221 – Upper Kiesee Falls

Accessibility – Medium

Height – Approx 16-18′ (over two drops)

Distance – 1.76 miles (out and back)

Beauty – 6

Photo rating – 8

Solitude – 8

GPS Info: LAT 35.2772 LONG -82.8836

Last Updated: 09-07-2017

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Upper Kiesee Falls is the upstream companion of Kiesee Falls both of which are accessed from the same trailhead on FR140. In addition to their closeness on Kiesee Creek, the two falls are remarkably similar in appearance. The lower falls is taller while the upper has a batter swimming hole. While the two falls are separated by less than a hundred feet (you can see the brink of Kiesee Falls from the pool below Upper Kiesee Falls) the hike between the two is close to half a mile being how there is no way to climb up or down Kiesee Falls to shorten the trip. If you could, you would want to climb down to Kiesee Falls from Upper Kiesee since it is much easier to get to the upper falls. There is no creek walking and bushwhacking to get to the upper falls, only a sketchy rock area right at the falls.

The trailhead for Upper Kiesee Falls is the same as for Kiesee Falls, 2.3 miles down FR140 from the intersection with NC215 on the outside of a hard left hand turn. There is a tree with a yellow “NO VEHICLES” sign right on FR140. There is a wide area on the left side of the road where you can park. FR140 was never the smoothest of logging roads and now that the lower end of FR140, between FR140A and NC215 is being used as a logging road once again and the logging trucks are tearing it up, expect a bumpy ride. Also note that the bridge over Courthouse Creek on NC215 is under construction and is currently reduced to single lane traffic.

From the parking area you can either, take the trail below the signed tree or the one above it. They meet just past the tree. Initially the trail ascends and turns right as is climbs above FR140, before swinging left away from the road. Even through the summer foliage I was able to see my Xterra parked on the side of FR140 before the canopy closed in. The initial section of the trail is steep but it quickly moderates to an easy to manage grade. There is some blowdown to contend with along the way but only one of the trees requires some thought to get around. Despite being the middle of summer, the path was easy enough to follow. At 0.25 of a mile from the trailhead, the logging road splits. Take the right branch as it descends from the junction. The grade is modest for most of the next section. You’re going to be around 0.50 of a mile from the trailhead when the next split comes up. I had it at 0.49 on my GPS. This is the turn to Kiesee Falls. Ignore this if you’re only going to the upper falls.

The trail is a little more overgrown past the split but it is still easy to follow. A little more than a quarter of a mile beyond the split for Kiesee Falls the trail comes to a wet area. On the right you will see a mound with a path going over it. Ignore this. It leads to a rock ledge and a long fall if you try and get down to the creek that way. Follow the trail through the rest of the wet area. At this point you will see a trail heading down and to the right. It is easy to follow and it isn’t difficult until you get right to the bottom. The last section is over an sloped rock that’s covered in moss. On my visit it was wet but wearing water shoes I was able to get down the rock without problem. If you went to the lower falls, this rock should not be an issue. If you have a hard time with this rock, don’t even think about the lower falls.

Kid friendly, I suppose it is. I know my 8-year-old could do it. The only challenge is the rock at the end. Ninety percent of the hike is on a mostly level logging grade. Use your judgment. There are a lot of waterfalls to take the kids to so if you’re not sure about this one, take them to Courthouse Falls instead. Photographically, this one has so much potential. The pool is great and the water is so clear you can see the detail in the submerged rocks.

Upper Kiesee Falls – September 2017
A close up view – September 2017
The rocks in the collection pool – September 2017

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