Accessibility – Difficult+
Height – 80-90′
Distance – 0.4 (out and back)
Beauty – 9
Photo rating – 9
Solitude – 4
GPS Info: LAT 35.22411 LONG -83.00825
Last Updated – 09-21-2018
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Wolf Creek Falls, also frequently referred to as Paradise Falls is a waterfall in excess of 80 feet high on Wolf Creek, downstream from Wolf Creek Lake. The waterfall, high cliffs framing the high drop and the massive pool below the falls make this a unique waterfall in Western North Carolina, however even as amazing as the falls looks, it could look much different. Located downstream of the dam that keeps Wolf Creek Lake in check, the falls only sees a fraction of the water is otherwise would. Even so this is one of the best waterfalls in the area. That’s the good news. The bad news is this hike is not for everyone.
To get to the trailhead, follow NC281 North from the intersection with US64 for a total of 12.7 miles passing the trailheads for Dismal Falls, the access road for Flat Creek Falls and Tanasee Creek Lake. There is a large pullout on the left side of the road and when we pulled up in Saturday there were half a dozen cars present. I have seen in excess of a dozen cars in the lot so this is a popular waterfall despite the inherent ricks in making it safely to the base. The parking area is is less than half a mile after you pass over Wolf Creek Lake Dam.
The trail leaves the parking area from the middle of the pullout and as you walk to the steep stone section leading from the parking lot keep in mind this is the easy part of the hike. Having only heard about the hike, Jen and I didn’t know what to expect but as we pulled in and parked before experiencing the descent, I keep thinking about a statement I made while getting out of the Xterra. “There’s girls over there in flip flops and bikinis, how bad can the hike be?”
From the base of the steps the trail descends at varying degrees for about 0.2 of a mile to hard right switchback. On overgrown trail keeps going straight while the well-worn path heads down to cross the creek. A large log is lying across the easiest place to cross so you’re going to have to climb over this before wading through the river. Once across the trail ascends to the top of the ridge and splits. On our way down we went straight across, heading down very steeply before reaching an open section where the only thing to hold onto is a partially fallen tree. Once down this 12-15 feet section the trail heads to the right where the real fun is waiting.
A large tree indicates where the descent resumes. The tree is easy to spot since it has a rope tied to it to assist in the next part of the “hike”. The rope will get you to the next big tree, which is also equipped with a rope to assist as the trail becomes muddy and steeper. There is a four foot drop where the trail is badly eroded before the muddy descent gets to the end of the second rope, leaving you to descend the third muddy section without the assist. A large fallen tree is poised over the trail and once under it there is one more section to descend before the trail moderates for the final few feet before depositing you on the exposed rock on river left. From this vantage you can’t see anything except two high cliffs with the creek emerging from between them. Once you cross the creek on the very slippery rocks you will see the falls set back in the tony box canyon. The view from on top of the large boulder on the river right was the best but it looks good from most every vantage from the mid-line of the creek to the right side.
As luck would have it, by the time we arrived late in the day the last of the other visitors had either left or were in the process of leaving, allowing Jen and I to enjoy the falls. It gave me a chance to take lots of pictures and it gave Jen the chance to swim in the pool as twilight approached. It was a difficult place to leave but with darkness coming, we had no choice but to make the climb out while we had light. The climb up was easier than the way down but it was by no means easy as the steep ascent was unrelenting. We didn’t bother with the 12-15 slppe with the partially fallen tree but instead we went straight up the ridge, climbing roots until we achieved the top of the ridge. After that the crossing and the final ascent to the parking area were a piece of cake.
Wold Creek Falls might be the most geologically unique waterfall in the area but you need to think seriously is this hike is your thing. If you don’t like the steepness as you make your way to the creek crossing you will hate the even steeper descent on the other side. Use caution.