044 – Waterfall on Sam Branch

Accessibility – Moderate

Height: Approx 80-100′ (numerous drops)

Distance – 0.8 (out and back)

Beauty – 8

Photo rating – 7

Solitude – 7

GPS Info: LAT 35.3403 LONG -82.8970

Last updated – 04/01/2017

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The Waterfall on Sam Branch and the one on Wash Hollow are two more of the waterfalls along the stretch of NC 215 as it heads north of the Blur Ridge Parkway. The Waterfall on Sam Branch and the Waterfall on Wash Hollow are both along the same section of NC 215. In fact, getting to Wash Hollow requires crossing Sam Branch between the two uppermost sections of the waterfall. Depending on the water flow, this can be a daunting task. I have been to the waterfall on Sam Branch three times. On the first visit the water was so high there was no way to cross. On my July 2015 trip, Sam Branch had dried to a trickle so crossing was easy. In October of 2015, the water level was higher and getting across was difficult, especially when returning from Wash Hollow.

On my first and second visits I ventured to the bottom of the waterfall on Sam Branch. I took different routes down on my two visits. The first time I ventured to the base was from the trail to Sam Branch Falls. The trail was steep and hard to follow. My second trip to the base came after crossing Sam Branch. The descent was easier but it did require crossing the waterfall between the top two drops.

To get to the Waterfall on Sam branch, follow NC 215 North 4.0 miles to a sweeping left hand bend in the road. As the sweeping left ends, pull off onto the right shoulder. This is where you will park. Walk back up NC 215 to about the middle of the hairpin turn and look up. You will see the steep scramble up to the trail. On my first visit, getting up the embankment wasn’t too challenging. When I returned in July of 2015, I found that a pair of dead hemlock trees had fallen over the scramble path, adding to the challenge. Getting over or under the trees makes this part of the hike a lot harder but once you’re at the top, it’s a great walk in the woods. The total distance to the waterfall is less than 0.4 of a mile and the trail is beautiful. It is one of the prettiest trails as you follow an old logging grade along a more or less flat path. A tenth of a mile from the falls there is a steep scramble to the base of the falls. I’m going to leave this one up to you. I did it once. I’m not going down that way again! Once you get to the falls the question is what to do. You can’t get a decent shot from where the trail ends. To get to the base, cross the falls. If you’ve rock hopped before, you shouldn’t have any problems. If the water level is high, forget it. You will get swept over the edge. Once across there is a scramble path on the left that leads to the base of the falls and the confluence with Wash Hollow. If you’re going to the Waterfall on Wash Hollow, the directions from Sam Branch are here.

The hike is kid friendly but the initial scramble with the fallen trees in the way might be a problem. My daughter and I did it in October of 2015 and her size actually made it easier. While I was still struggling to get over the fallen trees, she scooted under and waited at the top. She crossed the creek with me but getting back was a little more difficult.

The best shot is from the base but because it is so tall, it is really had to capture. I shot it in segments from the base. At the base of the final drop is a collection pool. Within the pool are remnants of the logging that went on in the early part of the 20th century. Long strands of cable litter the ground and add to a shot of the lower section.

The view from the bottom of Sam Branch – October 2014
The Base of Sam Branch – Low water flow – July 2015
The collection Pool at the base of Sam Branch