious hiker the ability to go off-trail along a well worn path. This path, which led to a very nice viewing point, was quite dangerous as I mentioned above. After the recent death of a child at Chimney Rock State Park, this makeshift trail has been closed off. It is probably for the better as this slope was very steep and the chance of getting hurt was pretty significant.
The other change that I would like to make to the original entry is that the upper overlook is not that bad after all. While not really showing the major part of the waterfall, it does have its merits. Depending on the water flow on the day you visit, you will probably be able to see some very nice small cascades as the water begins its run down the water slide portion.