032 – Waterfall on West Fork of the Pigeon River

Accessibility – Easy

Height: Approx 80′ (numerous drops)

Distance – 0.1 (out and back)

Beauty – 8

Photo rating – 7

Solitude – 4

GPS Info: LAT 35.3380 LONG -82.9035

Last updated – 04/01/2017

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Some consider this and the lower section under the bridge the same waterfall. They are but I’m giving them different listings since they are accessed from opposite sides of the road. Combined that are called Sunburst Falls but to distinguish them on my site only, I refer to this one as The Waterfall on the West Fork of the Pigeon River. This is another of the waterfalls along this stretch of NC 215 as it heads north of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The waterfall is roadside but if you want to get to the upper reaches of the falls you have to climb a steep scramble path that begins in the parking area on river left. There are numerous drops on this section of the river but the most popular is the 20 foot drop that is seen in profile from the bridge. The view up the falls is framed by thick vegetation on both sides. There are large sections of rock on the left of the falls if you want to get a shot from there you can but the rocks are slippery and if you fall into the creek you’re going to get swept under the bridge and down Sunburst Falls. You may survive the plunge, you may not. Use your best judgment. Like Sunburst falls, the view is great but with the road inches away, the setting isn’t terribly peaceful.

To get to the Waterfall on the West Fork of the Pigeon River, follow NC 215 North 4.2 miles to the pull out on the left. You will see the waterfall as you cross the bridge over Sunburst Falls. If the parking area is empty, count your blessings. This is the same parking area as Sunburst Falls. There is ample parking for a few cars but only if everyone cooperates. I’ve been there were one car managed to block the entire parking area. From the gravel pull out, carefully walk back up NC 215 to the bridge, remaining alert for motorcyclists. NC 215 is a popular ride and there are a lot of blind turns, including the one that leads over the bridge.

To get closer to the falls you can cross the guardrail on either end of the bridge. I prefer the view from the South end of the bridge but to each his own. There are two ways to get above the primary drop. There is a very steep trail on river right. The easier route is from a trail into the woods near the parking area. You can follow this up the incline. You will have to cross the river to get to the large flat area above. The rocks are slippery and the current is strong so use caution if you’re venturing upstream for a closer look.

The hike is kid friendly, as long as you keep an eye on them when you’re on NC 215. I wouldn’t let my daughter venture out with me onto the rocks on the river left but I did allow her to come with when I explored the river right. On my October 2016 visit I was able to venture out to the flat stone at the base of the primary drop. It’s not a long walk but it is along a very steep section of sloping rock. One slip and you’re going into the water, unless the boulders break your fall. Depending on the current, you may end up getting swept under the bridge and into the pool downstream. If you want to see where you’d likely end up, cross the bridge and look down on the collection pool. If you see someone down there taking a picture, realize you are now in their shot. Since the view isn’t all that great, move along. In July of 2015 I was down there taking pictures and I had to wait while a family of four spent 10 minutes taking pictures of me waiting for them to move.

The best shot is from the bridge or the flat area above the rocks on the right side of the creek. You can get a decent shot from the left but you will have to work to get into position. The trees on the left will likely enter into your shot from the top if you’re not careful. The lighting is pretty even at the bottom of the falls but on a sunny day the upper sections will get washed out.

Explosion of color at West Fork Pigeon River – October 2016
A different view of the single arch bridge – October 2016
A wider view of the valley below – October 2016
The primary drop and channel – October 2016
The falling leaves and the channel – October 2016
Main drop on WF Pigeon River – June 2014
The West Fork of the Pigeon River passing under NC 215 – June 2014
The collection pool below Sunburst Falls – June 2014
Waterfall on the West Fork of the Pigeon River – Left Bank – June 2014
Potholes below the main drop – West Fork of the Pigeon River – June 2014