452 – Thunderhole Falls

Accessibility – Moderate

Height – 18′

Distance – 1.0 (out and back)

Beauty – 6

Photo rating – 8

Solitude – 7

GPS Info: LAT 36.11019 LONG -81.69989

Last Updated – 03-02-2019


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Thunderhole Falls is one of two waterfalls in this general area both of which are accessed off of FR4071. Thunderhole Falls and Lower Thunderhole Falls are both on the same creek, one above the confluence with China Creek and the other below. They could easily be done as a shuttle hike by following the China Creek Trail from one end to the other. I didn’t go this route but the lower section of the China Creek Trail and the upper section I did hike were easy to follow. If you have a decent map you can easily see how the two hikes could be combined into one.

Thunderhole Falls is a two tiered drop with the upper drop coming down in two places and joining up to fall over the final drop into the plunge pool. The rocks are all mossy and green and the setting is very private.

To get to the trailhead for Thunderhole Falls start on Main Street in the middle of town and head south. Make a right onto Globe Road. It starts out paved but turns to smooth gravel soon after leaving Main Street. Follow Globe Road for 3.4 miles and make a hard right onto FR4071. Just after turning onto FR4071 there is a gate which was open on my visit. Follow FR4071 for 2.4 miles to a second gate, which is permanently closed and park without blocking the gate. If you are hiking this as a shuttle, park one of your cars on the side of FR4071 0.35 miles from Globe Road. The point where the lower end of the China Creek Trail meets FR4071 is at 36.09622, -81.69356.

To get to Thunderhole Falls, hike past the gate and follow FR4071 to a concrete ford over China Creek. The water was 2-3 inches deep on the ford when I visited. Once across FR4071 will began to climb away from the creek while the China Creek Trail will more closely follow the creek on the remains of an old roadbed. The route is open with only a little downfall to negotiate. On a warm March afternoon this was my first barefoot hike of the season! About half a mile into the hike the China Creek Trail is going to intersect the creek, while another trail heads straight. This one is signed as Thunderhole Falls on a carsonite post.

The Thunderhole Falls trail will come to a crossing of Thunderhole Creek. It was a wade for me but the water was up slightly. Follow the road upstream into the drainage for a very short distance until you hear the falls. It is very obvious where people have gone down the grade and on my visit there was a rope tied to a small tree to assist in the descent.

If you are doing this as a shuttle hike, return to the crossing of China Creek and pick up the China Creek Trail on the other side. If you’re hiking them as two separate hikes, take the China Creek Trail back to the parking area on the other side of the concrete ford.

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