|Upper Creek Falls|
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.
I have been back to this waterfall once again and have seen better conditions than the first time out. I did hike down to the bottom of the primary waterfall but found that it was rather nondescript as just a long water slide. It was not worth the effort to hike down and back up again, plus it was very difficult to get a decent composition with the trees all around. I will say that my supposition about the top of the falls being a great place to shoot is absolutely correct. On the recent trek here, I was able to get a great shot of the section that I had first photographed in 2009, and found it to be an outstanding image.
|Into the Gorge|
For this shot, I had originally thought that digital trickery would be necessary but that wasn't needed at all. I was able to get this shot with a circular polarizer and two different ND grads for a total of 5 stops of light reduction in the sky. The clouds definitely helped the final exposure. It can be done, and this is still one of my favorite aspects of this waterfall.