677 – Magic School Bus Falls

Accessibility – Hard+

Height – 50-60′

Distance – 1.4 miles (out and back)

Beauty – 1

Photo rating – 1

Solitude – 10

GPS Info: LAT 35.57629 LONG -81.68948

First visit: 09-28-2019

Most Recent Visit: 11-24-2019


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Unless there was a flood the previous day, don’t expect too much from this waterfall. It is on a small creek and while it may rage during and just after a rainstorm, the watershed is small and runs off quickly. On my September visit the creek was completely dry, not even a hint of water. In November there was a faint dribble after rain the night before. I’m sure it would be impressive if there was water since the waterfall is about 60 feet high.

Trailhead Directions: From the Morganton Exit on I-40 take US64 West for 9 miles to Roper Hollow Road, which will be on the left. If you are coming from the other direction Roper Hollow Road is in the right, 4.5 miles from where US64 East passes under NC226. Roper Hollow Road starts out paves and turns to gravel quickly and it not in the best of shape. At around 7.5 miles from US64 there is a gate. If this gate is closed, it adds 4.7 more miles to a hike that it not worth it when the round trip is half a mile. Up to the gate the road is passable but once past it the condition deteriorates rapidly. You need some ground clearance and four wheel drive wouldn’t hurt. I got my two-wheel drive Xterra back there twice but I ain’t right sometimes. The pull out is on the right so you need to pass it and turn around. I park at 35.57983 -81.69213.

The Hike: From where you parked walk down the road toward the direction of Roper Hollow Road for about 50 feet and look for a cable with several white plastic bands around it. It is thick and overgrown close to the road but push on in and make your way to the left slightly. About two-hundred feet from the road there is an old school bus that is rusting quietly in a field of blackberry bushes. The bus is a collection point for beer cans and bullet holes. The easiest way to get around the bus is to enter the woods in front of it

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Cross in front of the bus and descend the bank to an old logging road that is remarkably good shape considering how overgrown everything else is in this area. When you get to 35-57802 -8168994 of there about make a right into the woods. Pick a nice open place and stay on this heading for approximately 450 feet. How far is 450 feet? It will be 35.57700 -81.68993 or there about. This will have you standing in the creek bed, which unless there was a foot of rain the night before ill either be a dribble or dry. I have been here when it was completely dry and when it was a disappointing dribble.

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Standing in the creek it should be pretty obvious which way to go but if it isn’t walk downstream  toward to where it looks like you might fall off the edge of the world. This is the brink of Magic School Bus Falls. You can’t see much from up here, especially if since it likely has no water. So you have reached the top of the falls, now what? Well, I would say carefully hold your camera out over the brink and take a picture, take a few shots of the bus and drive over to Black Mountain Falls.

For those wishing to tread on the hallowed ground at the base, against my better judgment I’m going to tell you how I accomplished this. From the GPS point in the creek or empty creek-bed as the case may be, set a course for the top of the ridge. You will want to error on the side of caution and stay away from the left side of the ridge since it is a cliff you do not want to mess with. When you get to the top of the ridge, look for a ridge spine descending to the South. Follow the ridge until you come to a rocky ledge and a sheer drop. At this point, work your way to the left and break out the ropes. You’re not getting down without rope.

The decent down the stupidly steep hillside goes from about the 2625 elevation down to 2350. You can go lower and it does get flat way the hell down there but you will have to climb back up if you do and that is only making a lot more work. The best “view” of the falls is at the 2460 elevation. It is an awful side-hilling experience to the base of the falls with a lot of fallen trees and loose ground. Honestly, I’m not even sure why you’re down here but since you made it this far, the optimal viewing position is at 35.57629 -81.68948.

I made this hike in about two hours, which included stringing ropes and figuring it out. I would guess that if you’re going to tackle this one, plan on three or more hours to cover the 1.45 mile round trip. It sucks that much. So you’re scratched up from the blackberry bushes, almost fell off a cliff, got rope burns on your hands, sore ankles from the side-hill and you still have to climb back out. And what did you get for this effort? This. The first picture is of the falls, which can be identified by the darker areas on the otherwise sun-bleached cliff. The second pic is of the view from the top looking over tje top of the falls at and landscape.

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