151 – Upper Avery Creek Falls

Accessibility – Average

Height – 30′

Distance – 1.72 miles each way

Beauty – 8

Photo rating – 8

Solitude – 8

GPS Info: LAT 35.1927 LONG -82.6136

Last updated: 09/04/2016

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The Upper Waterfall on Avery Creek is about a mile upstream from it’s better known and more heavily visited Avery Creek Falls. The waterfall is about 30 feet high and located in a steep valley. Hemmed in on the left (when looking at the falls) by the slope up to the Avery Creek Trail and on the right by a cliff wall, the setting is dark and mysterious. The base is filled with logs that either ruin the view or enhance it, depending on your perspective. I didn’t mind the clutter. The Upper waterfall can be combined with Waterfall on Avery Creek as well as Twin Falls on Henry Branch to make a half day hike in this part of the forest. There are two ways to get to the falls depending on where you want to park and what trail you want to hike.

From the confluence of US64/NC280/US276 in Brevard, take US276 North for 2.1 miles to FR477 (Avery Creek Road) and make a right. FR477 is easy to find since there is a sign for the Pisgah Riding Stables. FR447 is a gravel road with pullouts to allow two-way traffic. It is also gated at certain times of the year so check in at the ranger station before making the drive. If the road is gated at the bridge by the stables, it’s going to add about 1.5-2.0 miles round trip to the hike. If the road is open, follow FR477 just under 2.75 to the parking area for the Buckhorn Gap Trail. I prefer to make this hike from here. I think the Buckhorn Gap Trail is much nicer than the Avery Creek Trail, which tends to be soggy. Keep in mind that both the Buckhorn Gap Trail and the Avery Creek Trail are mountain bike trails, although for the life of me I couldn’t imagine riding a mountain bike on the Avery Creek Trail near the Upper Falls but I watched a guy do it when I made the hike.

From the parking area, start down a moderate grade following the orange blazes signifying the  Buckhorn Gap Trail. Almost from the start the trail will parallel Avery Creek. The trail is graded and easily hiked. About 10-15 minutes from the trailhead you will probably hear the Waterfall on Avery Creek stirring down and to your right. You can see it from the trail and there is also a scramble down to the waterfall. The scramble is steep in places but this is the way I would go to the Waterfall on Avery Creek in the future. It leaves you on the left side of the falls when looking at the waterfall and getting in front of the falls will require water shoes. If you want to get down to the falls from the Buckhorn Gap Trail, look for a log parallel to the trail that was placed there to prevent erosion. The scramble path starts here.

Just shy of a mile from the parking area the Avery Creek and Buckhorn Gap Trails meet and run together for a short time. After one creek crossing and a set of natural steps the two trails split at the bridge over the creek. The Buckhorn Gap Trail crosses the creek and heads to Twin Falls, stay on the blue-blazed Avery Creek Trail. The trail will narrow as it follows the creek upstream but it never wanders far from Avery creek. The segment from the split to the scramble path is 0.6 of a mile. Along this stretch you will cross five small tributaries, the fifth being the widest. They were all easy rock-hops. After the fifth crossing the trail will ascend steeply. This is where I saw the guy riding his mountain bike up the hill with his dog giving pursuit.

Maybe 100-150 feet up the incline there is a small path on the right side of the trail. At first you’re going to look at it and have a reaction similar to, “are you kidding me? This can’t be the trail.” When you look down the incline, you’ll see a tree with a curved trunk.

A tree with a curved trunk that marks the scramble path – September 2016

If you see this, you’re in the right place. The top section is steep and about halfway to the base you have to crawl under a fallen hemlock. After this, the trail levels off as it leads you to the base of the falls opposite the cliff. There are two vantages to shoot this one from. You can set up on the grassy area where the trail ends or you can make your way to the rocky area under the cliff.

The hike is kid friendly and the scramble isn’t nearly as bad as it looks. My view of kid friendly will likely differ from yours since my seven-year-old has been hiking since age 3 and scrambling since age 5. Only you know what you and your kids can handle. When in doubt, error on the side of caution. The one-way on this hike is about 1.75 miles, so if you combined it with Twin Falls, you would have a total hike of about 5.5 miles. This would also include visiting the Waterfall on Avery Creek from the Buckhorn Gap scramble path. If you decided to access the Waterfall on Avery Creek from the Avery Creek Trail you could do so and then continue on the Avery Creek Trail back to FR477 and then to your car. This would add about 0.75 of a mile to the total distance. If you go this route, make sure you have a trail map.

Upper Avery Creek Falls – September 2016
Isolation of the middle section – September 2016
The view from under the cliff – September 2016
Another side view with the pool – September 2016
Love this stick, looks like an animal drinking from the pool
One man’s clutter is another man’s art – September 2016