Accessibility – Moderate+
Height – 80′
Distance – 1.0 miles (out and back)
Beauty – 7
Photo rating – 5
Solitude – 8
GPS Info: LAT 35.13260 LONG -83.22499
Last Updated – 12-30-2018
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Buck Creek Falls earned the special honor of being waterfall #300 on the Kevin Adams 500 Waterfall Challenge.
Buck Creek Falls is a long cascading waterfall on Buck Creek not too far from downtown Highlands. Accessing the falls is half walking a logging road followed by a steep scramble down a hillside littered with downfall. What makes the descent challenging is there is no defined route to reach the base of the falls. You can hear the falls and you have to use the sound of the falls to adjust your course in order to end up in the right place. If you visit this one you will be treated to a very nice waterfall. On my visit the river was very high so the opportunities to explore were limited due to water levels.
To get to the trailhead from downtown Highlands, Follow US64 East toward Cashiers from the intersection with Main Street. In 2.6 miles make a left onto Buck Creek Road and follow this 5.5 miles to where the road makes a sharp right turn. Park on the outside of the bend in the wide gravel area. If you’re coming from Franklin you can make a left onto Buck Creek Road and follow it 5.7 miles to the trialhead. I don’t have a reference point or mileage to get to Buck Creek Road from Franklin but if you get to Cullasaja Falls you missed the turn.
The hike begins on an old logging road that leaves from the lower end of the pullout. It is easy to spot and it is also a collection point for beer cans. The grade will descend slightly and follow along Buck Creek Road at the bottom a steep bank that people seem to get off tossing their trash down. I passed a propane tank and some five gallon water jugs on my way to the gate. Pass the gate and continue down until the road makes a switchback to the right. A tree had fallen across the road but you can see how people have been negotiating the obstacle. This next section of the logging road was a sea of briers on my December visit as the road heads toward a hard right hand bend, this is about 0.2 of a mile from the trailhead.
Leave the road at this point by picking up a much more overgrown road that drops off the outside of the bend. This road will descend to where you need to drop off the right side and start bushwhacking. I left the road at this point 35.13345, -83.22449 but my GSP is only accurate to within thirty feet. You can use this as a reference but you’ll want to pick the safest spot to descend. The hillside is steep and there is a lot of clutter. I ended up having to cross a small creek on the way down in order to skirt two cliffs that were closer to the falls. It is going to be a tangled mess no matter the route but the goal is to end up at the base of the main drop. I came out near the middle and had to bushwhack along the bank to where two logs spanned the creek. In high water it was not easy to get onto the logs but they did make for a nice photo vantage. The first two pics are from the river right side where I first came out. The final shot is from the logs in the middle of the creek.
I think the waterfall was worth the effort but the scramble is not easy and there are a lot of small cliffs and huge boulders to content with. I went in the winter and it was still an overgrown mess with all the rhodos and fallen trees. I can only imagine how thick it would be in the summer when you add in more ground cover.