453 – Lower Thunderhole Falls

Accessibility – Moderate

Height – 10′

Distance – 1.5 (out and back)

Beauty – 6

Photo rating – 8

Solitude – 4

GPS Info: LAT 36.10345 LONG -81.69619

Last Updated – 03-02-2019


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Lower 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, with Thunderhole Falls above the confluence with China Creek and Lower Thunderhole Falls below.

Lower Thunderhole Falls is a small waterfall that drops into a large pothole after a short slide above. The setting is great and the large rock across from the falls is a great place to hang out, while the splash pool below the falls is deep and green.

To get to the trailhead for Lower 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. Park on the side of FR4071 0.35 miles from Globe Road. I don’t have a good identifier for the place to park but the point where the lower end of the China Creek Trail meets FR4071 is at 36.09622, -81.69356. I would say park as close to this point as possible.

The China Creek Trail drops off the left side of the road (as you’re driving in). The initial stretch is steep and rocky but once it gets below the road the course it mostly flat as it parallels China Creek. Before it gets to the creek it will meander through the open woods on an easy to follow route. At 0.4 of a mile from the start the trail intersects the creek for the first crossing. It was a wade on my trip and the rock was slippery. In another tenth of a mile the trail crosses the creek a second time, putting you back on river left. The falls is between this second crossing and the third so if you get to the creek again, you want to far.

For the most part the section of creek above the second crossing is pretty quiet so you’ll know when you’re near the falls. In case you happened to be jabbering and not paying attention the point where I left the trail was 36.10339, -81.69592. There is a worn route to get to the base of the falls and the last little bit does require climbing off a large rock. The side of the scramble path is steep so use caution on the way down.

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