Accessibility – Moderate+
Height – 15-18′
Distance – 2.3 miles (out and back) including Little Creek Falls
Beauty – 7
Photo rating – 5
Solitude – 8
GPS Info: LAT 35.02817 LONG -83.18156
First Visit – 11-16-2020
Upper Little Creel Falls is a 15-20 foot waterfall not too far from downtown Highlands NC and the lesser seen companion to Little Creek Falls. The two are accessed from the same TH and if you plan on seeing the Upper, you would be best served doing both on the same trip. Most of the hike to Upper Little Creek Falls is on a wide grassy logging road. The last 0.2 is a thick, steep bushwhack. There was a lot of downfall and the last few feet down the bank to get to the base of the falls is steep.
The trailhead is located on Rich Gap Road, between NC28 and Horse Cove Rd. To get there from Highlands, take Main Street east out of town. This will become Horse Cove Road as it begins the winding descent into Horse Cove. Just under 2.7 miles from the last traffic light in Highlands, Rich Gap Road heads to the right. It is unpaved but in very good condition as of my November 2020 visit. Follow Rich Gap Road 1.7 miles to where the gated FR4622 comes in on the right. Watch your mileage closely as at 1.4-1.5 miles another logging grade intersects from the right. You DO NOT want the one that comes in at 1.4-1.5 miles. There is a wide area to park on the left. If you’re coming from Cashiers you can reach Horse Cove from NC107 by taking either Whiteside Cove Road or BullPen Cove Road. They come together and will start up the mountain toward Highlands. Rich Gap Road will be on the left but I don’t have a mileage at this time.
Begin the hike by passing the gate and taking the grassy logging road beyond. The grade is moderate and the going is easy. After 0.3 on FR4622 you will reach the spot where you leave the road to get down to Little Creek Falls. For Upper Little Creek Falls, remain on the road, following it to its end at 1.4 miles from the TH. Now what? Well, from the end of the road, head straight into the mostly open woods as if the road continued. The climb will get steep and leave you on top of a ridge. The falls is straight down the other side of the ridge but to get to it, you will have to angle to the right to avoid some cliffs. We made a 90 degree turn to the left, went about 300 feet, make a 90 degree turn to the right and ended up near the base. You’re going to have to use this as a guide to get you close. Once you’re there, you can see the best way down.
I like Upper Little Creek Falls better than the lower, even though some trees across the falls take away from the view. The shape of the falls and the creek changing directions are interesting.