532 – Middle Prong Falls

Accessibility – Difficult (dangerous)

Height – Approx 35′

Distance – 1.2 miles RT (out and back)

Beauty – 9

Photo rating – 8

Solitude – 8

GPS Info: LAT 35.35155 LONG -82.94364

First Visit: 05/17/2019

Most Recent Visit: 11-22-2020

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Middle Prong Falls a 35 foot high waterfall on Middle Prong, half a mile below the confluence of Middle Prong and Big Beartrap Creek. The route to the falls follows the Haywood Gap Trail before dropping onto a side trail that will drop to the creek and parallel it to bypass the top of the falls before angling to the base. You can combine Middle Prong with Big Beartrap Falls, Little Beartrap Falls, it’s neighbor Berry Branch Falls, Laurie’s Falls and the somewhat obscure Coon Hollow Falls, to enjoy a busy day in the Middle Prong Wilderness. 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 route you want to take. The trail will head down the grade toward Middle Prong. When you get close to the creek the trail will turn downstream and get narrow. Just past the brink of the falls, there is a narrow ledge to cross. This is about as sketchy as it gets for me but I’ve managed it 3 times. The trail on the other side if little better but if you follow the obvious route, you will end up at the base of the falls on river left. Use extreme caution on this hike. The ledge you have to cross is about 30 feet high and nothing but rocks at the bottom. On my last visit, someone had done some trail improvements by thinning the rhodos before the ledge.

November 2020
May 2019