175 – High Falls (West Fork Tuskasegee River)

Accessibility – Moderate

Height: Approx 120′

Distance – 4.00 (out and back)

Beauty – 8

Photo rating – 6

Solitude – 7

GPS Info: LAT 35.2034 LONG -83.1598

Last updated – 04-11-2017


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High Falls on the West Fork of the Tuskasegee River is a 120 foot high falls in Glenville NC, 8.0 miles from downtown Cashiers. With the Tuskagesee River dammed at Glenville Lake, the waterflow over the falls is limited and usually doesn’t amount to much. The falls take on a vastly different appearance when a scheduled dam release sends a raging torrent over the falls. If you happen to be at the falls during a release, you will not forget the experience. I saw my first on Sunday April 10, 2017, when a second dam release in as many days occurred. The falls went from sedate to raging and the previously placid river turned into a churning sea of whitewater capable of carrying away anyone caught in the current. Duke Energy has regularly scheduled releases posted on their website. There are a total of 8 scheduled in 2017.

To get to High Falls, follow NC107 North from Cashiers and the intersection with US64, for 8 miles to Shoal Creek Mountain Road and make a left. This is a very hard left so use caution. Less than 0.1 of a mile later Shoal Creek Mountain Road passes a gated road. Park in the wide area just past this gate on the right side of the road. The hike begins by walking past the gate and following the gravel road. A bridge takes you over the creek before the road begins to climb. For most of the next half mile the road will be ascending moderately. At the top of the hill the road will bend to the left and start into a long downhill run. Along this stretch there are some views of the Tuckasegee River far below. The trail will parallel the river for the remainder of the hike, never straying too far from the normally modest flow. There are several side trails on the right that lead to vantages along the river. At 17. miles from the trailhead a trail heads a short distance into the woods and ends at the river across from Rough Run Falls. This waterfall is on private property and is signed as such. You can photograph it from across the river either from the bank or the rocks, depending on the water level.

From this side trail it is 0.3 of a mile to High Falls. The final segment of the hike will be over the rocks downstream of the base. From there you can approach the base of the falls on the exposed rock sections. In normal flow you can easy cross the river but on release day, this would end in tragedy. Make sure you are on the correct side of the river when the release occurs or you will have no way to cross.

In normal flows, the waterflow almost pales to the geography of the area. The high cliffs on river left and the steep hillside on river right (the way to the upper trailhead) frame the multi-leveled falls nicely. During a release the waterflow is insane. On my visit about 15 seconds before the water came rushing over the falls, the two dogs that were lying on the ground suddenly freaked out, obviously picking up the sound of the torrent. The hike is kid-friendly and photographically there are so many options.

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High Falls – Before the release – April 2017
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The lower drop – April 2017
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The lower section – April 2017
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A closer view of the lower drop – April 2017
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Both drops – April 2017
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The split – April 2017
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After the release – April 2017

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