Accessibility – Difficult+
Height – 25′
Distance – 3.2 miles (out and back)
Beauty – 4
Photo rating – 6
Solitude – 9
GPS Info: LAT 35.08805 LONG -82.93914
Last Updated – 11-25-2018
NOTE: When I originally did this hike in November of 2018, I only made it down as far as Chute Falls. We were running out of light and we didn’t want to risk getting caught in the woods after dark with temps forecast into the 20s. We reached the brink of Paw Paw Falls and called it there. I re-hiked Chute and Paw Paw in August of 2019 but came in a different way and went out a different way. If you want to explore this option, check out the Bear Canyon Falls page. It is a wicked all day adventure for those up to the challenge.
Indian Creek Falls, Split Rock Falls, Chute Falls and Paw Paw Falls are all located on the same short stretch of Bearwallow Creek in Gorges State Park. The four falls are very close to one another but getting to the base of each individual waterfall isn’t easy. I was there when the water was way up, removing the option of possibly walking along the creek. Although this is under the heading of Chute Falls, it is the hike to all four. Once I get to Paw Paw Falls, the one in this quartet I didn’t reach on my expedition. I will move this description there. On my visit I was running out of light and was dealing with what I believed was a broken finger so didn’t want to risk it. I stopped short of making my way to the base of the final drop.
To reach the trailhead head to Gorges State Park and drive to the Grassy Ridge Parking area as if you’re going to Rainbow Falls. Gorges State Park is a mile South of US64 on NC281. Follow the entrance road to the visitor’s center and make a left and then an immediate right. This will lead to the parking lot. If you come on a weekend or any nice day the lot will be full, which is OK. If the gate is open at the top end of the parking area park along the side of the road here. Walk along the road away from the parking area to a gated road on the right. Walk past the gate on the old road. In less than 0.2 of a mile the road will split with one branch veering sharply right. Stay to the left. In less than 0.4 of a mile from the first split the road will come to a T intersection. Make a left. In another quarter of a mile the road will split again. Make another left heading down hill. Less than 0.2 of a mile after that left make another left heading steeply down the ridge toward Bearwallow Creek. The bad part about this easily followed logging road is it is not on the topo map so I don’t know where it goes after the crossing.
So much for the easy part. Cross Bearwallow Creek and pick a good spot to enter the woods on the right. It is thick and overgrown and there are a lot of downed trees near the road so you’re going to have to pick what you think is the best route. There are no step by step directions once you leave the trail. I tried to stay as close to the creek as possible. There are some small cliffs and steep sections along the bank that you will want to stay under. Even in high water I can tell you that seeing Indian Camp Falls requires wading to reach the rocky area across Bearwallow Creek. These Falls are very close together so you need to listen as you make your way downstream or you’ll bushwhack right past them.
The first waterfall you’ll come to is Indian Camp Falls
The second waterfall on the trip is Split Rock Falls
The third waterfall on the trip is Chute Falls (pics below)
The fourth waterfall on the trip is Paw Paw Falls
I know these directions are vague but there is no way to recount exactly how I made my way through the woods to reach the falls. This is one of those hikes where you need to rely on your ability to follow the land and use your best judgment. This is not an easy bushwhack by any stretch and none of the waterfalls are massive. Each is in the 25-30 foot range and not something the average tourist nor are they something a novice hiker will enjoy trying to reach.
If you tracked your hike in using a GPS program, which you always should, from the base of Paw Paw Falls you can strike out through the woods on river right and take the ridge spine back to the road above the crossing of Bearwallow Creek. The woods are not terribly overgrown and the terrain isn’t ankle breaking steep. If you have your track line to use as a guide you can avoid the whack back to the creek crossing. Do what you think is easiest.