Accessibility – Difficult+
Height – 35′
Distance – 2.6 miles (out and back)
Beauty – 5
Photo rating – 3
Solitude – 10
GPS Info: LAT 35.01276 LONG -83.33632
Last Updated – 01-18-2018
Warning: Part of this hike is off-trail and there are no good landmarks to guide you so you do need to know where you’re going. On my way in to Cavern Falls we took a very difficult route that included to swift water creek crossings and a lot of unnecessary bushwhacking. This is not a hike for the novice adventurer. There are some high cliff areas and narrow trails between the trib crossing and Cavern Falls.
Cavern Falls is a freefalling waterfall North of Lake Toxaway that plunges off a massive cliff. The height of the falls is close to 100 feet and the surrounding geology makes this one impressive waterfall. Freefalling waterfalls in excess of 80 feet aren’t commonplace but nearby Horseshoe Falls (which can be seen on this hike) and Rhapsody Falls are two that come to mind. I can’t think of any others. The biggest problem with Cavern Falls is the hike is somewhat unruly toward the end with some bushwhacking and such. Near the stream with Cavern Falls there are no good landmarks I can give you so you better have the ability to locate the creek (the correct creek) and find your way out.
To get to the trailhead, follow NC281 North from US64 to Tannasse Creek Lake and make a right onto Tannasse Creek Road after crossing over the end of the lake. The turn is 10.7 miles from US 64. When Tannasse Creek Road makes a right to cross over Tannasse Creek, stay straight onto Wolf Mountain Road. After 0.4 of a mile the road makes a hard left turn. On the outside of the curve there is room to park. At the upper end of the wide area a dead tree is leaning over and about to fall so you might want to park a little further away just in case, especially on a windy day.
The trail leaves from the upper end of the parking area on a obvious path. At the outset the path climbs slightly but it soon moderates. Along the route there are dozens of dirt mounds you’ll have to climb up and down. They cover the stretch of road from the trailhead to the creek crossing and after a long hike, they are the last thing you wand to have to climb up and down on your way back.
At 0.6 of a mile from the trailhead you’re going to come to a stream crossing then an intersection of trails. Make a right. From the intersection its around 0.8 of a mile to the stream Horseshoe Falls is on. If you’re going to visit this waterfall as well, don’t cross the creek but instead look for a weathered path heading up river right. It was overgrown at the start and there were a few downed trees to climb over but once you’re past them the trail is easy to follow. There were parts of the trail that were very wet and soggy but 2018 has been a very rainy year. As you get closer to the falls the trail will come to the creek where you will have to cross. There are several options as far as getting to the river left side. Once you’re across you have to climb the last few feet to the open area to the left of the falls. To see Horseshoe Falls go HERE. It is worth the effort. As a matter of fact the hike to the falls is short enough that in winter you can see the falls from the logging road!
Back on the logging road, cross the creek amidst a tangle of fallen trees and resume the hike on the other side. Stay with the logging road for the next 0.4 of a mile until reaching an open area in the woods. At this point the road makes a sharp right, make the right and head down toward Tannasse Creek. The route is going to be a lot more overgrown and rugged at this point but just stay parallel to the creek as best you can. One mile from the crossing of the creek below Horseshoe Falls (0.6 from the open area) you will come to a tributary crossing. Cross the trib and continue following the overgrown trail for another 0.4 miles to this point 35.23590, -82.95314. At this point a trail will head to the left. If you miss this trail you will end up with a considerably harder hike with creek crossings and thick bushwhacking.
If you made the left you will end up on a logging grade that leads to the creek where you will find Lower Cavern Falls and Cavern Falls. Once you cross the creek on the grade continue past the dense area of rhodos until the woods open up. At this point, head up the hill through the mostly open woods. There is no trail at this juncture but the woods were open enough that you don’t need one. Just stay to the right of the creek to avoid the thick growth. The lower part of the ascent is moderate but there is some downfall to contend with and it will get steeper the closer you get to the falls. Around the 3500 foot elevation there is Lower Cavern Falls. It is worth a look since you are passing right by it. You can see it right HERE.
From Lower Cavern Falls swing away from the creek and scale the steep bank angling to the right to avoid the rocks and rhodos near the creek. The climb is going to get very steep during this last section and as it does you will see the high cliff that rims the area. It’s going to push you back toward the creek which is fine as long as you stay up on the side of the hill until you’re very close to the falls. The hike from the logging road to the base of the falls is just under 0.2 of a mile but you will pick up a lot of elevation in that short stretch.