Accessibility – Difficult+
Height – 70′
Distance – 12.2 miles (out and back)
Beauty – 7
Photo rating – 5
Solitude – 10
GPS Info: LAT 35.574483 LONG -81.704199
Last Updated – 02-15-2019
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NOTE: I know I say this a lot but this is NOT a waterfall for the average person. Just the fact it was more than 12 miles will keep most away but getting to the base was the most nerve-racking experience of my hiking adventures thus far. There were numerous places where a slip and fall would have tragic results. The scramble down held the honor as most nerve-racking for all of an hour, only to be replaced by the climb out on river right. If you go to this waterfall, I strongly recommend bringing a rope and climbing down and up on river left. River right is no joke.
So what would you see if you climbed down? Black Mountain Falls is approximately 120 feet high, with the main drop being 70 feet and the lower drops adding the other 50. The lower section was covered in downfall and not very attractive. Also if you want to include the lower stuff the trees block out the main drop. You’re going to want to climb up the boulders of river right to the flat area at the base of the falls. You can easily hop across to river left for a partial profile or you can climb up the steep bank on river right if you want a different vantage. About the only downside to photographing it cropping out the sky since you do have to aim up to get it all in.
To get to the trailhead we used, which might not be the best due to the distance, follow US64 East 4.3 miles from the intersection with NC226 and make a right onto Roper Hollow Road. This will change to gravel where Roper Hollow Road ends. The Old CCC road begins here. The road is not in the best of shape and you will need a vehicle with a decent amount of ground clearance. We took my friend Justin’s Toyota 4×4 and had no problem. I could probably make it in my Xterra but anything less than that will have problems. I didn’t get the exact mileage (around 6-7 miles) you need to drive down the Old CCC Road but since the road is gated, drive to the gate and park on the right. If the gate is open, you can drive about a dozen miles along the road and park at gated road where the hike begins. The trailhead GPS is 35.58117, -81.70565.
Begin the hike on the gated road. You could also take a slightly more overgrown road a few paces further along the Old CCC Road. The two roads rejoin about a hundred yards into the woods. The gated road is easy to follow with only a few fallen trees to climb over and around. At this point the road has not yet gotten to the upper reaches of the creek so you can’t use the creek as a reference point. Follow the road for slightly more than 0.1 of a mile. At this point the road starts to swing left. The right side of the road is mostly open woods and relatively flat. Begin the bushwhack down the grade. It is not steep and as long as you stay on a reasonably straight line you will come to a small creek. This one will likely dry up in summer so you may be looking for an empty drainage. Follow along the river left side of the drainage for a hundred yards or so and find a place to cross.
Choose wisely at this point. The banks are thick with rhodo. On the way in we hiked down to the confluence with the creek that crates Black Mountain Falls. It is thick and covered in downfall. I don’t recommend this route unless you want to make this hike harder than in needs to be. Once across the small trib, head up the bank. The target is an old road that is covered in downfall about 40-50 feet up from the creek. Since the road swings into the small drainage, it should not be hard to find. It will be hard to follow as it is covered in fallen rhodos. However this in the only flat place to hike on the steep banks. Stay with the overgrown road until the woods open up and at the edge of a dry drainage. At this point you will see a completely deforested hillside and the creek down to the left. Head for the hillside and skirt the lower edge of it on river right, to reach the brink of the falls.
The main section of the falls is a few feet downstream from where you need to cross to river left to make the descent. The high cliff that creates the falls wraps around the sides of the falls so you will have to swing way wide to avoid the sheer drops. This is not an easy scramble with the ground sloped steeply and a lot of smaller cliffs to contend with. If you know how to read the land, which you really should if you’re here, picking out a safe route to the base isn’t hard. If you try and come down too close to the falls you will end up falling off a high cliff. Hug the mountainside to the left until it begins funneling you down. We ended up about 100 yards downstream of the falls, below the lower drops. The view was lacking, with the main drop partially obscured by trees.
Getting to the base of the main drop required climbing up the boulders in the creek to reach the flat portion at the base of the cliff. This will get you to a point where the trees are no longer in your way but it is still not a great vantage point since you are so close. I was able to get the entire falls into frame with a vertical composition but the picture doesn’t so this one justice. Getting to river left is easy up here and from this side you can shoot a partial profile of the lowest section with some of the upper drop. Maybe if I had a blue sky I would have liked this view more. As it was, with an ugly gray sky it wasn’t my favorite vantage.
When it’s time to leave you really should cross back to river left downstream of the falls and climb out the way you came in as awful as it was. I didn’t do this but instead I went up the river right side. Not halfway up this free climb, I realized that I should have stuck with “The Devil you know,” and went out on river left. Unfortunately by this point in the ascent there was no way I was going to try and climb back down! I can’t give you any landmarks if you try escaping on river right but I can tell you from the base of the falls to the top of the ridge, it’s about 150 feet of steep, rocky terrain with very few trees, a lot of loose rocks. If you do head up this way despite my warning, I can tell you this much. When you get to the point where you have to crawl under pair of huge fallen trees, you need to start angling toward the falls. There is nothing higher up or to the left except sheer cliffs.