Accessibility – Hard
Height – 40′-45′
Distance – 1.0 (out and back)
Beauty – 6
Photo rating – 4
Solitude – 10
GPS Info: LAT 35.2104 LONG -82.9353
Last updated – 03-27-2016
The Falls on Double Branch is a 45 foot high waterfall where two upper drops come in from the sides and meet up and fall down a series of steps into a boulder filled pool at the base. The waterfall isn’t very far from the road but there is no trail to the falls or if there was a trail the forest has swallowed it up. The total hike is less than a mile round trip but other than a brief period on the gated FR9999, the rest is off-trail. Getting to the wide area is easy. After that, it’s a bushwhack through a field of downfall and chest high growth. Once you reach the creek, there is a semblance of a trail that follows a wash toward the base of the falls. This section of the ‘trail’ gets steep in places and more than one tree has fallen across the access. Sadly, the wash doesn’t get you to where you need to be but it gets you to a point where you can see where you need to be. There is another section of downfall to wade through before you get to creek. I couldn’t find a good place to get a shot other than from the base of a large dead hemlock tree that will likely crash onto the falls in the next few years. There was a large boulder out in the middle of the creek but it wasn’t worth the risk of scaling on a brisk March day. If I someone were with me I probably would have ventured out but on a solo excursion, I wasn’t willing to take the risk.
Since I got back to my truck that day I’ve been wondering how to approach this waterfall and my blog. It’s a nice waterfall and if more people visited it, a trail might emerge but at the same time, I don’t want to send someone off-trail because it’s easy to get lost, get hurt or get dead when you’re crashing through the forest: destination unknown. If you got hurt on this one, you would be lying there for a long time before someone happened along. Sage advice, if you decide to go find this one, wear shoes that provide ankle support or you will hurt yourself. That said, here are the best directions I can provide. There are times where you will have to relay on dead reckoning. If you stay on a straight path from the wide area you will reach Double Branch. Keep this in mind.
Step 1, get to the trailhead on Tanasee Gap Road. To access the trailhead, follow NC215N from the intersection with US64 approximately 8.5 miles to the left turn on Tanasee Gap Road. If you’re coming from the Blue Ridge Parkway the turn will be on the right. FR9999 is 4.55 miles from NC215. There is enough room to park without blocking the gate which is on the opposite side of the road. FR9999 begins after the gate and slowly rises for a short time before coming to a wide area. If you stayed on FR9999, which you might wish you had done once you get to the Falls on Double Branch, you could get to Bernie’s Falls.
From this wide area, strike out through the woods, perpendicular to FR9999. In places there is a semblance of a rough path. In others there is waist high weeds, briers and downfall. You’ll want to stay on as straight a path as possible after leaving FR9999. There will be plenty of obstacles to avoid but stay as close as you can to the ridge spine. This will lead you to Double Branch. The going will be slow and the course will wander following the route of least resistance. The off-trail portion of this hike is only 0.25 but it will feel like 10 miles. The grade will slope downward toward the creek. By this point the worst of downfall will be behind you. My path led me to a large boulder near the top of the fall. I made a right here and picked up a drainage channel that led down the slope to the base. It was easy to follow but you will be climbing over a lot of fallen trees. The path gets steep as it enters a rhodo tunnel.
When you emerge you will be above the creek on the river right. There is no path down to the creek but if you angle toward the dead tree trunk (its about 10-12 feet tall unless it fell since March of 2016) it will guide you toward your goal. The ground here is soft and uneven so use caution. From the dead tree you will see a large dead hemlock perched on the side of the creek (unless is fell since my visit in 03-2016). From the base of the tree you can get a decent shot of the falls. It’s nothing to write home about, only because there isn’t a good place to photograph it. The black rock is awesome and the setting is cool but photographically this one is awful. The fact the entire right side of the falls is covered in fallen trees only makes it worse.
Do what you will but if you ask me, there are plenty of other waterfalls to explore. If you want to go see this, you do so at your own risk. Use your best judgment. My only other takeaway is this. My usual hiking companion is my seven-year-old daughter. She is a veteran of almost 120 waterfalls. The kid can scramble with the best of them. The Falls on Double Branch is an ‘absolutely NOT’.