Accessibility – Medium
Height – Approx 15′
Distance – 6.30 miles (out and back)
Beauty – 7
Photo rating – 8
Solitude – 10
GPS Info: LAT 35.25930 LONG -82.77580
Last Updated: 09-07-2017
Saxifrage Falls is a 15 foot tall free-falling waterfall on King Creek about a mile from 475C in the shadow of John Rock. While not a very hard hike, it is a touch on the long side at 6.3 miles round trip. Most of the hike, 6.28 miles of it are on easily followed trails. The last fraction is a steep scramble down a cluttered, overgrown bank. The payoff for me was worth it but the casual enthusiast will likely not like the scramble. While not a huge waterfall, the flow was great and the setting was isolated and private. Considering the somewhat isolated nature of this waterfall, I was surprised it was so free of clutter.
Getting to Saxifrage Falls requires a long uphill hike to Cat Gap and then a mile downhill to the falls. On the way back it will be a mile uphill to get to Cat Gap and two miles down to the parking area at the fish hatchery. You can approach getting to the trail to Saxifrage Falls in a lot of different ways. I’m going to recount the way I went but this is by no means the only way to get there. You can combine this hike with a trip to the Summit of John Rock or with the Waterfall on Cedar Rock Creek or both or neither. I combined it with neither but only because I’ve been to the summit several times as well as to the waterfalls on Cedar Rock Creek.
To get to the parking area at the fish hatchery from the intersection of US64/US276/NC280 in Brevard, follow US276 5.3 miles to the split with 475. Make a left on 475 and follow it for 1.3 miles to the fish hatchery. The entrance is on the left. Once you pull into the parking lot, head to the left. Park down toward the kiosk at the end of the lot furthest from the buildings. The hike will begin at the kiosk following the Cat Gap Loop Trail. The trail blaze is orange and it is well marked. The starting point would be the same is you were going to hike John Rock clockwise on the Cat Gap Loop Trail.
The Cat Gap Loop Trail enters the woods and follows a level path along the meandering Davidson River. Along this section there are multiple campsites and side paths. Stay on the main path, crossing a footbridge. The trail will start to pick up some elevation after the second foot bridge. There had been a lot of rain so parts of this trail were soggy. As the incline steepens the trail will come to a fork. The yellow blazed John Rock Trail will go to the right. Stay on the Cat Gap Loop Trail as it climbs steeply at this point. This point is just over a mile from the trailhead. The next intersection you come to will be the other end of the John Rock Trail as well as the Cat Gap Bypass Trail. The John Rock Trail goes up and to the right and the Cat Gap Bypass straight. Stay to the left to remain on the Cat Gap Loop Trail. This is the steepest section as the trail climbs to a convergence with the Art Loeb Trail.
When you get to the intersection of the two trails, there are a total of five paths. The one you came up, to the left is the Art Loeb Trail, across the Art Loeb Trail is the unsigned trail to Saxifrage Falls. This used to be trail #124 but it is no longer maintained. If you made a right and walked past this trail you would see the continuation of the Cat Gap Loop Trail and the Art Loeb Trails. All of the trails are signed with the exception of the one to Saxifrage Falls. The trail descends from the convergence with Cat Gap Loop Trail and comes to an intersection with FR475C. Make a left onto FR475C and follow this a short distance to an old signpost on the right. A trail enters the woods here. This is the one you want. The section near FR475C is overgrown and covered in downfall so the trail will be hard to follow in places. Once through this area, the trail is easy to follow and well-defined.
Along this section the creek is on your right and can be heard flowing over some small cascades but it is heavily overgrown and hard to see. At a mile from the Cat Gap Loop Trail you will hear Saxifrage Falls on your right. There is no good indicator of the exact spot but you will know this is not a cascade. There was a very faint path on the right of the trail that led on a perilous course down to the creek. It was thick with briers and dog hobble so be careful. It is also steep. I came out below the falls and had to cross the creek to get up to the falls. I reached it on river right just below a tree lying across the creek. The tree didn’t pose a problem for photographs since I could shoot over it and under it.
I don’t know what King Creek looks like in normal flows but it was great when I was there. The hike to Cat Gap is long and steep so most kids aren’t going to like it. The scramble is also a bit much so it’s probably best to leave the little ones out on this hike. I was pleasantly surprised by this waterfall. Considering the number of people that hike in this area, it was nice to have this secluded oasis to myself. There is a larger King Creek Falls further downstream but I didn’t get to that one on this trip.