531 – Big Beartrap Falls

Accessibility – Medium+

Height – Approx 70′

Distance – 3.2 miles RT (out and back)

Beauty – 6

Photo rating – 5

Solitude – 7

GPS Info: LAT 35.34395 LONG -82.95262

First Visit: 05/24/2019

Most recent Visit: 11/22/2020

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Big Beartrap Falls is a huge waterfall on the lower end of Big Beartrap Creek, about half a mile above where the creek meets Middle Prong. The route to the falls follows the Haywood Gap Trail before venturing onto a series of old roads that come and go. If you combine Big Beartrap Falls with Little Beartrap Falls, it’s neighbor Berry Branch Falls, Middle Prong Falls, Laurie’s Falls and the somewhat obscure Coon Hollow Falls, you will have a busy day. It can be done, since I did it in November along with Boomer Inn Falls, which is further up FR97

The Trailhead: Follow NC 215 North 8.4 miles north of the intersection with the Blue Ridge Parkway. You will see FR97 on the left before the road veers to the right. Make the left and follow FR97. There is a gate at NC215 that is closed more of the year than it’s open. Even if this one is open, there is a second gate at 0.3 of a mile from NC215. If the second gate is closed, it’s a 1.6 mile walk to the trailhead. If the gate is open, continue up FR97. There is a low water bridge not too far past the gate. When I was there it had about 3-4 inches of water coursing over it. After the bridge the road narrows and ascends. At the first right hand switch back there is a trail going into the woods. Continue on FR97. At the nest hard right switchback, there is a trailhead. This one is marked 97H, park here. This is the same TH as Little Beartrap Falls.

The hike: The Haywood Gap Trail enters the woods on a level grade from the outside of the switchback and leads to Little Beartrap Falls in barely 0.1 of a mile. The creek flows over the trail so there is part of the falls above the trail and part of the falls are below. There are a couple of ways down to the base of the falls. You can also climb up from the trail to explore the upper sections which are very nice. I went a little further up the trail past Berry Branch Falls. and located a trail down to the base of that waterfall. Continue past the two small waterfalls. At 0.6 from the TH you will see a trail dropping off the left side of the Haywood Gap Trail. This is the trail to Middle Prong Falls. Continue on the Haywood Gap Trail for another 0.3 of a mile to where the roadbed splits. The Haywood Gap Trail descends to Middle Prong and a crossing close to the base of Laurie’s Falls.

Take the road that heads up and follow it as it swings into the Big Beartrap Drainage. After making the right into the drainage, the road will abruptly end, forcing a climb up the bank to reach another old road. From here to the falls, the route is on a series of old roads. Most of the way up you will be on river left but once you get closer to the falls, the river right side is not as steep. Since by this point in the hike, there is no trail to follow, you’re going to have to determine which route suits you best. On my last visit, we stayed on river left all the way to the falls and came back part of the way on river right. I don’t have a way to give you the place where we crossed but if you’re on river right, you’ll know the spot since the road ends at a drop. Unless you get in the creek and start climbing up the falls, there is no way to get a decent picture of it.