The following was done as a shuttle hike starting at the Summey Cove Trailhead on NC215 and ending at the gated FR140 (Courthouse Creek Rd) intersection with NC215 about two miles below the Summy Cove Trailhead. The hike began on Summey Cove with an uphill climb to the top of the ridge before a long downhill run toward Courthouse Creek and our first stop of the morning at Cody Falls, the lesser known companion to Courthouse Falls. The geology of Cody Falls makes it an excellent photo subject and possibly the highlight of the hike. From there, the spur path to Cody Falls connects back to the spur to Courthouse Falls, which was our second stop.
Once again, there was downfall overhanging the falls as a tree on river right has toppled and is extended over the falls, making it impossible to take a good shot. With FR140 gated due to damage to the road caused during the logging operations, from the parking area at Courthouse Falls we had to hike FR140 up the hill to where FR5031 turns back and to the left, climbing to the ridge top. The previously forest tunnel that hemmed in the road is now gone as logging operations have cleared the hillsides and muddied the road making for a miserable hike to the top of the mountain where a logging boom is cabled to haul timber. The road was littered with debris and downed rhodos once past the top but before long the perimeter of the logging operations arrives and the route to Chestnut Falls recaptures it’s prior look and feel. We took a side path before the road split but on the way out we found a shorter hike back to FR5033, which connected us back to FR5031.
Chestnut Falls was nothing like I remembered and turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It had been about five years since my only visit and honestly, I remembered more about the hike and encountering a six-foot black snake than I did the waterfall. It was a great spot to break for lunch and with our third stop of the day complete, we hiked back to FR140 and set our sights on the reason we made this hike, Kiesee Falls and Upper Kiesee Falls. Like the hike to Chestnut Falls, the narrow, overgrown logging road to reach the two Kiesee waterfalls was cleared and reduced to a muddy mess. After about 0.1 of a mile the road retook it’s prior feel but it was flagged, hinting that the logging will move deeper into the Kiesee drainage.
We bypassed Kiesee Falls and went to Upper Kiesee Falls first, finding the trail down to the base and descending the sloped rock at the base. From Upper Kiesee Falls, you can see the brink of Kiesee Falls but while the two are that close, the route we took to get around the steep cliffs bordering the lower waterfall took almost an hour and covered 0.2 of a mile with a steep, overgrown descent and a creek-walk with a sketchy rock crossing on river left to avoid a sweet cascade. Kiesee Falls looks a lot like it’s upstream companion with an upper free-fall and lower slide. It had been years since I had come to these two and they were just as impressive this time as the first.
We picked up a trail on the way out, slightly downstream from where we made our climb down and this path got us most of the way back to the road into the drainage. A number of trees obscured the path at one point, so we just went up the hill to the road and followed it back to FR140 for the walk to the second car. With the most difficult part of the challenge behind us, we made two stops on the way out, the first at Summey Cove Falls, a 150+ foot high waterfall on the opposite side of the creek. It is hard to see in the summer and if you cross the creek, there is no way to get an overall picture due to the proximity. It warranted a couple of cellphone snaps and away we went.
The mile was into it’s final mile and a half but there was one more stop looming and this was to visit maybe the most overlooked waterfall along FR140, Beetree Fork Falls. The falls is 0.25 of a mile from the intersection of FR140 and NC215. The narrow path to get down to the North Fork of the French Broad River is on the outside of a sharp turn and you can see Beetree Fork emptying into the river. We took the short trail down to the river, waded across and walked up the sloped rock on the opposite side. The hidden gem was only a few feet upstream. It was the final stop on the 7 waterfall FR140 Tour.
Our total miles came in at 9.7 and the hike took around 7 hours with plenty of stops to take pictures and enjoy. The weather was amazing with the morning rain that we began the hike in ending party cloudy skies providing incredible light for taking pictures. This is not going to be a hike for the average tourist but if you are fairly capable in the woods, know how to pay attention and have an idea of where you’re going, this is a hike that will provide enough challenge and enough reward for most outdoor enthusiasts. With FR140 indefinitely closed, you will likely not see anyone else.