049 – Bird Rock Falls (Cathedral Falls)

Accessibility – Moderate

Height – 15′

Distance – 0.5 miles (out and back)

Beauty – 8

Photo rating – 6

Solitude – 5

GPS Info: LAT 35.2212 LONG -82.8612

Last updated – 04/01/2017

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Bird Rock Falls, also referred to as Cathedral Falls, is one of three waterfalls on this stop, all located on the same piece of privately held property. As of this writing, access to these waterfalls is open to the public thanks to the generosity of the operators of Living Waters Ministry, who own the property and continue allow the public access. Please be respectful when visiting these falls. I would hate to see access to these waterfalls restricted.

Two of the waterfalls are on the North Fork of the French Broad River and the third is on Shoal Creek, which joins the French Broad River at the base of Shoal Creek Falls. Two of the waterfalls can be seen from a clearing to the left of the large red building that houses Living Waters Ministry. Shoal Creek Falls is directly behind the building while French Broad Falls is across the river. You can photograph these falls from the rocks along the river. The lighting can be problematic so bear this in mind.

On my last visit in October of 2015, we arrived just before sunset and there was no one at the site, no one! The lighting was dreadful so we hiked to Bird Rock Falls (Cathedral Falls) to shoot there. As always it took longer than expected to tear ourselves away but by the time we got back half an hour later, the lighting was perfect. Sadly there were close to twenty people with tripods set up on the rocks and in the clearing! They were pretty much shoulder to shoulder! I didn’t have an inch to squeeze in and set up. Sadly no pictures for me that day. As a result I have only the poor light shots I took plus some shots from a visit in October of 2014.

From the intersection of the Blue Ridge Parkway and NC215, start your trip odometer at the stop sign before making the right onto NC215 heading South. You will pass under the Blue Ridge Parkway. Stay on NC215 for approximately 9.2 miles. You will see Living Waters on the right. Do not park in the parking lot but instead find a spot along the shoulder to pull off. There are some wide areas so be sure you are all the way off the road. For whatever reason people drive like crazies on this stretch of NC215, so use caution when exiting your vehicle.

To get to the river head down the short trail, which is actually more of a gravel road. If you go to the right it will take you to French Broad and Shoal Creek Falls. Make this your first stop before heading back to the trail that follows the river downstream. This section of the river is filled with water features so take the time to explore the different cascades and drops as you explore further down river. The hike to Bird Rock Falls is barely 0.25 of a mile.

The trail will deposit you onto the exposed stone to the left of the falls. In this instance the 15 foot waterfall isn’t what you’re going to notice. Instead the huge stone cliff overhanging the river dominates the scene. The waterfall is definitely secondary for me. You can make your way down the rock to a gravel beach to get some shots. If you choose there are some boulders on the left side of the river downstream of the falls but upstream of the condos (the real view appears to be from the back deck of these condos). You can climb onto the boulders and get a few shots from there. No matter what you so, no picture is going to truly capture the setting. I have shot this thing from every angle but there is no way to capture the immensity of the cliff.

It is an idyllic setting and a great place to relax by the river. You can explore all over the falls but the rock does get slippery when wet so use caution. When you’re done, follow the trail back to the access road to NC215.

Driftwood @ Bird Rock Falls – July 2016
Bird Rock Falls – October 2015
Just the falls – October 2015
The cliff over Bird Rock Falls – October 2015
A wider view of the falls and cliff from downstream – October 2015
Just the cliff @ Bird Rock Falls – October 2015