367 – South Laurel Fork Falls

Accessibility – Moderate+

Height – 22′

Distance – 0.5 (out and back)

Beauty – 7

Photo rating – 8

Solitude – 8

GPS Info: LAT 35.27412 LONG -82.84637

Last Updated – 11-11-2018


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Before we jump right in, consider your fitness for this hike, you off-trail prowess and your ability to find your way by reading the terrain around you. This kind of warning is frequent on many of the waterfalls in this area. If you ask a ranger about this waterfall, they’ll shake their head. It’s not a place a lot of people go and even through the hike to the falls is 0.25 of a mile one way, if you fall and get hurt, you’re going to be there for a while. While the hike is straight forward, the scramble down is steep and unforgiving. The danger of getting lost should be minimal since the best way to get to the falls mirrors the creek. However since there are two creeks at the trailhead, you need to make sure you follow the correct one.

Spoiler alert: South Laurel Fork Falls is so much nicer than I would have expected for a waterfall that doesn’t see much traffic.

Along the highly trafficked FR475, South Laurel Fork Falls is probably the least visited destination. Mush of this is likely due to the fact no one knows this waterfall is here. It isn’t on the Pisgah Maps and a Google search doesn’t show any results. Too bad, this is not a hard hike for one that doesn’t follow a trail. The twenty foot high waterfall is back in a narrow slot and even as you’re climbing down to it, you can’t see it. I only saw it because I was on a logging grade high above the creek and spotted falling water in the chasm.

To get to the trailhead, from the intersection of US64/US276/NC280 in Brevard, follow US276 5.3 miles to the split with FR475. Make the left onto FR475 and follow it 5.2 miles. The final 2.0 miles will be past where the pavement ends. At 3.9 miles you will pass the parking area for Twin Boulder Falls and less than half a mile later you will pass FR5095, where the hike to the Waterfall on Long Branch begins. After crossing the creek on a narrow bridge at 4.8 miles you will pass the parking area for Gemini Falls and Laurel Fork Falls. At 5.2 miles FR475 passes over a small creek with a parking area on the far side. This is where you need to park.

The creek that passes under FR475 is actually the confluence of two creeks so this is where you need to make sure you follow the correct one. If you walk along FR475 heading South (further from Gemini Falls) you will see the creek in the woods by the road. As the road bends to the left, the woods will open up. Enter the trees here and start following the creek upstream. We were able to stay pretty close to it.

It is not very long before the terrain is going to force you down toward the creek and as you get closer, scan the opposite bank for a logging grade climbing alongside the creek. It is easy to spot if you know what to look for. After crossing the creek, follow the logging grade up the hill. In places it is hard to follow but for the most part it will get you almost all the way to the falls.  The real trick is knowing when to head down to the creek. If you use my GPS coordinates you will know where you need to end up. If you stay on the logging road you will end up high above the falls. If you come at it from this angle, you need to head downstream or you will come to a dangerous cliff that overhangs the river right side of the falls.

The scramble down is steep and slippery and there isn’t a lot of room below the falls to take a picture but damn is it pretty down there! Once again, not kid friendly and not for the average tourist. If you know how to find your way without a trail this one is a piece of cake. Neither of us had been here before and we were in and out in 45 minutes. If you decide to check this one out, be careful.

DSC_5369_1
South Laurel Fork – November 2018
DSC_5364
The huge cliff that hides the falls from the trail – November 2018

 

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