Accessibility – Moderate+
Height – 18′
Distance – 3.0 (out and back)
Beauty – 4
Photo rating – 3
Solitude – 5
GPS Info: LAT 35.37653 LONG -82.77185
Last Updated – 11-11-2018
Unless you’re an avid waterfall enthusiast, Upper and Lower Barnett Branch Falls are not going to be worth your time. The hike is about 3.0 miles round-trip with most of it on the Buck Springs Trail, which is relatively flat. The Buck Springs Trail sees a fair amount of foot traffic but I would venture to say that very few of the passersby make there way down to this two falls. From the trail to the falls requires a steep bushwhack with an ample supply of briers and loose soil to keep things interesting. If the falls were amazing, I could justify the effort but neither are anything special and I saw them with the water level above normal. I can only imagine how these two would look in the middle of summer. You ready?
To reach the trailhead from toke US276 North from the intersection of US64/NC280/US276 in Brevard, follow US276 12.7 miles to the pullout for the Buck Springs Trail. This is 1 mile past where Yellow Gap Road (FR1206) meets US276. Coming from the Parkway the pullout is on the left 2.3 miles from the stop sign at the base of the ramp. A row of boulders mark the place to park and the trail descends from the edge of the pullout.
The Buck Springs Trail is easy to follow and doesn’t have a lot of grade to it as it skirts the mountainside. You will pass a dry drainage and then have to cross a low-flow creek that was running good on my visit. The next drainage you come to is the creek that creates Cradle Falls about 0.3 of a mile upstream from the creek crossing. There is a nice cascade where the trail crosses. The winding trail climbs away from this creek and follows the contour deep into the third drainage and back out. The creek in this drainage was very noisy but even with the leaves off we couldn’t see what was down there making a fuss.
As you swing into the fourth drainage, after passing the Barnett Branch Trail, you are getting closer. So the directions I had said to follow the Buck Springs Trail to the creek and then follow the creek downstream. You can do this or you can leave the trail in the vicinity of 35.37584 by -82.77264 and head straight down the hill. The grade is steep but manageable. With the leaves off I could see both the upper and lower falls on the way down, making it easier to pick a course. I hit the lower falls first, which is a 15-17 foot drop with a smaller drop below. It is a cool setting with the way the water flows down the rock. The photo opportunities are limited however so you really only have one good place to take a pic. The hardest part of getting to this waterfall is a huge tree lying on the slope that you have to climb over.
The upper falls is very close but if you want to take a slight detour there is a nice small drop downstream from the lower falls. It has a few trees over it but I thought it was worth a couple of pics. It doesn’t have a name but I think it was cool.
To get to the upper falls, which is a 20+ foot sliding rock type waterfall that looked good today with the leaves dotting the rocks and a decent flow. To reach the upper falls from the lower, pass the fallen tree you had to climb over and make your way up the grade following the creek. The upper falls isn’t visible from the lower falls but once you clear the top of the hill, you can see it. You can see the Upper Barnett Branch Falls here
Once you leave the upper falls, head up the bank while angling downstream. This course will take you through a dry drainage and up the other side toward the Buck Springs Trail. There is a lot of loose soil near the creek so use caution, especially if you venture below the lower waterfall. The hike made for a nice adventure and the falls were on the 500 list challenge I’m doing. I’m glad I went and saw them and I’m very glad I did so in the fall when the leaves were off and the temps were cool. That said, I highly doubt I would venture back this way again. This hike is not kid friendly and not for everyone.