416 – Dome Falls

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

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Ok, so we’re going to Dome Falls. Well, after the bushwhack to Middle Creek Falls you’re probably dirty and a little scraped up. It’s about to get worse. Retrace your steps to where the side trail to Middle Creek Falls turned right to put you on the path to the falls. A left will take you back to your car. Make a right and push into the rhodos. Here and there someone hung some flagging tape but they didn’t get too far. If you can follow this, do so. In time the flagging tape led to an open rock area with a precipitous plunge into the valley below. I stayed well clear of this area and you should too. The loose soil layer isn’t attached to the sloping rock so well and once false step and you will be referred to in the past tense. It looked to be about a hundred feet straight down.

dome hike

If you reach the open area, angle away from it to the left up a steep bank and follow the path of least resistance as you parallel the creek, which you can hear but not see. There are no points of reference along this stretch other than to say push through, go over, under and around the thickest of the downfall. It is slow going. The land will start to descend and as it does you need to pick your way around numerous small cliffs. It is a mess of zigzags but if you don’t stray too far from the creek you should survive. The creek is going to get louder at this point as a lower section of Middle Creek Falls is very close. If you look at my GPS track you can see where we got back to Middle Creek where a small drainage entered the creek. Well up on this creek was where we discovered Spicoli Falls.

At no point did we cross Middle Creek although we did walk the creekbed for a short time before another bit of falling water forced us to retreat to higher ground. It may look tempting to cross but the land on the other side is wicked steep near Dome Falls. It was on our push through the densest part of the rhodo hell, just past an area where half a dozen dead hemlocks fell like dominos that I had a hiking epiphany after a discovery.

My epiphany: If you bushwhack long enough in any one direction in the mountains you will eventually wind up on an overgrown logging road.

We wound up on just such a logging road and after making a right we followed it down to the final part of our bushwhack, the plunge to the falls. This section was the steepest but near the creek it moderated. The leaves were off so we could see the falls off to the right. A large boulder on river left had to be skirted but with it bypassed, we arrived on river left at the base of Dome Falls. I crossed the creek to take pictures from the middle and river right.

Dome is not the most impressive waterfall in the area. It’s not even the most impressive on Middle Creek but this one is an accomplishment more than anything. After you’re done down here, we’re going to take the easy way out.

Leaving Dome Falls, we powered up the ridge, angling left toward the old road we found on the way in and once on it, we hiked it as opposed to the downfall abyss. The road was mostly open with sections of clutter to skirt. As it rises from the lower part of Middle Creek, the lowest section of Middle Creek Falls will be on your left at ten o’clock. If you look toward two o’clock, you will see Spicoli Falls higher up the mountain. The logging road is going to head toward it so use it as a reference. My guess is the trees will obscure it in summer so just follow the obvious road. When he road makes a hard right and climbs more steeply you can head across the narrow valley to get a look at Spicoli Falls.

The way out follows the road up the steep hill before joining another road and making a right. This road will lead around a knoll and end. The easiest route here is to head to the right until you pick up the next road that will lead steeply up the grade. It is very confusing at this point but from Spicoli Falls to this point has been a long walk but all you really did was climb to the top of the falls via a very circuitous route. You can see the point on my GPS track where we make the right after a smooth semi-circle section. At this point you’re going to stay on this road most of the way to NC106.

It is going to climb steadily. From Dome Falls to NC106 you’re going to gain 1000 feet of elevation. The steep grade will be unrelenting and when the road made a right and got even steeper, I elected to side-hill to the left. Barely 150 feet after leaving the road I walked onto a graded and blazed trail! This trail skirted the canopy tour course and eventually emptied into the parking lot about a third of a mile away from my truck! If you do this hike, you really have gone where few others have. This is one of the more difficult hikes in the area.

The elusive Dome Falls – January 2018

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