Accessibility – Easy+
Height: Approx 18′
Distance – 0.2 (out and back)
Beauty – 7
Photo rating – 5
Solitude – 4
GPS Info: LAT 35.3380 LONG -82.9035
Sunburst Falls is one of many waterfalls along the stretch of NC 215 as it heads north of the Blur Ridge Parkway. The waterfall is basically roadside but it does require a scramble down to get a good view of the falls. There is a large collection pool at the base of the falls, which is great for a dip on a hot summer day. The view of the falls is framed by a single arch bridge over the West Fork of the Pigeon River, where NC 215 crosses. This bridge either adds to or takes away from the scene, depending on your point of view. personally I think the old bridge adds to the scene. The waterfall is great but with the road crossing it, the setting isn’t terribly peaceful.
To get to Sunburst follow NC 215 North 4.2 miles to the pull out on the left. You will see the Waterfall on the West Fork of the Pigeon River as you cross the bridge over Sunburst Falls. If the parking area is empty, count your blessings. There is room for several cars but only if everyone cooperates. I’ve been there were one car managed to block the entire parking area. From the gravel pull out, carefully cross NC 215, remaining alert for motorcyclists. NC 215 is a popular ride and there are a lot of blind turns, including the one that leads over the bridge.
To get to the base of the falls I found two paths down. The first is at the North end of the bridge. Cross over the guardrail and follow the steep path down to the edge of the collection pool. The path is worn and there are enough handholds to make it safely. To get a good shot you will need to rock hop out toward the center of the pool. There is a second scramble path about a hundred feet further North on NC 215. This one will bring you in below the falls. This path was easier, including the rock hop up to the pool.
The hike is kid friendly. For younger ones, it will depend on their skill level. My 6-year-old had no difficulty with this one but she is about as experienced as a 6-year-old can be when it comes to hiking.
You will face two problems getting a good shot, lighting and tourists. There is no canopy so the falls are out in the open so the lighting can be an issue, especially since the area above the falls (under the bridge) is in shadow most of the day. Getting a decent shot requires an early arrival before the sun has cleared the ridge across NC 215 or after it has passed behind you. The other issue is the number of people who stand on the bridge to have a look. The waterfall on the other side of the bridge draws them in and they have to have a look at this side as well.