Accessibility – Difficult+
Height – 35-40’′
Distance – 1.6 (out and back) Both Falls
Beauty – 8
Photo rating – 9
Solitude – 9
GPS Info: LAT 35.32928 LONG -83.00167
Last Updated – 10-20-2018
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.
This hike begins at the confluence of Bearwallow Creek and Piney Mountain Creek and follows Bearwallow Creek upstream on river right. This was the route we went but this is by no means the only way you could go. Since this was a group hike, I went with the consensus that said river right. My feeling was river left with some creek-walking mixed in. I will like go this way on my next visit just to see if my intuition was correct. Another advantage of going up river left is it leaves you in a better position to photograph Lower Bearwallow Falls, which our river right approach wouldn’t permit. If you need to know how to get to the confluence, its on the page for Piney Mountain Falls.
Beginning at the confluence, head up the river right side of Bearwallow Creek. Just off the creek I found a way up a steep rock section before cutting back to the left to get around a large cliff. The woods are open at the start and once you get to the top of this first rock promontory, you will have a nice look down on Bearwallow Creek. Heading upstream followed a series of overgrown paths and the occasional drainage before we got to a view of the lower falls from the brink. There was a steep path down but on this day, I didn’t bother. From the poor overhead view, we were forced away from the creek by an impassible area where a large tree was lying on the slope. Walking across the tree seemed way to dangerous since on the right side there was a sheer drop. The left side was hemmed in by a steep cliff but at the upper end of the tree, there wasn’t anything under it.
I went up the grade and found a sloped rock section that bypassed the log but wasn’t the most pleasant experience descending. Once down the 10 foot section of rock, I was done with the side-hill. I found the quickest route to the creek, finding it safer to creek-walk on a 62 degree day than to spend another minute on that perilous hillside. Getting upstream had a few tricky spots but nothing life-threatening. We had to cross the creek a few times before the route led to a sloped falls with a giant pothole and an important lesson. With the free-falling Bearwallow Falls visible in the distance and the sun beating down on the very cool lower section of the falls, I opted to take my pictures on the way out.
Getting past the lower section of falls required crossing the creek at the downstream end of the pool and then scaling the sloped rock to get to the top. It wasn’t very hard to do and once at the top it was a short trek to the base of the falls. At 35-40 feet high, the falls dropped straight down a rock chute bordered by colored rock, painting an amazing scene. There was a lot of fall yellow on the banks and a healthy flow coming over the falls. The only negative was the way the sun was hitting half the falls.
After a long day reaching this point and no one relishing the premise of the return to the confluence we opted on a different route back to our vehicle. We spotted a drainage on river right and after a brief discussion we elected to charge up the slope. The first section is steep and the second section is even worse. Once you get past the ridiculously steep part the area becomes more rocky, forcing you to pick your way around large rock outcrops. It wasn’t hard to figure out where to go with a GPS showing the location of the logging grade leading to our vehicle. The final section of the slope was through a huge pile of downfall but still easier than retracing our way to the confluence before coming up the bank.
My GPX track shows the bank ascent added 275 feet of elevation change in under 0.1 of a mile with the grade slope ranging from 45% to 83%.
Once at the top it was a short walk down the logging road to the gate and our waiting vehicle.