Accessibility – Moderate+
Height – 15-18′
Distance – 0.9 miles (out and back)
Beauty – 5
Photo rating – 6
Solitude – 8
GPS Info: LAT 35.02402 LONG -83.17766
Last Updated – 12-16-2018
Little Creel Falls is a 15 foot waterfall not too far from downtown Highlands NC but while close to a tourist area, it isn’t really one that everyone is going to enjoy reaching. The falls itself is very nice but the access is challenging for those not accustomed to hiking off-trail. Also note that on my visit the water level was way up. This is not the usual look of Little Creek Falls. The hike isn’t long and the majority of the distance is along a grassy logging road but once you leave the grade it’s a steep scramble/bushwhack down the hillside to the falls. There is a lot of downfall and even when you do reach the creek, which you need to do below the falls, you may have to get your feet wet to get to the base.
The trailhead is located on Rich Gap Road. To get there from Highlands, take Main Street east out of town. This will become Horse Cove Road as it begins the winding descent into Horse Cove. Just under 2.7 miles from the last traffic light in Highlands, Rich Gap Road heads to the right. It is unpaved but in very good condition as of my December 2018 visit. Follow Rich Gap Road for 1.7 miles to where the gated FR4622 comes in on the left. Watch your mileage closely as at 1.4-1.5 miles another logging grade intersects from the left. You DO NOT want the one that comes in at 1.4-1.5 miles. There is a wide area to park on the left. If you’re coming from Cashiers you can reach Horse Cove from NC107 by taking either Whiteside Cove Road or BullPen Cove Road. They come together and will start up the mountain toward Highlands. Rich Gap Road will be on the left but I don’t have a mileage at this time.
Begin the hike by passing the gate and taking the grassy logging road beyond. The grade is moderate and the going is easy. Follow FR4622 for 0.3 of a mile to where it begins into a sharp right hand turn just after a sharp left hand turn. From the outside of the right hand turn, strike out through the woods and down the mountain. The going is steep in places and there is a lot of downfall, especially as you get closer to the creek. If you stray too far to the right (upstream) you will some to some small cliff areas you’ll have to detour around. Stay to the left as you near the creek. We ended up a very short distance downstream and were forced to creekwalk up to the falls, which was a lot of fun on a 40 degree December day.
Due to the steep scramble, potential creekwalk and the lack of a trail, this hike is not for the whole family. If you know how to read the land and you have a GPS to mark the location of the falls, and you don’t mind getting your feet wet, this is a worthy stop for a nice falls with no tourists. There is a sloped rock area on river left that offers a different perspective on the falls, while another open area is directly in front. Photographically the setting is very nice. Additionally there is enough rhodo cover that you would never know that my shots were from December as opposed to August.