164 – High Falls (Thompson River)

Accessibility – Moderate

Height: Approx 55′

Distance – 3.0 (out and back)

Beauty – 6

Photo rating – 6

Solitude – 5

GPS Info: LAT 35.0704 LONG -82.9943

Last updated – 08-22-2017

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The trailhead for High Falls is on NC281 3.6 miles south of the intersection with US64. If you’re coming from Lake Toxaway, start looking for Brewer Rd on the left 3.5 miles after turning onto NC281. Coming from SC or Whitewater Falls, the parking area is 0.1 of a mile past pullout for White Owl Falls. This is the same trailhead for Big Falls, Rich Falls, Simon Falls, Standing Stone Falls and Reid Branch Falls. You could do all six waterfalls in one day but it is going to be a long and exhausting adventure.

The trailhead is right at the intersection where the logging grade meets Brewer Rd and NC281. The hike begins by heading up hill past the gate as the trail turns slightly left. This is only a brief ascent and as it levels off you can hear White Owl Falls to the right as well as cars racing past on 281. The trail soon moderates before beginning into a long downhill slope. The grade is modest but continually descending. This will become readily apparent on the hike back! The logging grade is easy to follow with no major hurdles to clear. At 0.87 of a mile from the trailhead, a trail heads to the left. This leads to Reid Branch Falls. Keep going straight. At 0.94 of a mile a trail intersects from the right. Follow this one up the hill. The ascent is moderate and the trail is in decent shape. Follow this trail for 0.40 of a mile to a trail on the left. On my visit, someone had laid a pair of logs over the trail to point out the turn. There is also a large white stone in the middle of the trail to mark the point where to leave the trail.

The scramble path isn’t too difficult with a few steep spots but nothing to worry about. At the base of the scramble you will be on the river left with no view of the falls. It’s time to cross the Thompson. It was a 68 degree February day on my first visit so instead of risking a rock hop, I took off my shoes and walked through the river barefoot. Since then I have returned on a night hike and an August day hike. The water is no more than shin deep in normal flows and it wasn’t moving too swiftly. In high water, use your best judgment. The trail resumes on the other side and bends to the right. There is a lot of downfall collected on the downstream side of the beach area below the falls but there is very little in the plunge pool. You can shoot from anywhere on the beach as well as on the rocks on river right. You can get all the way to the waterfall by crossing the pool before it gets to the crossing point.

The hike was totally kid-friendly, which is something I always consider when hiking since once I tell mt daughter about these waterfalls she wants to know if I can take her. This one is a yes. The major photographic challenge I had was the sky. Thankfully you can shoot this one to exclude the sky without losing anything. It looks a lot better in my more recent photos since the world is green versus the February blah.

The pool below the falls – August 2017
The boulder in the corner of the falls – August 2017
A profile view – August 2017
High Falls – August 2017
The drop – Feb 2017
The view from River right – Feb 2017
The boulder in the pool – Feb 2017