Accessibility – Difficult
Height – 50′
Distance – 0.8 (out and back) Only this falls
Beauty – 5
Photo rating – 6
Solitude – 7
GPS Info: LAT 35.32600 LONG -83.00070
Last Updated – 10-20-2018
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Before you set off on this one keep in mind, this hike involves venturing off-trail, walking in creeks, wading across creeks, climbing over large boulders and bush-whacking. In some places, you have to figure out how you want to advance. In some places I can point the way. This isn’t a hike to be undertaken lightly. Even with a total distance of under two miles, expect the hike to take up most of the day.
Piney Mountain Falls is one of three waterfalls you can access on this same hike. It is located on Piney Mountain Creek above the confluence with Bearwallow Creek. The falls drops in two sections visible from the base with a downstream river left vantage giving a better view of the upper portion and a closer river right view providing a better look at the lower section.
To get to the trailhead from US74, exit the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway at Exit 85 and make a slight left onto Beta Circle Rd/Steeple Rd. Follow Beta Circle Road and make an almost immediate left onto Cope Creek Road. Remain on Cope Creek Road for 2.3 miles until it dead-ends into NC107 just North of Western Carolina University. Take NC107 South for 8.4 miles and make a left onto Caney Fork Road. For most of the falls in this area, Caney Fork Road will get you to the trailhead. At 1.9 miles you will pass the turn for Moses Creek Falls. At 8.7 miles from NC107 you will pass Sugar Creek Road, which accesses the trailhead for Sugar Creek Falls, Dryland Laurel Branch and Upper Sugar Creek Falls. At 9.4 miles Rough Butt Road heads off to the right from the outside of a sharp left turn. The turn onto FR4766 (signed as 9766) is 0.3 of a mile on the right after the point where Caney Fork Road turns to gravel. There is a large boulder with 9766 marking the hard right turn.
FR4766 climbs steeply away from Caney Fork Road. For the most part this road is in decent shape. You’ll pass a broken down gate along the way and come to an intersection where several other roads intersect. Stay to the right. At 3.2 miles the road ends at a gate. There is a parking area on the side of the road just before the gate.
Hike past the gate along the overgrown logging road for less than 0.2 of a mile and keep en eye out for a trail heading down a broad ridge on the right. The upper part of the trail is easy to follow but as you venture further down the grade it comes and goes. I just went with that looked like the easiest way down. Well below the road we found an overgrown logging grade which he followed downstream a short distance before making our way to the creek. There isn’t a lot of help I can give you here other than you want to get to the creek as close to the confluence point as possible. The route I chose left me downstream of the confluence and required a relatively easy bank scramble on the far side and some creek-waking to reach the point where Piney Mountain Creek and Bearwallow Creek join.
Piney Mountain Falls
Starting at the confluence of the two creeks you want to get to the peninsula between the creeks. I went up the river left side and crossed the boulders to get to the point of land. The rest of my group crossed Bearwallow Creek (which comes in on the left side of the picture). Once on the peninsula, with Piney Mountain Creek on your right, you will see a path leading into the woods. This will get you onto an overgrown logging grade that heads upstream. You can stay with this much of the way to the falls before it peters out on river right just below the sloped portion of the falls. If you get to the base of the falls you will see a trail wheel lying in the creek (on river right). You can make your way up along the bank to get to the base or you can cross the creek and get onto the large rocks on the other side to take pictures that show more of the upper section. The total hike up Piney Mountain Creek is less than a third of a mile but it isn’t easy going in places. After you make it to the falls, return to the confluence and get ready for the more difficult hike to Bearwallow Falls.