Accessibility – Moderate+
Height – 160′ (Upper Section 100+ feet & Lower Section 60 feet)
Distance – 5.4 miles (out and back)
Beauty – 7
Photo rating – 6
Solitude – 8
GPS Info: LAT 35.36020 LONG -82.87971
Last Updated – 11-26-2018
Bounderfield Falls is a waterfall that is in excess of 150 feet high when you combine the upper and lower sections. The Upper section is more than 100 feet high while the lower section is 60 feet high. There is no good way to see both sections at the same time but with the leaves off in November you can catch glimpses of the upper section through the trees. The hike to this one is long and uphill the whole way. The hike gains more than 1500 feet in elevation from the parking area to the base of the upper falls. Most of the 2.7 miles one way is on a defined trail. The final 0.35 of a mile is an off-trail bushwhack with a mountainous pile of boulders to scale before a final bushwhack to the base of the upper section. It was one of the more exhausting hikes I’ve done and I did the hike in November. This one would be a killer in the heat of summer.
To get to the trailhead, follow NC215N from the Blue Ridge Parkway for 12.8 miles and turn right onto Little East Fork Road. If you’re coming from the other direction Little East Fork Road is around 5 miles from US276. Follow Little East Fork Road for a shade under 4 miles to where a driveway posted private property goes straight and a bridge crosses Little East Fork Creek. Park on the right before the bridge. As you were driving in you probably saw the signs for Camp Daniel Boone, the hike is going to start by crossing the bridge and walking through the camp sites for the Boy Scout Camp. Once you pass the camp the graded road turns into a trail and it begins a 2.3 mile uphill run. You are going to pass several streams that fall above the trail and run under it before you pass the 25 foot high Waterfall on Little East Fork. This is around 1.3 miles from where the road turned into a trail.
Less than a mile from the waterfall a side stream enters Little East Fork on river right, the opposite side of the Little East Fork as the trail you’ve been following. There is no good indicator for the point where the creek joins in so you have to be aware or you will walk right past it. I was there in November and it was easy to spot. In the summer this may not be the case. Descent the steep bank to Little East Fork. There were a few spots where this descent was possible so you’re going to have to use your best judgment. Once you get to the creek you’re going to have to cross. On my visit, Little East Fork was high and it was a wade, a very cold wade to reach the other side. You want to end up on the river right side of the tributary. You want it on your right! Climb the bank and plunge into the downfall and rhodos.
You are now 2.4 miles into the hike and around 0.3 of a mile from the falls. It will take about as long to cover the next 0.3 miles as it did the first 2.4. The going will be slow on the first part of the bushwhack as downfall will have you going up and down the ridge. Eventually you will come to a massive fallen hemlock. This marks the end of the rhodos and the start of the adventure. Remain on the same side of the creek until the terrain forces you toward a crossing. You will still be out of sight of the upper and lower drops at the point. Once across you will find yourself facing a 100 foot high pile of mossy covered rocks and boulders. The way to the falls is up the boulders. The going will be slow and there are so many gaps and openings between the rocks that breaking an ankle is a very real possibility. Once you’re making your way up the boulders you will see the lower part of the falls. Being that it’s 60+ feet high, you might make the mistake of assuming this is what you came to see. It ain’t.
You’re looking at the correct waterfall when you look up at the top of the falls and you see the sky. Remember this! Once you get above the lower section of the falls the pile of boulders will yield to an overgrown area littered with fallen trees. Angle up and toward the creek. As you come around the ridge that drops from the right toward the creek you will see what you came to see. There are several good photo vantages for this one. You can head down a little climb onto the boulders in the middle of the creek or you can set up on river left close to where you walked into view of the falls. It isn’t until you get here that you realize the magnitude of this waterfall.
So, due to the long hike, the difficult bushwhack and the inherent dangers in scaling a pile of mossy boulders with numerous gaps capable of swallow your foot this is not one for the family or the faint of heart. The huge elevation gain will take it out of you on the trail and then comes the hard part. Plan on an all day adventure if you embark on this one.