400 – Lower Cold Branch Falls

Accessibility – Moderate+

Height – 30′

Distance – 0.2 miles (out and back)

Beauty – 5

Photo rating – 4

Solitude – 5

GPS Info: LAT 35.34592 LONG -83.99258

Last Updated – 01-08-2019


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Lower Cold Branch Falls is the lowest of three waterfalls on this section of Cold Branch. This thirty foot slide is a quarter of a mile downstream of Upper Cold Branch Falls and half a mile below Violet Falls. While the hike is very short, less than 0.1 of a mile, it is steep in places and there is no defined trail. You’re going to have to pick your way down the bank to the best location for seeing the falls. The water was way up on my visit so there was only one vantage.

To get to the trailhead, take NC143/US129 North from the center of town for one mile and make a left onto NC143, when it splits from US129. NC143 will meander along for just over 3.25 miles before coming to a T. Business NC143 goes left, make a right and follow NC143. At 2.1 miles you will pass the turn for the trailhead for the waterfalls on Snowbird Creek. The road is going to ascend until coming to the start of the Skyway. There is a pullout and a kiosk just across the intersection. Make a right and then a left onto FR81. At 0.1 of a mile the road changes to gravel at a gate. After a 1.3 mile decent, it crosses Santeetlah Creek. At 6.6 miles from Santeetlah Road FR81F heads up and to the right, while FR81 heads left. Make the right onto FR81F. Barely a quarter of a mile from FR81 there is a wide area on the road and you can see the falls down below. Park so you are not blocking the road.

There is no trail down the steep bank so you have to pick your spot and head down. On my visit I spotted some flagging tale that led me to a rocky area on river right very close to the base of the falls. Due to high water I was limited to this single vantage. Once you finish here, head back to you car and continue to Upper Cold Branch Falls.

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High water at Lower Cold Branch Falls – December 2018

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