Accessibility – Difficult+
Height: Approx 50′
Distance – 3.8 miles (out and back)
Beauty – 9
Photo rating – 8
Solitude – 10
GPS Info: LAT 35.07063 LONG -82.95877
Last Updated: 06-30-2019
WARNING: This hike (which includes getting to the base of Windy falls) ranks as the most dangerous I’ve undertaken in Gorges. This is a wild and remote area. If you get hurt down here, you’re in big trouble. Most of the places where you can conceivably fall will likely result in death. You really need to know what you’re doing and where you’re going.
There are other ways to reach Rooster Tail Falls other than the route I took. You can hike in from below or you can bypass Windy Falls and descent a long steep ridge. As I have not taken either of these routes I can not speak to them but I have some friends who took the long steep ridge and they said it was awful.
The Hike: Step 1, get to the base of Windy Falls. If you;re not sure how to do that you can read about it by following the Windy Falls Hike link.
From the base of Windy Falls, continue downstream on river left. The going is not too bad at first but eventually you will have to enter the river, hugging the cliff on the river left side to skirt the top of Terrifying Falls. This was a very dicey place and once false step and you’re going over Terrifying Falls. Its about 50 feet down to the rocks below and as you stand above the plunging falls, you’ll see why it’s called Terrifying Falls. The trail enters the woods and skirts the steep drop down to the river for a time. There are a lot of handholds but this is a dangerous place where a false step will likely be fatal. The narrow trail leads to an open area above Wolverine and Hentail Falls. You will have to cross a narrow part of the river to get to the island between the falls. If you head around the far side of the island you will see Wolverine Falls.
From Wolverine Falls, head back toward the small channel you cross and head into the rhodos toward the base of Hentail Falls. The last few feet are steep and slick so you need to be careful. When the river splits above the falls, most of the flow goes over Wolverine Falls and the rest drops over Hentail Falls. Tucked off the main flow, there is a calm pool below the falls.
Rooster Tail Falls is just downstream from the island and if you venture to the lower end of the island you are standing at the top of Rooster Tail Falls. To get to the base stay on river left and work your way onto the open rock above the river left side of the plunge pool. It is a wide rock ledge that leads to the boulders below the falls. I didn’t know what to expect when I set out for this one but it far exceeded what I envisioned.