163 – Mt. Hardy Falls

Accessibility – Moderate

Height: Approx 80′-90′

Distance – 1.65 (out and back to overlook + bushwhack to base)

Beauty – 5

Photo rating – 3

Solitude – 7

GPS Info: LAT 35.304 LONG -82.9198

Last updated – 10-26-2016

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Due to the location and the parking, Mt. Hardy Falls can be combined with the Upper and Lower Waterfalls on Bubbling Springs Branch for a nice half day outing. The hike to Mount Hardy Falls has two destinations. The first is.an overlook which gives you a view of the upper section of the falls from across the valley. It’s a distant view but if the water flow is up, it will probably look good as the water tumbles into the forest. On my visit there wasn’t much flow so the view lacked. There isn’t a trail to the base but the woods are open enough that it isn’t difficult to follow the creek. The total hike is just under 1.7 miles round trip.

Starting at the stop sign at the base of the ramp from the Blue Right Parkway make a left onto SC215N. 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. I have yet to encounter anyone at any of the three falls in this area.

After parking so as not to block anyone in and to prevent yourself from being blocked in, walk down the shoulder of SC215 until you see the white blazed stake indicating the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. You can either keep walking down the road or enter the woods here. If you enter the woods here you will pass a sign for the Middle Prong Wilderness. Next you will reach the creek, which is an easy rock hop in lower water. Once across, follow the trail up and to the right.

If you didn’t enter the woods before the creek, follow NC215N over the creek. When the guardrail ends there is a trail leading up the hill. It connects to the MST at the top of the hill. The MST parallels NC215N for a short time before turning away from the street. The trail is relatively flat with a slight uphill grade as it leaves the woods and enters a large open field. Trails intersect from both sides. Just stay on the main trail. It will reenter the woods. Along this stretch you will pass memories of the logging days. There are several pieces of rusted cable along the way. The trail will descend to the creek. Which you will have to rock hop across. Two creeks join here. The one to the right leads to Mt Hardy Falls. Take the trail on the left as he moves away from the creek. The trail will eventually bend to the left and ascend. It will be after a hard right switchback that there is an opening in the woods on the right. Across the valley you can see Mt Hardy Falls. In high water or with the summer/fall vegetation it probably looks good. On a gloomy winter day with no leaves and low water, not so much.

Reverse course back to the convergence of the two creeks. You want to follow the right branch upstream from the convergence. There isn’t a trail but the woods are open and easy to follow. There are a few fallen trees to navigate before you reach the creek at the base of the falls. There are numerous places to cross, pick the safest. You can make your way up to the shelf on river right or river left. To get a shot of the upper drop, you will have to move downstream and ascend the overgrown bank. I didn’t have a lot of luck with the pics on this day but there’s always next time.

An upclose of the upper drop at Mt Hardy Falls – December 2016
The entire drop – December 2016
The view across the valley – December 2016
Icy buildup at the base – Mt Hardy Falls – December 2016
Profile view of Mt Hardy Falls – December 2016