Accessibility – Moderate+ (creekwalk)
Height – 30′
Distance – 3.0 miles (out and back)
Beauty – 6
Photo rating – 7
Solitude – 6
GPS Info: LAT 35.29186 LONG -82.90383
Last Updated – 01-14-2023
Last Visited – 08-13-2021
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Red Rock Falls is the next major waterfall upstream on Courthouse Creek. Getting to it is far more challenging that getting to Courthouse Falls abd Upper Courthouse Falls. On the way to Red Rock you have to pass Upper Courthouse Falls, which marks the midpoint of the hike. The first half is on an extension of Courthouse Creek Road. This ends at Upper Courthouse Falls
The Trailhead: To get to the falls from the Blue Ridge Parkway, reset your trip odometer while you’re sitting at the stop sign at the base of the ramp. Make a right and pass under the BRP and continue South for 6.5 miles. FR140 is located on the far side of a narrow bridge so use the ‘narrow bridge’ sign as your warning to slow down. The left turn is right after the bridge. Coming from US64, the drive is 10.2 miles up NC215 to the right hand turn just before the narrow bridge. FR140 has spent a lot of time the last few years barred to vehicle traffic so check in advance to avoid a wasted trip. This most recent closure began in August of 2015. If the road is open you can drive 3.2 miles to where the road is gated. If you’re coming from Courthouse Falls, the drive is around 0.25 of a mile. Park so as not to block the gate. The road you want to take is the one past the gate. The road also goes up the hill but I haven’t explored in that direction yet. If you don’t want all that, plug this into Maps 35.27664, -8289199. If you’re lucky, FR-140 is open. You got a 50/50 chance the gate is closed so have a back-up plan in Balsam Grove.
The hike: The first 0.75 of the hike is on the gated and overgrown extension of Courthouse Creek Road. It is easy to follow and in decent shape. You will knock out the first half of the hike in no time. There is a trail to the right that goes toward the base of Upper Courthouse Creek Falls. On the lkeft these is a stupid steep scramble path leading into the rhodo, that’s the one you want. The initial climb gets you above Upper Courthouse, and from there is moderates. The trail is borderline impassible in places, partially or fully eroded in others. At 0.2 from the start of the climb you will come to a 10-foot high drop. It had some trees lying against it in 2019, but looked slightly better in 2021. The trail is going to hug the creek, and it will make numerous creek crossings. The key to this hike is to NOT get away from the creek. I did that in 2021 and it was awful. AWFUL!
At the 1.2 mile mark of the hike, the creek is going to split. You need to follow the correct branch. Facing upstream you want to follow the one to your right. The trail is in decent shape here, and it runs alongside the river left side of the right hand prong. The trail does not quite make it to the falls, so the last 0.1 or so will be either in the creek, or what you take to be the easiest route. For me that was the creek. This hike is no joke, and there isn’t a way to do it quickly. My first time, when I had no idea where I was going, I managed it in a shade over two hours. The second time when we got away from the creek on the last section, it was closer to three hours. Leave yourself plenty of time. I was racing the daylight the first time I came to this one.
I love me some Red Rock Falls. It was impossible to capture the streaks in the rocks with the light running out. I could have stayed for hours, but I only had an hout of light left to get out of here. This was what I called “List Mode.” As long as there was daylight, I needed to be hiking. Red Rock wasn’t even a notion the day I did it. My day began at FR97, which was gated due to the time of the year. I was on my 500 List quest, so gated roads didn’t matter. I mountain biked to Boomer Inn Branch, hit Boomer Inn Falls. I made my next stop at Big Beartrap Falls, and finshed off the FR97 tour by stopping at Middle Prong Falls. Fifteen miles of hiking and mountain biking had me back to my X-Terra at five, which was way too early to stop. Off to Red Rock!