Accessibility – Easy+
Height: Approx 60′
Distance – 1.5 (out and back)
Beauty – 8
Photo rating – 7
Solitude – 7
GPS Info: LAT 35.3139 LONG -82.9040
Last updated – 04/01/2017
Wildcat Falls is another waterfall on NC215 North of the intersection with the Blue Ridge Parkway. The first time I came to Wildcat Falls, I wasn’t so much struck by the waterfall but the concrete bridge that crosses over Silver Mine Branch. The falls, the bridge and the lower cascades as Silver Mine Branch passes under the bridge combine to earn Wildcat Falls a spot on my Top 10 List. Like many of the falls on my list, Wildcat Falls isn’t the biggest, tallest or most impressive. Most probably wouldn’t include Wildcat Falls on their favorites list but to each his own. If you want, you can check out my entire Top 10 List. The hike is also one of my favorite hikes in the area. Again, not the longest or most challenging hike in the area. Here are all of my Top 10 Hikes in the area. As this is one of my favorite hikes, I’m going to start at the beginning as opposed to picking up at the Split Falls earlier in the hike.
Wildcat Falls is a single 60 foot drop, where Silver Mine Branch comes down a dark rock face. The creek flow isn’t gigantic but there is enough water even in drier times. The water collects at the base and then plunges under a concrete bridge built during the logging days. The colorful rocks at the base and the dark stone face add to the setting, as does the location.
To get to Wildcat Falls, take NC 215 North 0.8 miles to the entrance to a roadside campsite on the right. The entrance drive is steep so use caution when pulling in. There is enough room at the base of the steep entrance to pack several cars off to the right. If someone is camping down there, you may have to park along the side of NC 215, which is what I had to do on my October 2015 visit. The parking area can be used as part of a shuttle hike if you want to park up at Black Balsam Rd at mile marker 420 on the Blue Ridge Parkway and come down to Wildcat Falls from the Flat Laurel Creek Trail.
The hike starts by passing through the campsite at the back of the entrance road and follows the logging grade as it turns right and descends while it parallels Bubbling Springs Branch. At the base of the incline you will have to rock hop across the creek. There are enough rocks and logs that crossing without getting your feet wet shouldn’t present a problem. If the water level is up, it will be a different story. The logging road resumes on the other side ascends. After about five minutes a small creek intersects the trail. Off to the right you will see Split Falls on Wildcat Trail (my name. As best I can tell, this one has no official name). If you want to stop for a few minutes and enjoy the peaceful setting, you can get out onto the flat rock section at the base of the falls for a closer look.
After you’re done, resume up the hill toward Wildcat Falls. The incline never gets too steep and along the left side of the trail a row of birch trees are lined up perfectly, almost like a guardrail. You will have views of nearby hillsides as the trail climbs higher. No more than 10-15 minutes past Split Falls, you will round the final bend. Before this point you will hear the waterfall.
My first visit to Wildcat Falls was in October of 2014 and I didn’t know what to expect. Nothing prepared me for what I saw. When you hike to enough waterfalls, there are things you expect and things you don’t. Wildcat Falls was my 47th so I was still new at this game so when I came around the last bend in the trail, I didn’t know what to think. If anything ever looked out of place on an abandoned, gravel, logging road it was the concrete bridge spanning Silver Mine Branch. That image has always stuck with me and when I picture Wildcat Falls, I always picture the bridge.
The hike is kid friendly. About the only potential danger is venturing too close to the ends of the bridge where the ground has eroded over the years.
You can get a good shot of the falls from the bridge deck but it is hard to get it all in due to the height. The difficulty can be the lighting with the lower sections in shadow and the upper reaches in sunlight. There is a pair of pine trees at the top of the falls that I’ve included in many of my shots. The rocks under the bridge have a ton of color and you can get a good shot of them by using the scramble path on the far side of the bridge. It is a little steep but it isn’t hard to get out onto the large boulders below the bridge. The shadows under bridge can make it difficult.