Accessibility – Difficult
Height – Approx 12′
Distance – 1.90 miles (out and back)
Beauty – 7
Photo rating – 5
Solitude – 10
GPS Info: LAT 35.???? LONG -82.????
Last Updated: 08-22-2017
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So you’ve been on the beaten path to Courthouse Falls and you followed that by going off the beaten path to Upper Courthouse Falls, the hike to the next waterfall starts where the path ends. If you didn’t think Upper Courthouse Falls was worth the trip, you probably won’t like the hike upstream or the payoff. The initial ascent to push upstream is steep and slippery but after that the meandering path is easy enough to follow. When I use the term ‘path’, i am referring to the path of least resistance through the endless waves of dog-hobble covering the forest floor. If you’re experienced hiking off trail and you’re looking for adventure, heading upstream will be right up your alley.
To get to the falls from the Blue Ridge Parkway, reset your trip odometer while you’re sitting at the stop sign at the base of the ramp. Make a right and pass under the BRP and continue South for 6.5 miles. FR140 is located on the far side of a narrow bridge so use the ‘narrow bridge’ sign as your warning to slow down. The left turn is right after the bridge. Coming from US64, the drive is 10.2 miles up NC215 to the right hand turn just before the narrow bridge. FR140 has spent a lot of time the last few years barred to vehicle traffic so check in advance to avoid a wasted trip. This most recent closure began in August of 2015. If the road is open you can drive 3.2 miles to where the road is gated. If you’re coming from Courthouse Falls, the drive is around 0.25 of a mile. Park so as not to block the gate. The road you want to take is the one past the gate. The road also goes up the hill but I haven’t explored in that direction yet.
The upstream hike follows the logging grade to Upper Courthouse Falls almost to the end. This early part of the hike is about 0.75 of a mile and kid friendly. The terrain isn’t too steep and the path is easy enough to follow. When the trail turns toward the creek near Upper Courthouse Falls, start looking for a steep path on your left. This is the way upstream. The initial ascent is slippery and steep but once you’re above Upper Courthouse Falls the terrain levels off. There is the faintest of paths through the dog-hobble as the path mirrors the creek. There is one dicey spot where the ground is eroded and there is a drop of about ten feet awaiting a careless step. You will know exactly what I’m talking about when you see it! The journey is only about 0.2 of a mile from Upper Courthouse Falls but it will feel a lot longer.
The trail intersects the river at an open area and if you walk out onto the rocks you will see a small waterfall covered in fallen trees. Unlike the more visited waterfalls, where volunteers with chainsaws come one and clean these kinds of things up, this far out, only a swift current will remove the clutter. The trail did continue upstream but not knowing what we were going to face, we decided to call it a day and head back. I have read there is another waterfall further upstream, Red Rock Falls but finding it will be for another day.