Accessibility – Difficult+
Height – 45′
Distance – 3.4 miles (out and back)
Beauty – 7
Photo rating – 8
Solitude – 9
GPS Info: LAT 35.02954 LONG -83.55605
Last Updated – 01-29-2019
NOTE: I’m giving a lot more detail on this hike than most of my off-trail hikes because people have been emailing me for directions to some of these remote hikes. I’m going to describe this one as best I can but you need to make sure you know where you’re going and what you’re doing. I employ two invaluable apps when I hike, Waypoint Manager and All-Trails. I suggest using something similar. I’ll tell you what I did and saw but the rest is us to you and as always, error on the side of caution.
New Falls is another one of those waterfalls where providing step-by-step directions is going to be problematic. Here’s why. Prior to my hike I had never seen a picture of this waterfall and there wasn’t much into out there. For a starting point I had begin hiking at the end of Tate City Road following the Tallulah River upstream. Beyond that I had an X that I dropped on a topo map, which gave me a rough GPS location to track towards. Considering this, the hike wasn’t hard as far as off-trail bushwhacks go but for someone unfamiliar with hiking off-trail or how to follow the lay of the land, this would be torturous. That said, there is plenty of opportunity to get lost or hurt on this hike. If you don’t know how to hike off-trail, bring a friend who does.
New Falls was the more distant of two remote waterfalls on tributaries flowing into the Tallulah River. Not knowing what we were in for, we began by heading to the further of our two targets, preferring to work back toward our car as we raced toward the end of the day. As it turned out daylight was never a concern we were out well before dark, permitting me to drive back to Greenville in the daylight! The total distance was just under 3.5 miles and it took nearly three hours of hiking time to complete.
New Falls is 45 feet high flowing over colored rock and had great flow on our visit. It didn’t strike me as a falls that dries up in the summer while Thomas Falls could very well do just that. If the water is up too much, crossing the Tallulah River is going to be a problem. It required a knee-deep wade and some time locating a good crossing point, especially on the way in.
Other than the inherent dangers associated with crossing swift-moving rivers and hiking off-trail another issue with this hike is the remote trailhead. The only way to reach this part of North Carolina from the rest of the state is by driving through Georgia. The trailhead is 2.6 miles from the NC/Ga state line just North of Tate City Ga. (Population 14 as of the 2010 census) .Depending on your direction of travel you 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 campgrounds 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 too unruly and it is 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 when it enters NC. 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. A mile and a half beyond this Tate City Road ends at a large turn around. This is the other end of the Beech Creek Trail. If you’re in a low clearance vehicle keep in mind you do have to ford a creek on the drive!
So you’re hear, now what? Walk past the kiosk on the blocked off portion of Tate City Road. This is the Deep Gap Trail #377. The Beech Creek Trail is going to head off to the right but stay on the Deep Gap Trail. It was very soggy in places with running water flowing over it. The trail will come to a creek crossing that may be a rockhop or may be a wade. It was a wade for us. Continue across this creek heading upstream on the Tallulah River. Not far past the crossing the creek where Thomas Falls is located feeds into the Tallulah River on river right but you can’t see it from the Deep Gap Trail even in winter. This creek is close to the midpoint on the hike to New Falls. Stay on the Deep Gap Trail until it turns right and starts climbing the hill away from the creek. This is where you want to cross the Tallulah River. This is about 0.8 of a mile from the trailhead. It is not an easy crossing but if you make it, you will need climb the steep bank to reach an old logging grade.
The logging grade is easy to follow in places and in others covered in downfall. We tried to avoid most of the rhodos as we headed uphill into an unnamed drainage where we crossed a small tributary. Once across, we were able to find an obvious side-hill route around a ridge to a logging grade that brought us to a crossing of Wateroak Creek. Once in the Wateroak Creek drainage we found a trail with faded blue blazes heading upstream. If you locate this trail you can follow it right to the falls with only a few steep sections to negotiate. You do need to be on river left for your approach (Wateroak Creek on your left). You can see the falls as you come out of the rhodos but the best view is from in front of the large boulder near the base of the falls. Getting to New Falls was the easier part of the hike so bear this in mine before you set off to Thomas Falls.