419 – High Falls (Beech Creek)

Accessibility – Difficult (due to creek crossings and elevation gain)

Height – 100′

Distance – 5.2 miles (out and back)

Beauty – 9

Photo rating – 8

Solitude – 8

GPS Info: LAT 35.01460 LONG -83.52802

Last Updated – 01-26-2019


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High Falls is the more distant of the two major waterfalls on this section of the Beech Creek Trail. The hike is 2.6 miles one way with almost the entire distance up hill. From the trailhead to the falls there is a gain of 1800 feet in elevation. However, from the trailhead to Bull Cove Falls the trail only gains about 300 feet so over the mile and a half between the two falls it will pick up 1500 feet of elevation. It is never too steep but it is always heading up. As for the reward, High Falls is stunning. This part of Beech Creek is tucked back in a narrow valley and the as the creek tumbles down about a hundred feet of rutted black rock is fans out, creating shimmering tendrils of while against the black store. It is one of the most amazing waterfalls in NC.

hike#1
My GPS track of the hike – January 2019

If you’re coming from Bull Cove Falls you can skip down a ways.

Viewing High Falls requires a round trip hike of 5.2 miles with almost 1800 feet of elevation gain. Almost the entire hike is on Beech Creek Trail (Blue Blazed #378) with only the scramble to High Falls and the side path to Bull Cove taking off the main trail. Although a numbered trail it isn’t well marked and the creek crossings are going to be rock hops or wades depending on water level. In all there are three major crossings, two of Beech Creek and one of Bull Cove. My visit was during the winter after some rain so we had several minor crossings and icy rocks to contend with as well.

The biggest problem with this hike is it isn’t close to anything. As a matter of fact the only way to reach this part of North Carolina is by driving through Georgia as it can not be accessed from the rest of the state without leaving NC. Depending on your direction of travel you will want to end up on US76. Coming from Franklin you would head East on US76 and make a right on Persimmon Road. Coming from Clayton Ga (the way I drove in) take US76 West to Persimmon Road and make a left. Follow Persimmon Road 4.1 miles and make a left onto Tallulah River Road. There are signs for campging posted at the intersection so it is easy to spot but in this day and age, you should be using Maps or Waze anyway. Tallulah River Road starts out paved but after 1.5 miles the pavement ends. The unpaved portion wasn’t to unruly and it is very scenic as the road mirrors the Tallulah River. Along the way the name of the road changes to Tate City Road. The numbering of the road is going to change as well as it becomes FR70 and finally FR56. There are three campgrounds and a dozen fishing pullouts along the road as well as houses so be careful. The forest service campground is year round and there are bathrooms there. Just over 7.5 miles down Tate City Road the Beech Creek Trailhead is on the right. It’s barely a mile into NC. A parking area is on the left.

From the parking area cross Tate City Road and began the hike at the carsonite sign marked #378 Beech Creek Trail. The trail is blue blazed but the blazes are faded and hard to spot but the trail is obvious. After the long drive to get here the trail up the hill is going to have your blood pumping immediately as from the start is it climbs the hill steeply. This initial segment is 0.2 of a mile and you will pick up several hundred feet of elevation. The trail crests the hill and descends moderately to Beech Creek. This moderate descent will be the only uphill section on the way back. At the creek the trail crosses. You can rock hop of use the jumble of piled logs to make your way across.  The trail goes left (upstream on the other side). The trail shifts to an old logging grade where you turn to the left. There was a rock cairn and some logs across the right turn. Be sure to turn onto the path on your way back. The road follows Beech Creek on a mostly level grade for nearly half a mile to a crossing of Bull Cove Creek. It was an icy rock hop on my visit but with lower water this would be an easy one. After crossing an obvious path turns to the right to reach Bull Cove Falls.

Back on the Beech Creek Trail, resume the route upstream following Beech Creek. It won’t be long before the logging road ends at Beech Creek, forcing a crossing to pick it up. On the other side the elevation gain is about to begin. The road won’t stray far from Beech Creek until it gets to the switchbacks close to High Falls. There had been a lot of rain prior to my visit so many of the small drainages falling down the mountain had 80 to 100 foot waterfalls on them. From the second crossing of Beech Creek it is 1.2 miles to High Falls. At about the midpoint of this section a nice waterfall drops right next to the trail but this 15 foot section is only part of the drop. A much higher and nicer 30-40 foot section is just above and was easily seen from the trail. Pressed for time I wasn’t able to climb up for further exploration but it didn’t appear as it getting up there would present too much trouble.

As the trail ascends you will see some of the history of the area as you pass a man-made rock wall on the left. Use this as an indicator of when to look for the switchback to the left since the turn is not far past the wall. It was marked with flagging tape on my visit but even without the tape it was pretty obvious that the road was swinging away from the creek. It climbs steadily before heading into a switchback to the right. Follow the road to the next left hand switchback. When the road doubles back to the left, continue straight past a small wooden sign indicating High Falls.

The scramble path is narrow and had a steep drop off on the right so use caution. Although you are very close to the falls the contour of the land is going to keep the falls hidden until the last moment. This short section of trail is the only part where a potential for injury increases. If the water is low and the rocks aren’t icy there is a lot of potential for exploring but on my visit high water and abundant ice limited the photographic possibilities.

Now you get to enjoy a nice 2.6 mile downhill hike to reach your car.

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