Accessibility – Difficult
Height – 60′ (two)
Distance – 7.1 Miles (shuttle)
Beauty – 8
Photo rating – 8
Solitude – 10
GPS Info: LAT 35.34180 LONG -82.84041
Last Updated – 07-05-2019
NOTE: This is not an easy adventure and the possibility of getting injured is real. There are sections of open rock along the sides of waterfalls and steep banks to negotiate. The creek is relatively easy to negotiate but all it takes is one false step. If you get hurt no is going to happen along and find you. You need to know where you’re going and what you’re doing. I’m going to provide the trail departure points but these are by no means definitive. I’m not doing this to encourage anyone to make this hike but simply to make it as easy as possible for those that do. If you do this hike, expect a long day.
Lower Greasy Cove Falls is one of four major waterfalls on Greasy Cove Prong as it runs down the north side of Ivestor Ridge paralleling Dark Prong which runs along the south side of the high ridge. Lower Greasy Cove Prong was the last of the four waterfalls we did on this hike but I have a friend who did this hike from the bottom up and made it the first stop. I think my way is much easier and he seemed to agree. The hike is going to start and end following marked trails but it is the section in the middle that makes is so difficult. From the moment you leave the Graveyard Ridge Trail to the moment you get onto the Greasy Cove Trail there is no defined route. We walked the creek and when the woods opened up, we made our way along the mostly level banks. The good thing is the creek is wide enough that it’s not terribly overgrown and at this elevation it isn’t under a wave of fallen hemlocks.
Directions to trailhead: From Beech Gap head North on the Blue Ridge Parkway to milepost 417 and park a second vehicle at the Looking Glass Rock Overlook. If you are coming from Brevard, Asheville or I-26, take the parkway South to MP417 and leave a car here or at the large open area on the right side of the road at MP 416.9. With a second car in place, head South on the Parkway to Black Balsam Rd, MP 420.2 and make a right. Follow Black Balsam Road to the MST trailhead about 0.5 of a mile from the Parkway. If you don’t get here early, good luck finding a place to park.
The Hike: The trailhead is in the middle of the parking area on the North side of the road. Numerous trails cross here so you really want to make sure you take the MST, which is white blazed. Just off the road it turns to the right and enters a stand of pines where the ground is open and easy to navigate. Once you exit the pines the trail is hemmed in by vegetation and not pleasant. For the most part the trail is going to descend through the narrow alley of growth but there is one climb up a rocky area to a great view of the BRP and the parking area at Graveyard Fields. after cresting the rocky are the trail will head down to a junction with the Graveyard Ridge Trail. This is 1.4 miles from the trailhead. The junction is in a large open area.
Make a left onto the Graveyard Ridge Trail. Like the MST it is overgrown in places and open in places but it is easy to follow as it takes a mostly level course along the contour. Follow the Graveyard Ridge Trail for 1.1 miles to the departure point on the right. I spent a lot of time studying topo maps for this hike and this was the place I felt was best to take the adventure off trail. The GSP for where I left the trail was: 35.33844, -82.86167. If you hike with a GPS, hopefully you have Upper Greasy Cove Falls pinned. The place where we left the trail was 1000 feet from the falls. The woods are surprisingly open and not too steep. If you keep heading straight at the falls before angling to the right close to the creek to avoid the cliffs, you will come to Greasy Cove Prong a short distance below the falls. Head upstream. There are two prongs that come together below the falls. You want the north prong. It’s the one to the right as you head upstream.
The upper portion of the falls is what you want to reach and as you head toward it the first thing you’re going to come to is a 15 foot high rock wall. If you’re looking at the wall, head to your left and climb the falls to the narrow shoot behind the rock where the water is rushing down. This is where I went up. Once at the top I went into the woods on the river right to reach the base of the falls. That’s about the best I can do. You really need to be able to look at something like the 15 foot high wall and figure out what you’re comfortable doing. Error on the side of caution. There is an open area at the base of the falls and some long sections of bent pipe in the pool. This is Upper Greasy Cove Falls.
I know this is vague but there is no way to adequately describe how to make this part of the hike. From the base of Upper Greasy Cove Falls to the brink of Ivestor Ridge Falls is about 0.7 miles. The route follows the creek downstream. We did a lot of it in the creek but when the banks open up we did venture out of the creek. The ground next to the creek is mostly level and free of downfall so when the rhodos aren’t thick you can make some time. You will have to pass the occasional cascade or boulder jumble but none of these are overly difficult. As you near Ivestor Ridge Falls, you will see the brink and it is a very cool shot, looking as if you are looking off the edge of the world. As you get closer you will see that the falls isn’t a straight drop. Nonetheless, if you went over the falls you would end up dead.
To the left of the rocks at the top of the falls, there is a narrow opening rhodos. I went up into the woods and started heading downstream and downgrade. This is going to be a make your way as best you can on the route of least resistance. I swung wide and came out below the falls and walked a few feet back up the creek. The area below the falls was wide open. I managed to get my pictures before the skies opened up and the rains came down! Here is Ivestor Ridge Falls.
GPS Falls is 0.4 of a mile downstream from Ivestor Ridge Falls and the easiest way to reach is began my heading down the bank on river left. When this got ugly it was into the creek for a short time before the woods opened up on river right. We took this a long way downstream before having to climb down a small waterfall about 6 feet high. At the base of the falls the open bedrock runs about fifty feet and vanishes around a 90 degree turn to the right. Once you round the bend you will see the brink of GPS Falls. From the top I went into the woods on river left and managed my way as far down the falls as I could before the cliffs forced me out of the woods into the sloping rock. This was dicey as the way down was next to the falls over wet rock. The rock was wet but had good grip but you really need to use caution here. This is GPS Falls.
From the base of GPS Falls it is 0.15 of a mile to Lower Greasy Cove Falls and this segment starts with climbing down the sloping cascade below the falls. The creek is easy to follow below this point but the hardest part of the hike is coming up, getting to the base of Lower Greasy Cove Falls. Cliffs on river left are going to force you wide away from the creek. Higher up in the woods there is an exposed cliff face. I followed along this to a boulder with a large tree growing out of it. Past this tree I scrambled down about ten feet of rock to the forest floor and followed the ridge down to the creek at the base of the falls on river left. I know that sounds easy but it wasn’t. If you can find your way to the boulder with the tree your life will be much easier.
Welcome to Lower Greasy Cove Falls!
When you’re ready to go turn away from the falls and look downstream. Off to the left you will see an open area in the woods heading up the slope. You want to head up the hillside in that direction. If you keep heading up from the river at a 45 degree angle you will come to the Greasy Cove Trail. The point we hit the trail was 35.34236, -82.83846. Once on the trail make a right and follow it downstream. From where we hit the trail to the junction at the East Fork Trail was 0.9 of a mile. At this point the Greasy Cove Trail come to a large open area. To get to your car, you need to cross the river here and head up the trail on the other side to the junction. The East Fork Trail goes left. You want to go right onto the Bridge Camp Gap Trail. This trail will climb moderately for 1.2 miles to the Parkway at the large dirt parking area at MP 416.9. If you left your second vehicle at Looking Glass Overlook, it is a 0.1 mile walk up the Parkway.
Hopefully if you make this hike you do so safely. Don’t hike this alone! Bring friends and make sure someone knows where you are. I can all but guarantee you won’t see another soul on this hike, which is the way I like it. As i said during the hike, “If Greasy Cove were easy the tourists would be here and I would be hiking somewhere else.”