Accessibility – Moderate
Height: Approx 50′ (if you count from the uppermost drop)
Distance – 0.5 (out and back)
Beauty – 6
Photo rating – 6
Solitude – 6
GPS Info: LAT 35.3136 LONG -82.9096
Last updated – 04/01/2017
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Bubbling Springs Branch Cascades is one of three waterfalls on this stream as it winds its way along NC215. While Bubbling Springs Cascades is the most widely used name, I often refer to it as Guardrail Falls. That is by no means meant to be used as an official name but throughout my site if you see a reference to Guardrail Falls, know it’s Bubbling Springs Cascades. The name came about on my first visit with my then 5-year-old daughter Alana. When she saw we had to climb under the guardrail to get down the scramble, she said they should call this ‘Guardrail Falls’. It’s been a our nickname for it ever since.
The other two falls on this stretch of Bubbling Springs Branch are The Upper and Lower Waterfalls on Bubbling Springs Branch which are accessed from the parking area 0.4 of a mile North of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The parking area for Bubbling Springs Branch Cascades is 1.8 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway. This same parking area can be used to access Lower Wildcat Falls and Middle Wildcat Falls, as long as you don’t mind a little creek walking. There is a pullout on the right capable of holding four or five vehicles. Once you park and get out, look over the guardrail and you will see the waterfall, unless it’s summer and then you won’t see anything. The total drop is about 50 feet over three drops. Two are close together and the third is a distance away, separated from the lower two by a long flat section of exposed stone.
The hike to the falls begins with a steep descent. There is a section of the parking area that is heavily eroded where you can walk under the guardrail. The scramble path down is steep but there are enough handholds and places to step that it isn’t a problem. At the base of the hill, there is an obvious path that leads through several campsites near the stream. The path ends where another stream comes in from the right and joins Bubbling Springs Branch. You will need to rockhop or wade this section of creek. Once across start up the rock to the falls. The rock isn’t terribly steep but when it’s wet it can be very slippery. From the lower section of the falls there is a trail into the woods that leads to a rock shelf above the lower drop. Between the upper and lower drops is a great swimming hole.
The hike is kid friendly but the initial descent may test the nerve of some younger children. My daughter is experienced when it comes to these kinds of scrambles and this one presented no problems but we did have to take it slow. I can’t tell you if you kids can make this hike, only you can. If you don’t feel comfortable with it, please don’t try it. There are plenty of easy hikes to undertake.
Getting a good shot can be a problem due to the lighting. The rock has some great color in it but the open canopy makes it hard to capture the color. You can shoot from the large flat area below the lower drop or you can climb up to the shelf between the drops and shoot toward the upper section. You will feel like you’re miles from the wold but if you turn and look from the shelf you can likely see your car up on NC 215!