Accessibility – Difficult
Height: Approx 30′
Distance – 5.0 miles (out and back)
Beauty – 4
Photo rating – 4
Solitude – 8
GPS Info: LAT 35.29335 LONG -82.84439
First Visit: 11-20-2020
Lanning Branch Falls isn’t a 5 mile hike you’re going to undertake simply to see this waterfall. I recommend pairing it up with Twin Boulder Falls since they are about the same distance up their respective streams from the convergence point. Lanning Branch Falls is about 30 feet high and drops over two levels. There is a decent amount of downfall on and close to the falls so it is not terribly photogenic but if you do this as an add-on with Twin Boulder Falls, you’re only adding about 0.4 of a mile total, all of it off trail.
To get to the trailhead, from the intersection of US64/US276/NC280 in Brevard, follow US276 5.3 miles to the split with FR475. Make the left onto FR475 and follow it 3.9 miles, past the point where the pavement ends and the gravel road begins. Just after a narrow bridge crossing you will some to a dirt parking lot on the right side. This is the same starting point as Tom Springs Falls. This spot is popular with mountain bikers so the lot fills up early. This is also the parking area for numerous campsites so don’t be surprised if you’re parking on the side if FR475.
The hike starts beyond the gate heading up the modest grade from the end of the parking area. The road ascends to the bridge over the Davidson River and comes to a Y. Tom Springs Falls is to the right and marked with a sign that says FALLS. Make a left onto FR137. This is the Daniel Ridge Loop Trail (Red Blaze). You will pass by campsites on the left and remnants of the old fish hatchery. At 1.2 miles into the hike the Daniel Ridge Trail will pass the site of an old bridge. Stone supports still flank the creek and a sign and barricade block the way as if the missing bridge wasn’t enough of a deterrent. The grade increases and the trail condition worsens once you past a small waterfall on the left. If you elect to take a short scramble down to check it out, this is what you will see. It isn’t a named falls but it is very pretty and worth a peek. Just shy of 0.6 from the bridge, the trail will split. The Daniel Ridge Loop Trail goes right. Go straight as the hike shifts to the Farlow Gap Trail (Blue Blaze). After the split the trail descends to a crossing of Right Fork.
Once across the trail begins up the ridge through The next section is the steep ascent through the switchbacks. To get to Twin Boulder Falls and Lanning Branch Falls, when the trail makes a second hard left switchback, leave the trail and continue on the less defined trail that starts at the outside of the swicthback. If you miss the second switchback you can take a trail from the outside of the third switchback (which is right before you go up the steps.) If you miss this trail, you’re going to Shuck Ridge Creek Falls. The trail from the second swicthback follows a level course to a drainage and a trail heading up the far side of the drainage to a logging grade. If you leave the trail at the third switchback you have to climb down a hill and then back up.
The grade parallels the creek passing several cascades before feeding you toward the creek for a crossing of Right Fork. You can pick you crossing point and as you do, take in all of the railroad rails and cables scattered about. There are a lot of them. Once across the trail heads away from Right Fork, crosses Lanning Branch and comes back to Right Fork. From this point, the remnant of a trail goes to the right while the more defined path goes left. The off-trail adventure begins. Make a right and head into the Lanning Branch Drainage. There is no trail so you’re going to have to pick the route that suits you best. I stayed high enough on the hillside to avoid the rhodos by the creek and low enough not to break my ankles with the steepness. From the split to the base of the falls is 0.2 of a mile.