360 – Sassafras Knob Falls

Accessibility – Moderate+

Height: Approx 16′

Distance – 5.2 miles (out and back)

Beauty – 4

Photo rating – 3

Solitude – 8

GPS Info: LAT 35.28284 LONG -82.85889

Last updated – 11-04-2018


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Considering the distance (5.2 miles), grade (1.8 miles uphill at the start), difficulty (the bushwhack) and the payoff (not a great waterfall) this is not a good hike for the average person out to see a waterfall on their trip to Pisgah. 

Sassafras Knob Falls is an obscure waterfall on the upper reaches of the same tributary of Laurel Fork as Gemini Falls. Although close in distance to Gemini Falls, the safest way to reach the falls is from FR229. I know people who have hiked to Gemini Falls and made there way to the top of the falls to reach Sassafras Knob Falls. This requires some serious off-frail hiking and bushwhacking. If you undertake this hike from Gemini Falls, I can offer this first hand experience. Head downstream away from Gemini Falls. You will see a ridge on river left that drops toward the creek. Angle toward the ridge and into a shallow drainage. You don’t have to climb the ridge but keep following the drainage higher. It will start to climb moderately. There is a faint path if you stay to the right in the valley.

Once you get onto the path, it will take you to where the ridge on your right intersects the ridge at the head of the drainage. Once you get to the top of the ridge at the head of the drainage, make a left and climb. You will see a rocky area higher up. An old road terminates just above these rocks. It is mostly open and easy to follow. It will wrap around a ridge and intersect with FR229B, above Sassafras Knob Falls, make a left onto FR229B and follow it to the trin and bushwhack upstream. Regardless of the approach, you will likely be disappointed when you reach the falls. Having been to Sassafras Knob Falls twice, I can say this much. I don’t think I need to go a third time unless I happen to be hiking FR229B for some other reason. It’s an meh waterfall requiring a long uphill hike  and once you arrive there is no good place to take a picture. Since it was on the Kevin Adams 500 list, I had to go.

To reach the trailhead, you have two options. From downtown Brevard follow US64 West about 3.5 miles and turn right at the Kuykendall Group Camp sign (Catheys Creek Road). The road comes to a T where you make a left to remain on Catheys Creek Rd (FR 471). The first section is paved (just over half a mile) the rest is bumpy. Along the way you will pass the trailhead for Catheys Creek Falls at 3.2 miles. From Catheys Creek Falls its another 5 miles of gravel road to reach FR475 at Gloucester Gap. Park so as not to block the road. The hike begins beyond the gate on FR229. FR229 is easy to spot. It’s the only road at the intersection that’s gated and it’s steep as heck. Coming from the other way, follow US276 5.3 miles from the intersection of US64/NC28o/US276 in Brevard to the intersection with FR475. Bear left on FR475 and follow it for 6.0 miles to FR471 and park.

Ignore FR229 and get on the Art Loeb Trail for a steep ascent. It is brutally steep but way shorter than hiking FR229. I learned this on my second trip when I came out via the Art Loeb. Follow the Art Loeb to the first intersection with FR229, cross the road and continue on the trail. When the trails comes to the road a second time, make a right onto FR229. This second intersection is 0.6 from the start. Once you are on FR229 you will realize that this road only goes up, either moderately or steeply. Be on the lookout for FR229B on your right after you have been on FR229 for 0.9 miles. You do not want to miss this turn. Turn onto FR229B. For the first time on this hike, you will head downhill on the grassy logging grade. The gently undulating road will pass over several creeks, one of which is Laurel Fork. When you come to Laurel Fork you can hear the waterfall on Laurel Fork in the distance. Remain on FR229B as it winds into the next drainage. At approximately 0.7 of a mile from where you got onto FR229B, you will reach the tributary. The GPS for where we left the road was 35.28278 -82.85784.

There is no trail at this point so follow the path of least resistance. The woods were relatively open and not terribly steep as long as you keep the creek on your right. As you get closer to the falls, the grade increases and it gets thick. Expect to crawl under some rhodos and climb over some fallen trees. It is thick and unruly and once you get close to the falls you will have to cross the creek. As for a picture, I had to wriggle my way up the river left side of the creek to get past the foliage so I could shoot a semi-open profile shot of the falls.

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FR229 – November 2018

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A little different feel on my January 2021 visit

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