512 – Mitchell Lick Falls

Accessibility – Hard

Height – 35′

Distance – 6.25 miles (out and back loop)

Beauty – 8

Photo rating – 7

Solitude – 10

GPS Info: LAT 35.28656 LONG -84.00771

First Visit: 04-12-2019

Last Visit: 05-26-2020

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Depending on how you want to approach it, Blue Boar Falls will either be the first or last waterfall you see on this hike depending on your route. I have done the hike taking the trail down and bushwhacking out and doing it in the reverse. I found bushwhacking down and taking the trail out was easier. There is a third option but I have not tried that hike yet, bushwhacking down, getting to the Snowbird Trail and hiking out the bottom. I plan to field check this route in the spring. You will want to know what you’re doing for this hike and you better know how to read the land or you’re going to wander around aimlessly. If there has been a lot of rain, the creekwalk is going to difficult.

The Trailhead: From Robbinsville, make your way to the Cherohala Skyway. When Santeelah Road turns to the right, reset your odometer. Follow the Skyway 10.1 miles to the Hooper Bald Parking Area at milepost 7.6.

The hike: At the upper end of the parking area near the kiosk, a gravel trail heads into the woods. Follow this to start out. This trail will come to an easily missed junction in 0.1 of a mile. The King Meadows Trail heads to the right while the Hooper Bald Trail goes straight, Make a right onto the meandering and poorly maintained King Meadows Trail. The trail will switchback down the mountain, crossing numerous bridges in various states of disrepair. Just stay with the obvious trail. After 0.75 the trail will come to an intersection. It is not signed but you want to go to the right, which will be the more obvious route.

You will pass over the creek with the waterfalls 1.2 miles into the hike and 0.4 later you will come to this point, 35.2953, -84.00815. Head into the woods at this point to take the ridge down to the creek just above Blue Boar Falls. There is no right or wrong path but you want to stay on the middle of the ridge and avoid the steep sides as long as possible. You want to aim for this point: 35.28912, -84.01022. This is where you want to begin your descent to the creek. If you do this right, you will come out upstream of Blue Boar Falls. The creek is very open and easy to walk. The only time you have to leave the creek is to bypass the waterfalls.

The first waterfall you’re going to reach is Blue Boar Falls, located at 35.28771, -84.0082. It is easier to pass it on river right and to make your way onto the rocks below for a pictures. The falls is a creek-wide slide about 22 feet high with a collection of boulders at the base that divert the creek to river left at the base. The brink of Hooper Falls is almost visible from the base of Blue Boar Falls. To get to the base, the easier route is on river right. There are no good indicators to tell you where to leave the creek or what route to take. It’s all about the route of least resistance and what looks best to your eye.

There is more creek between Hooper Falls and Mitchell Lick Falls but there is no reason to be anywhere but in the creek until you’re close to the top of the falls. The rhodos are very thick on the bank so the going will be slow at best so choose your route wisely. I made my way on river right both times, heading up and downstream if that helps. The main part of Mitchell Lick Falls is 35 feet high but maybe the more interesting feature is the chute below the falls. Running about fifty feet, the narrow channel runs downstream and funnels the creek into large pool. To get to the pool you will have to make your way around the chute on river left.

From the base of the pool, it is a combination of creek and bushwhacking to get to the Snowbird Trail, which intersects with the creek at the confluence with Snowbird Creek. Make a right and take the Snowbird Trail so you are heading upstream. There are four creek crossings to negotiate before you reach the Mitchell Lick Trail 0.75 from where you got on the Snowbird Trail. Make a right and start climbing out. The trail will climb steeply back to the top of the ridge where the bushwhack started. This covers about a mile. The loop portion is closed and from this point the hike back follows the route down.