Accessibility – Moderate
Height: Approx 30′
Distance – 1.25 (out and back)
Beauty – 8
Photo rating – 7
Solitude – 8
GPS Info: LAT 35.3006 LONG -82.9119
Last updated – 10-26-2016
The Upper and Lower Waterfalls on Bubbling Springs Branch are only a short distance apart so for the sake of simplicity the hike is combined into one. This hike is going to be different than most. Their is a trail but it is not easy to follow as it winds its way upstream. There are not a lot of landmarks along the way and if the creek level is high, you’ve going to get your feet wet since the hike requires four creek crossings and some rock hoping and creek walking near the falls. Despite these challenges, this is a great hike. As a matter of fact, it is one of my top 10 hikes, because it is so different. The remainder of my top 10 hikes can be seen here. There is also a great payoff at the end. Along with Wildcat Falls further North on SC215, Upper Bubbling Springs Branch Falls is the only other waterfall to be on my top 10 waterfall list and top 10 hikes. The rest of the top waterfalls can be found here.
Starting at the stop sign at the base of the ramp from the Blue Right Parkway make a left onto SC215. Follow the winding highway North for 0.4 miles to a large parking area on the left. This open area serves as a parking area for the MST which crosses NC215 a short distance further North. When entering the parking area, do so slowly. The transition from paved to gravel is rutted from erosion. If you’re in a low clearance vehicle, choose your entry point wisely. If you get here later in the day, you will have to find a place to squeeze in since this lot does fill up. A lot of people do the shuttle hike along the MST from Black Balsam Rd. (FR816). Most of the cars you see here are people on the MST.
After parking so as not to block anyone in and to prevent yourself from being blocked in, walk down the side of SC215 until you see the white blazed stake indicating the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. There will be a second marker on the other side of the street. If you begin the hike by going up the steps, you are going the WRONG way. Shortly after leaving the road you will pass a sign for the Middle Prong Wilderness. Next you will reach the creek, which you will be crossing for the first time. There are enough rocks to make the crossing with dry feet unless the water levels are up. After crossing turn to the left, branching off of the MST. The area under the pines is open and it ends at a campsite next to the creek. Stay to the left and cross the creek again at the obvious crossing point. The trail resumes on the other side as it follows the branch upstream. For the most part the trail is obvious but if you;re not careful you will lose it as it snakes through the trees.
After the second creek crossing, expect a hike of about 10-15 minutes to get to the lower waterfall and along this stretch you will cross the branch several more times. As I got closer to the lower waterfall, I switched from crossing back and forth to rock-hopping up the right side of the creek. The only danger in this approach is if the rocks are wet. I’ve heard that in low flow the right side of the falls dries up but on my visit, there was great flow in the creek. This is where you can see my images of the Lower Waterfall on Bubbling Springs Branch.
You can get as close as need be to get your shot but to access the trail to the upper falls you will have to backtrack away from the base of the lower falls. The path to the upper falls is on the left side when looking at the falls. A good reference point for the start of the trail is the boulder in the creek with a tree growing out of it. It would be about even with where you would stand to take a shot of the Lower Falls. Once you make the scramble up, it isn’t much of a hike to the upper waterfall. The path stays pretty close to the creek but at the start it does strike inland before heading uphill toward the top of the lower falls. Like the lower falls you will emerge onto a flat section of stone next to the creek. Looking upstream you will see the upper falls coming in from the left. To get a better view you will need to cross to the right side of the creek. The view from downstream isn’t very good but if you move up the right side, you can get a great view of the creek as is descends.