Accessibility – Hard
Height – Approx 20′
Distance – 0.75 miles (out and back – river walk)
Beauty – 5
Photo rating – 4
Solitude – 8
GPS Info: LAT 35.31542 LONG -82.90796
Last Updated: 08-22-2017
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Middle Wildcat Falls is a twenty-foot high, single drop waterfall very close to NC215. It is on the same creek as Wildcat Falls (accessed elsewhere) and Lower Wildcat Falls (the last waterfall before the branch ends) The trailhead is North of the Blue Right Parkway on NC215. The waterfall is downstream from the more popular Wildcat Falls. The waterfall is a single slide down a colored and lined rock face into a hidden pool. The setting is very peaceful and very challenging to reach. Both Lower and Middle Wildcat Falls are very close to the confluence of Silver Mine Branch (the creek Wildcat, Middle Wildcat and Lower Wildcat Falls are on) and the West Fork of the Pigeon River. The waterfall isn’t raging or spectacular but the location is cool and if you take the route I did to get there, it makes for an enjoyable expedition for those accustomed to off-trail hiking and walking rivers. If you don’t like doing those things or you don’t know how, this is a waterfall you won’t enjoy and you might get hurt.
That said, expect to get a little dirty and wet on this hike. If you have’t done any creek walks, you might want to reconsider or you may want to go with someone experienced in doing them. I did the majority of this trip (both times) in water shoes but the ultimate choice in footwear is up to you. There are some deep sections and they will sneak up on you. If you haven’t done this before, the water will go from six inches deep to six feet deep in one step. Make sure your stuff is properly protected from the water. Still want to give this one a go?
First off, lets get to Lower Wildcat Falls. To do so, take NC215 North from the Blue Ridge Parkway 1.8 miles to the pull out for Bubbling Springs Cascades (Guardrail Falls). There is also a pullout for Lower & Middle Wildcat Falls at 1.9 miles from the BRP but I didn’t fancy the descent from that point so I elected to take a different approach. Truthfully I didn’t see anything over the guardrail at the official pullout other than a broken leg. My preferred route to the falls is just under 0.3 of a mile and is a mix of scrambling, creek walking, rock-hopping and boulder-climbing. There is also the ascent up the river right side of Lower Wildcat Falls. It’s mostly in the woods but very close to the side of the falls at one point.
From the Guardrail Falls pull out, head under the guardrail where the ground is eroded and follow the steep scramble path to the flat area below. An obvious trail leads to the confluence of the West Fork of the Pigeon River and Bubbling Springs Branch. Start the downriver journey by crossing the West Fork of the Pigeon River and following the trail in the woods on the river right to get below the first cascade on the river. There are four more cascades/small waterfalls to navigate before you get to Silver Mine Branch. I can’t give you a boulder by boulder recap but it wasn’t terribly difficult to bypass them. While not Looking Glass Falls, enough people have made the trek that the route easy enough to pick out, at least to me. Of course, difficult to me and difficult to you might be different things.
If you haven’t hiked off trail or walked a creek, you need to use extreme caution. NC215 is less than 100 yards away but there is no way to climb up to it, at least not that I could find. Rumor has it a path leads down from the pullout 0.1 miles north of where I parked but when I looked for it back in 2015 I couldn’t find it. Additionally when I did this hike the first time (Lower Wildcat Falls only) the creek level was way up (see the pictures on the Lower Wildcat Falls page to see how up) so on most days this would likely be much easier than the conditions present when I made the trip. Expect to take a lot of pictures on your way down the river. This section of the West Fork is incredible. There are several exposed sections of rock along the bank that help provide a path. Just be on the look out for the faint paths leading into the woods if the river gets too treacherous. Without much difficulty I located paths that bypassed some of the more challenging water features. For the most part you will never get too far from the creek.
When I reached Silver Mine Branch, I was on the NC215 side of the West Fork but getting across wasn’t terribly challenging, even with the river raging. Lower Wildcat Falls is just up from the merge. To get to Middle Wildcat, cross the West Fork of the Pigeon River and then cross Silver Mine Branch. There is a huge boulder just beyond the confluence. Once you pass the boulder there is a trail into the woods on the right. It leads to and then up the side of Lower Wildcat Falls. There is one dicey section of this ascent so take your time and make sure you have good footing. A slip at this point is going to send you onto the rock at the base of Lower Wildcat Falls. The trail moderates at the top of the falls and less than two minutes from the brink of the lower falls you’ll be at the middle falls. The single slide dumps into a pool hidden by a rock wall. The water flows out the river right side of the pool and heads over the lower falls. You can shoot from below the rock wall to include it or from over it to see the very inviting pool above.
I don’t think I’d call this one kid-friendly but for someone seeking a nice little adventure, especially on a short hike, this one might be for you. Photographically you’re going to be very limited by the terrain but you can still take a nice shot. When coupled with Lower Wildcat Falls and Bubbling Springs Cascades, you can make a nice half day of it. Don’t expect any company down here unless I’m in the area. I’ve been to this part of Silver Mine Branch twice and I’ll be back at least one more time on my trip to Little Sam Falls which is further down the Pigeon River.