356 – Alarka Falls

Accessibility – Moderate+

Height: Approx 120′ but hard to see from one location

Distance – 0.9 miles (out and back)

Beauty – 7

Photo rating – 6

Solitude – 7

GPS Info: LAT 35.33863 LONG -83.37157

Last updated – 10/27/2018

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Alarka Falls in 120+ foot waterfall close to Bryson City but it’s just far enough off the beaten path that it isn’t heavily visited. The hike isn’t overly difficult but it does get very rocky close to the falls, requiring care. The lower section of the trail is easy to follow and there are numerous places where side trails fork off and approach the creek. The falls is in Nantahala National Forest but not close to anything so it will feel like you’ve driven a long way to get to it even coming from US74.

To access the trailhead take US74 West from Bryon City or East from Robbinsville or the Nantahala Gorge area to exit 64. This is the exit for US19 and Alarka Road. If you head North you will be on US19. Instead head south on Alarka Road. The initial section is paved, recently so in some places and for most of the drive it mirrors Alarka Creek on one side of another. At 8.6 miles the roads turns to gravel so the final 0.8 of a mile is on the unpaved section. When the road reaches a large open area with two roads heading t the right and once to the left, you’ve reached the parking area. The road on the left is private.

You can take either of the roads heading upstream since not far from the parking area they come together. The lower section of the trail is open and east to follow. The grade is modest. Along the way numerous side trails branch to the right, heading down to cascades along the creek. I didn’t have time to explore any of the on my abbreviated visit but I plan to on a future visit. At around 0.4 of a mile the trail begins to grow steeper and it changes from a dirt trail to a series of rocks and boulders. It closely mirrors the creek at this point as it heads up the side of the falls. On my visit it was raining and the creek was flowing over the rocks, making it difficult to get further up the falls. Knowing a return visit would be coming sooner rather than later, I opted to get to a decent photo vantage and call it a day.

Alarka Falls has a lot to it and there are so many places to explore that arriving at almost six p.m. on a rainy October evening didn’t give me the time I needed to explore this falls fully. What pictures I could take were also limited by a thick blanket of fog that settled over the upper portion, giving it a foreboding feel There are so many photo opportunities but what I didn’t see was a way to take a good shot of all of it.

A close up of the foggy upper drop – October 2018
Some of the lower cascades – October 2018
A better view of the main drop – October 2018


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