Accessibility – Moderate+
Height – 22′
Distance – 1.2 miles (out and back)
Beauty – 6
Photo rating – 6
Solitude – 10
GPS Info: LAT 35.38945 LONG -82.75543
Last Updated – 11-23-2018
The usual disclaimer when the hikes doesn’t involve a trail: The hike from FR1206 up to the MST that this excursion followed is not for everyone. The terrain is overgrown in a lot of places and there are some steep sections as you get closer to the MST. About the only positive on this hike is getting lost would be hard since you can follow the creek all the way to the MST, provided you start on the correct creek.
So Upper and Lower Big Bald Falls are vastly different in look and when it comes to photography. The lower falls is comprised of a single drop of about 22 feet while the upper falls is a series of dispersed drops that can’t be photographed in at one time. If you’re out to see a waterfall in the traditional sense, I would keep the exploration to the lower falls. If you want an adventure and a chance to see numerous smaller falls you can complete the hike to the MST. From my perspective, I enjoyed the exploration of the creek and the challenges therein. The waterfalls were smaller and some were very hard to photograph due to the terrain but I didn’t mind. It’s important to go into this hike with the proper expectations. Oh yeah, did I mention the briers?
To reach the trailhead start from the convergence of US64/NC280/US276 in Brevard and head North on US276 for 11.7 miles to FR 1206, Yellow Gap Rd. The turn is on the right. If you’re coming from the Blue Ridge Parkway the left hand turn onto FR1206 is 3.3 miles from the stop sign at the base of the ramp. FR1206 is a single lane gravel road that sees a lot of traffic in the summer months so watch your speed and don’t be surprised if you have to make use of the turn outs to allow approaching vehicles to pass. It is also popular among mountain bikers so stay alert. Remain on FR1206 for 2.9 miles to a parking area on the right.
From the parking area walk down FR1206 toward US276 to the first drainage that passed under the road. You can plunge into the overgrowth on either side of the creek. Close to the road a couple of fallen hemlocks have littered the forest with debris making for some rough going so expect this part to take some time. At no point do you want to get far from the creek. I want to say on the way back we made a total of eight creek crossings. The point where the creek intersects Yellow Gap Road is 35.38252 -82.75038.
There are a lot of smaller drainage creeks in this area so it is important to stay with the main creek as you head up the moderate grade. The ground isn’t too steep close to Yellow Gap Road and once you pass the clutter near the road the woods will open up. If you are on the right creek at this point, you will notice that along the bank of the creek there is a wide flat area. This is going to be the easiest way upstream as it keeps you off the ridges and out of the briers. The flat area keeps crossing back and forth over the creek and this is what we did. The area is surprisingly open. If you do stray from the creek you will have to contend with dense patches of briers that were unrelenting.
The lower falls is is around 0.6 of a mile from the trailhead but it could be more or less depending on how much weaving around you have to do at the start. As you get closer to the falls you’re going to come to what I’m calling “Big Bald Road”. There is a section of bank about ten feet wide covered in stones of various sizes that follows the creek like a road. I figured it to be the underpinnings of a logging grade and the top layers have been stripped away over the years.
As you near the falls you should be on river right (the creek is on your right). You can shoot it from the front or even up on the left bank if you want a different perspective. I was there on a cloudy fall day so the lighting was good and a fresh blanket of leaves framed the falls.
Before you plunge onward, keep this in mind. The upper falls is nothing like the lower. It is a series of dispersed drops, which means to see and photograph them you’re going to have to stay close to the creek. If you’re going to press on, click here.