Accessibility – Hard
Height – 35′
Distance – 6.0 (out and back)
Beauty – 3
Photo rating – 1
Solitude – 9
GPS Info: LAT 35.30348 LONG -83.68255
Last Updated – 02-24-2019
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If you’re looking for a strenuous hike with not much of a payoff at the end, you’ve come to the right place. Bartram Falls is located trailside on the Bartram Trail, a yellow blazed trail. One way to the falls is around three miles during which you will pick up an impressive 2,000 feet of elevation gain. As a matter of fact, in the first 0.8 of a mile the hike gains 1,000 feet! Enjoy.
Bartram Falls is about 35 feet high between the upper and lower parts. Unfortunately a family of hamlocks have fallen on the river right side of the falls, making it impossible to see both parts at once and hindering any effort at taking a decent photo. If you’re coming out to see a waterfall, there are better choices. If you want to get in a serious workout and end up at a waterfall and can include a side-trip to a second, lets go.
The trailhead for Bartram Falls head South on US19 for 6.6 miles to a parking area on the right with several picnic tables. The hike will start by climbing the steps but before you rush up the steps, there is a very neat tunnel where Ledbetter Creek comes under the railroad tracks you might want to check out.
At the top of the hill, cross the tracks and resume on the obvious trail for a very short distance to an intersection. The Bartram Trail goes right and left, while another less obvious trail heads up Ledbetter Creek toward an entirely different adventure. Turn left on the yellow blazed trail. Almost immediately you will cross a nice foot bridge over Ledbetter Creek. Take a good look at the creek. If water levels look like something you would have crossed without the bridge, continue on. If you feel as if you might die trying to get across at this point, it’s best to abort the mission. There are two crossings that in high water will be dangerous. Sadly I didn’t know this.
The trail will swing to the right and start climbing and climbing and climbing as it zigzags up the side of the mountain. The switchbacks will help moderate the incline but even so it is a workout. At about 0.6 of a mile from the trailhead,jJust when you think it can’t get much worse, you will embark on the steepest 0.25 of the hike. At this point the trail is stuck to the side of the mountain with a steep drop on your right. The worst of the climb will end at 35.28325, -83.67503. This is the point where an old logging road comes in on the left. This road leads to the top of Handpole Branch Falls, which is another adventure for another day. Resume on the Bartram Trail, climbing less steeply as the trail follows the top of the ridge.
From the intersection with the logging road that leads to Handpole Branch Falls, the Bartram Trail will follow a mostly level and sometimes descending route toward Ledbetter Creek at the upper end of Ledbetter Canyon. Along the way you might be able to hear some of the waterfalls hidden in the steep narrow canyon far below the trail. At 0.75 miles from the logging grade intersection you will come to the first crossing of Ledbetter Creek. Apparently in normal flows this is no big thing but on our visit it was a thigh deep wade in rushing water. If the water is this high, you really don’t want to make these crossings. This wasn’t my first crossing of this type and it is a nerve-racking experience.
The trail resumes on the other side of the creek and follows upstream on river left for the next 0.4 of a mile to the second crossing. This one was also shaping up to be a dangerous wade before I spotted a collection of fallen trees spanning the creek about 30 feet downstream of the trail. The trees made for a great bridge and without getting my feet wet I reached the other side.
The trail will resume it’s climb on the other side of the creek and in 0.3 of a mile it will come to a tributary crossing. About 0.1 of a mile above this crossing, we discovered a high waterfall tumbling down the mountain. If you want to check it out, you’ll have to bushwhack and boulder climb up the river left side of the tributary. As near as we could tell, this waterfall may be part of a twin, since another branch of the trib veered off to our left. You will have to negotiate a lot of mossy boulders to get to a good vantage to take a picture of Hole in the Rock Falls. In my opinion, this waterfall is nicer than Bartram Falls.
Back on the main trail, you are now 0.8 from Bartram Falls, all of which is going to be uphill. In 0.3 of a mile there is another unnamed tributary crossing and 0.1 of a mile after this one, there is one more. The falls are close at this point. The trail will swing around a ridge on the left and climb toward the falls. On our visit, with the right side of the falls covered in downfall we continued on the Bartram Trail because we figured there was no way someone would ever hike three miles to see this waterfall. There is nothing above it but more trail.
Good locu taking a picture. i worked my way into the downfall and snapped a few and even tried downstream but there is too much clutter and there was too much water to do much with it. I could say I’ll get better pics next time but I don’t imagine I’ll be hiking to this one again any time soon.