Accessibility – Medium
Height: Approx 30′
Distance – 1.2 (out and back)
Beauty – 6
Photo rating – 4
Solitude – 8
GPS Info: LAT 35.6931 LONG -82.1884
Last updated – 07-17-2017
Hickory Branch Falls is access from the Curtis Creek Campground off Curtis Creek Road. The waterfall is easily accessed via a rough trail with a steep ascent over a ridge at the outset. The waterfall was one of my favorites on this trip but it scores low on both beauty and photo because the waterfall has fallen victim to the Hemlock Woolly Aldegid. At present a large section of hemlock is propped against the rockwall next to the falls. It intrudes on every shot and makes the best vantage for a shot impossible. Until the guys with chainsaws arrive, this tree isn’t going anywhere so keep this in mind. If they do remove the tree, you need to stay away so I can have this one to myself.
Getting to the trailhead requires a 5.1 mile drive down Curtis Creek Road from the intersection with US70. To get to the intersection you can either take the Old Fort Exit off I-40 and follow it into town on Catawba Road and make a right onto US70 and drive 1.8 miles to the left onto Curtis Creek Road or you can reach Curtis Creek Road from Marion by heading North on NC221 and making a left onto US70. I don’t have a distance from this direction. Curtis Creek Road is paved for about half the drive and gravel for the rest. The name changes when you enter Pisgah Forest to FR482. The parking area is on the left across from campsites 18, 19 and 20.
The trailhead is across the road through the campsites. If you walk between sites 19 and 20 you will see the trail ascending a ridge. As you walk up, you will see it going straight up the hill and have a reaction akin to, are you serious? No, I’m not. The trail turns left and does a switchback to get you to the top. It does the same on the other side to get you down to the creek. I had to wade the creek since the water level was up. Once across a trail heads upstream on river left. This section of the trail is wide and easily followed. After another crossing of Hickory Branch in about 0.2 of a mile the trail narrows. The rest of the hike will be on river right. The Hickory Branch Trail doesn’t stop at the falls so you need to know where to exit for the best view. As the trail starts to get steep you’ll cross a small drainage flowing right to left across the trail. Look to the right as you keep following the trail and you’ll see a trail heading down. As far as scrambles go, this one is pretty easy. It heads down and does a switchback before following the creek back up to the base of the falls.
The best vantage to take a picture (pre-hemlock) was right where the trail enters the little glen. Now you have to do that you can to get a shot. The walls are mossy and near the falls they hem in both sides of the plunge pool. It’s a very cool setting even with the tree mucking things up. The hike is kid friendly and the creek crossing easy enough. Most kids don’t seem to mind having to take their shoes off to cross a creek. The total hike is 1.2 miles round trip and not very strenuous. The most difficult part is getting over the ridge by the campground. I did the whole hike in water shoes if that says anything but I do that a lot.