Accessibility – Hard
Height – 12′
Distance – 4.4 miles (lollipop loop)
Beauty – 4
Photo rating – 6
Solitude – 8
GPS Info: LAT 35.20111 LONG -82.92535
Last Updated – 01-21-2023
Last Visited – 01-23-2023
Home Alphabetical Listing Numerical Listing Location Listing Tanasse Gap Rd
Middle John Neal Falls is a twelve foot high slide on one of the two unnamed tribs above John Neal Falls. The two tribs meet a short distance above John Neal Falls. When facing upstream from the confluence, this waterfall is on the left trib. It’s the first one you come to heading upstream.
I shudder to give directions to these two waterfalls because so much can go wrong on this hike. With all the roads and overgrown trails, getting lost is a possibility. On all my off-trail hikes I keep a live topo map open on my phone with waypoints I mark in advance and ones I add along the way. I also track my hike with my Garmin Watch. Phones get wet, and if you odn’t have a plan B, it could make for a miserable time of it. I trust that if you decide you want to visit these falls you know what you’re doing.
The Trailhead: I parked a short distance away from the trailhead on Tanassee Gap Road. This is the point where a short and steep bypass climbs the embankment and connects into FR5035: 35.21683, -82.92531. You could also park at the gate on FR5035 which isn’t too much further.
The hike: Once you climb the short connector, make a right. The majority of the hike is on FR5035, which is in very good condition for the first 2.3 miles. At 2.3 miles there is supposed to be a tight right hand switchback. The road is indistinguiahble from the forest at this point. I headed in the direction I beleived the road would be heading and eventually picked it up again. Just over a tenth of a mile later, I veered off the road, heading along the easiest route to get to the rigth hand trib. The woods were pretty open and not too steep if you pick the right line. There was certanly enough places where it looked extremely unruly. It was 0.2 of a mile from where I left the road to where I crossed the right hand trib.
I cut across the ridge that divides the tribs, and it was extremely thick the route I went. Maybe if I had gone lower I would have picked up the old road that shows on topo maps that climbs the river left side of John Neal Falls then heads up the trib I wanted. It didn’t matter since I got to the left hand trib and followed the old road up to the falls. It’s not a huge waterfall, but I did clear a lot of the crap off it. From Middle John Neal Falls, continue on the old road a tenth of a mile to Upper John Neal Falls. After this one, the hike gets way harder to explain. I stayed on the old road while periodically checking to see where I was in relation to my route in on FR5035. A little ways upstream of the falls, the road is going ot fork. The left fork crosses a decreipt wooden bridge and leads onto private property. Stay to the right, The only way you’re going to end up on FR8035 is by periodically looking at your track. There are overgrown trails and roads all over the place. It will be a matter of picking the ones that head you to a point on your track. I aimed for a bend in the road, and changed course as needed. The woods are very open, making it easy to see the best route. You need to have a track to help you find your way back to FR5035.
It is much shorter coming out this way, but there is a lot of private property, but if you stay close to what I described you will avoid all of it. The way I went in, it took me 3.4 miles to reach the upper falls. Coming out the way I did was about a mile. I don’t have a reference point for you to leave FR5035 if you want to reverse engineer the way I came out. You can use the coords to pick a spot, but there are property lines to consider. These aren’t waterfalls most will want to expend the effort to visit.