318 – Charleys Creek Falls

Accessibility – Moderate+

Height – 30′

Distance – 2.6 (out and back) w/potential creek walk

Beauty – 6

Photo rating – 8

Solitude – 8

GPS Info: LAT 35.28487 LONG -82.98447

Last Updated – 09-21-2018

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Charleys Creek Falls is narrow chute of a waterfall with the water zigzagging down a dark rockface before vanishing behind a protruding a boulder and shooting out the side and then falling over another short drop. Downstream a series of cascades spread out from the upper section, creating a scenic setting well off the beaten path. I’m not sure if most will enjoy the hike or the ling drive to get to Charleys Creek Falls but if you’re in the area visiting any of the other waterfalls on Charleys Creek Road, this one is worth a look.

Charleys Creek Falls in located on Charleys Creek Road between NC281 and NC215. There is a small pull out on the NC215 side of the bridge over Charleys Creek. If you’re heading toward NC281 it will be on the right and this is also the trailhead. If yo’re coming from NC281 the pullout is on the left just after you cross the creek. To get to the bridge coming from NC215, follow Charleys Creek Road for 6.75 miles to the pullout on the right before crossing the bridge. If you’re coming from NC281, the bridge is just under 4 miles down Charleys Creek Road on the left.

The hike begins at the upper end of the pullout where an old logging grade enters the woods. The end of the road is blocked by several dirt mounds but once past those the grade is easy to follow as it heads upstream. A silt barrier on the left will lead the way for a time before the trail reaches the first intersection. At less than 0.1 of a mile the road forks. Stay right, heading uphill. At 0.25 from the trailhead the trail forks again. This time stay to the left on the more established trail. At 0.65-0.7 from the trailhead you will come to a third fork, go right. The road to the left is severely overgrown while the right branch is obviously more traveled. Just under half a mile from the third fork a road comes in from the right. At this point make a left and cross the creek. On the far side, head up a small drainage and exit the creek. It is badly overgrown but if you push through at the start you will come to a logging grade heading upstream.

Initially the grade is easy to follow but as you venture further from the creek crossing the trail begins to erode and there is more downfall to contend with. It is no more than 0.25 of a mile from the crossing to the falls but as the road became harder to follow and the wood nettle more prevalent, we opted to climb down the bank and finish this one out as a creek walk. As far as creek walks go this one wasn’t too awful and it beat the hell out of the overgrown road. I can’t speak to the condition of the road after we left it or what is the best place to climb down to the creek.

The area in front of the falls is cluttered and the bank on river right is unstable so getting a decent shot is going to require standing in the creek. The way the falls comes down the cliff makes a shot from river left impossible. I found several decent places in the creek both near the falls and further downstream to photograph this one. This is not a great waterfall choice for the family or those unaccustomed to wilderness trail conditions and confusing intersections. I had a GPS mark on the falls and that helped with the creek walk portion. The overgrown logging road that parallels the creek on the final 0.25 of the hike will likely be completely overgrown in a few years, the last remnants of the path consumed by the dog-hobble and wood-nettle.

The view behind the boulder – September 2018
A more distant view – September 2018

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