333 – Big Laurel Falls

Accessibility – Medium

Height: Approx 25′ (two drops with a cool ledge in the middle)

Distance – 1.2 miles (out and back)

Beauty – 7

Photo rating – 8

Solitude – 6

GPS Info: LAT 35.01825 LONG -83.50637

Last updated – 10/09/2018

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A week shy of six years after my first visit to Western North Carolina I made my first trip to Franklin NC. It was a dreary Tuesday morning and along the way it rained and even as we reached the trailhead for Big Laurel Falls the drizzle was coming down. Having come this far we had no choice but to make the best of it and as we set off, the rain stopped. Our visit to Big Laurel Falls turned out to be the first of four great stops on our day.

To get to the trailhead for Big Laurel Falls from the intersection of US64 and NC441/US23 in Franklin head west on US 64 for 12 miles to West Old Murphy Road on the left.Take West Old Murphy Road 1.9 miles to Wallace Gap and make a right onto FR67. This is a forest road but this first section is paved and in very nice condition as it makes its way to Standing Indian Campground. At 1.7 miles the road forks. The right fork goes to the campground. Stay left on FR67 which shortly after the split turns to gravel. From the split to the pullout it 5.1 miles. The parking area is on the left and signed. This is the trailhead for the Timber Ridge Trail and the Big Laurel Falls Trail. This is 0.7 miles before the parking area for Mooney Falls, which can be combined with this hike to make a nice half day outing.

Head down the hill on the trail and when you come to a T, turn right. This is very close to the start of the trail. The trail will head to Mooney Creek and cross it on a footbridge just downstream of some very nice cascades. The graded trail will split on the far side of the bridge with the Big Laurel Falls Trail going right and the Timber Ridge Trail going left. Go right and follow the trail downstream. After paralleling Mooney Creek downstream the trail bends to the left and picks up the Nantahala River, which the trail follows upstream. This part of the Nantahala is ripe with cascades. The trail follows along on river left until reaching Big Laurel Branch where it turns left and goes up a short grade. Once you get to the top you’ll see the falls. You can cross below the tree lying across the downstream end of the falls or shoot from the rocks on the right.

There are a lot of angles and compositions that work for this waterfall. After enjoying the views from below you can scramble up the bank on river left for a closer look at the ledge between the two drops. The water-sculpted rock is filled with potholes and color and our visit covered in colored leaves. The hike is kid-friendly and the pool below the falls is really nice. All in all this was a pleasant surprise.

Across the pool view – October 2018 
From the river right vantage – October 2018
The upper drop and sculpted rock – October 2018

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