471 – South Harper Creek Falls

Accessibility – Moderate

Height – 125′

Distance – 3.9 (out and back) overlook

Beauty – 5

Photo rating – 3

Solitude – 5

GPS Info: LAT 35.98099 LONG -81.80978 (overlook)

First visit: 03-23-2019

Most Recent Visit: 02-22-2020


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South Harper Creek Falls is a multi-tiered waterfall on South Harper Creek. The unique thing about this waterfall is the vantage. The hike I am describing doesn’t go to the base but a high cliff overlook across the gorge. I have hiked down toward the base but didn’t have enough time to make it all the way but eventually I will finish the hike.

Trailhead Directions: There are a lot of ways to reach the trailhead, probably the easiest is to enter it into Google Maps. If not, from the intersection of NC183 and NC181, follow NC181 North for 0.8 of a mile and make a right onto Pittmans Gap Road. The name of the road will change several times before it reaches Mortimer Road in about a mile. Make a left (more stay straight). Follow Mortimer Road for 0.4 of a mile to a stop sign and make a right to stay on Mortimer Rd. Long Ridge Missionary Baptist Church is at the intersection. Mortimer road will split after about half  mile. Stay to the right onto Old Mortimer Rd. At 2.1 miles from the stop sign, make a right onto FR58. At 0.25 of a mile you will pass the North Harper Creek Trailhead. At 4.25 miles from the turn onto FR58 there is a pullout on the right for the  Harper Creek Trail.

The hike: The trailhead is across FR58 and enters the woods across from the pullout. For the first 0.6 of a mile the trail follows the top of a ridge before bending to the left and entering a half mile curve to the right around a top of the mountain. At 1.1 miles there is an open view out over some fields. The trail makes a left and heads down toward South Harper Creek. The trail comes to a T. If you are going to the base make a left but to get to the overlook make a right. You are now on the Raider Camp Trail.

A hundred feet or so from the T, the Raider Camp Trail crosses South Harper Creek, which will be a wade unless the water is very low. If the water is up you might not want to risk it due to the proximity of the waterfall downstream. If you can safely cross, climb the bank and pick up the trail, taking a left. The trail to the right goes to a waterfall that is heavily signed as private property. The Raider Camp Trail will cross a small drainage and go up an exposed rock area before the trail normalizes.

The next 0.3 of a mile will switchback up the mountain, picking up close to 200 feet in elevation, climbing high above South Harper Creek Falls. The trail tops out at this point and begins to descend slightly toward the split to the overlook. When you reach the next trail junction, 35.98084, -81.80926, the Raider Camp Trail goes right and the spur trail to the base goes left. The trail is steep and leads to the open rock summit overlooking the falls. It is a really cool view, being more than 150 feet above a 125 foot high waterfall. Use caution on the overlook as it is open. The first pic is from the base of the upper drop and the second is from the overlook.

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