Accessibility – Easy
Height: Approx 16′
Distance – 0.6 Miles (out and back)
Beauty – 9
Photo rating – 9
Solitude – 8
GPS Info: LAT 35.0765 LONG -82.9974
Last updated – 03-19-2017
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White Owl Falls isn’t the tallest, biggest or most spectacular waterfall in WNC but what it lacks in those departments, it makes up for with its simple beauty. From the first time I visited in February of 2014, it was one of my favorites and since that time it had been on my top ten list. You can see the remainder of my top ten list here. It struck me as a waterfall that not everyone is going to see even though it isn’t hard to access. The setting is awesome with the exception of NC281 only a short hike away. Getting to the falls isn’t difficult but part of it does require scooting down a drainage culvert. The trail is easy to follow and some kind sole had marked it with blue flagging tape prior to my visit in September of 2015.
Most probably wouldn’t make a special trip to see White Owl Falls but if you’re visiting Gorges State Park or driving to Whitewater falls, this stop is worth it. Parking is roadside on NC281S. About 0.1 of a mile past Brewer Rd. there is a pull off on the right if you’re heading south. Walk down the left side of 281 towards the telephone pole and the end of the section of guardrail. There is a gap in the guardrail. Where the downhill section of guardrail resumes, cross the guard rail and look for the drainage culvert. It’s not terribly steep. At the end of the concrete incline, pick up the path leading to the falls. NC281 will be up and to the right as you descend. The trail leads to the top of the falls with a branch leading to the base. The last few feet are steep but otherwise this is an easy hike.
The hike is kid friendly and the only dangerous part is walking along 281. There are a lot of good vantages of the falls but the lighting can be tricky. The waterfall flows over a large black stone, fanning out in numerous tendrils before rejoining in the collection pool. Dense growth borders the top of the falls. The only blemish is a pair of fallen trees on the left side of the falls. There have been cut back by someone so as not to intrude too much but they still do. Hopefully the same kind sole that trimmed them back will come and finish the job.
You can shoot the falls from the base of the trail or the large flat stone but the best view of the falls are from across the river. The water level was low on my last visit so I was able to get across without getting my feet wet. I set up on top of one of the large boulders and in front, standing in the creek.