173 – Upper Tom Springs Branch Falls

Accessibility – Moderate

Height: Approx 35′

Distance – 3.96 (out and back)

Beauty – 5

Photo rating – 3

Solitude – 6

GPS Info: LAT 35.2953 LONG -82.8347

Last updated – 03-19-2017

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Upper Tom Springs Branch Falls can be combined with Tom Springs Falls since the route to the upper falls leads right past the lower falls. The round trip hike is just shy of 4 miles but all of it is along a nicely graded logging road. The trip to the upper falls is mostly uphill but there are only a few steep sections along the way. It makes for a nice relaxing hike and would be good for waterfallers of any age.

The start of the hike is in the same parking area for Tom Springs Branch Falls. To get there take US276 North from the intersection of US64/US276/NC280 in Brevard. Follow it for 5.3 miles to the split with 475 and make a left. Take FR475 3.9 miles, passing the parking areas for Looking Glass Rock and the Fish Hatchery along the way. At the parking area for Cove Creek Falls the road turns to dirt/gravel and is pitted in places. The parking area for Tom Springs Falls is on the right after crossing a one-lane bridge. This area is very popular for mountain biking, camping and hiking so the lot fills up early. If you arrive late in the day don’t be surprised if you’re parking along 475. The hike starts beyond the gate at the back end of the parking area. The road ascends up to the bridge over the Davidson River. Not long after the bridge the road comes to a T. Make a right and follow the gradually ascending forest road. You will reach Tom Springs Falls 0.47 of a mile from the parking area. There are several trails on the left side of the road leading to the base.

To get to the upper falls continue on the logging road. Around 0.40 of a mile from the lower falls the road does a hard left switchback. Several trails veer off the outside of the turn. Ignore them and stay on the logging road as it ascends. The grade varies but never gets too difficult. Between the switchback and the falls you will pass several open grassy areas along the road. At 1.0 miles past the sharp switchback, 1.9 miles from the trailhead you will hear Tom Springs Branch Falls off to your left. The upper falls will be on the right just after the road crosses the creek. There is a trail that leads off the logging road to the base of the falls. It is barely 100 feet off the road. On my March visit I could easily see the falls from the logging road as I was walking up.

When I visited the leaves were off and the sun was brutal so my shots weren’t fantastic but even so it was a great walk in the woods and it didn’t require risking life and limb. The falls is about 35 feet high, a steep rock slide with the creek coming down the steeply sloped rock face. The hike is kid friendly and the falls, combined with Tom Springs Falls makes for a nice outing for the family. To get back to the parking area you have two choices. You can follow the logging road back or you can do what I did and continue on the logging road for another 0.2 of a mile to the red blazed Daniel Ridge Trail. Make a left onto that trail and it will take you back to the logging road between Tom Springs Falls and the split near the bridge. The trail isn’t as kid friendly so bear that in mind.