There aren’t very many waterfalls in Clay County, North Carolina, apparently due to the sandstone predominantly found in the area. After some searching, I found information about Leatherwood Falls (also sometimes called Fires Creek Falls). I decided to try and find it, and it was an interesting adventure.
First off, there aren’t many sites that discuss the drive to the falls. The drive to the falls is surprisingly easy, nearly all on paved roads. I say this after being on some waterfall hunts that are on rocky, unpaved national forest roads. Only a short stretch (maybe 1/10 of a mile) is actually on unpaved road. Other websites give numbers for the roads, but Google Maps and my Garmin GPS found that it was off of Fires Creek Wildlife Road. I easily found this road by having my GPS find the intersection of Fires Creek Road and Fires Creek Wildlife Road. (See the directions below for more info.)
After getting to the parking area for the falls, it became more interesting. I could see an impressive drop, but it was mostly hidden behind trees. Since the trees had all of their leaves, the view was greatly diminished. I’m guessing the easiest way to get to the drop I’m referring to would be to actually cross Fires Creek, but I wasn’t in any mood to do that. I started to wander around, and found the Leatherwood Loop. It does actually loop around, and it’s not a difficult hike, but it doesn’t lead to any truly spectacular views of the falls. At one point, you can take a left and get down to the river, where you’ll see the same view in the photo, but otherwise, it seemed far to slippery and dangerous to explore any further. (A crazy downpour/hailstorm had just occurred minutes earlier.) So, let me know if you decide to cross the river to get a better view….I have a feeling the best time to view the falls might be right before the leaves emerge on the trees.
From US-64 heading west from Hayesville, turn right onto Fires Creek Road and drive.
After about 3 miles, turn left onto Fires Creek Wildlife Road. There is a National Forest sign indicating a distance of 1.8 miles to a picnic area (and 6 miles further to some horse thing). Head 1.8 miles.
Now, getting there is easier than it seems, but there are a few things that may confuse you. Right near the 1.8 mile mark is Leatherwood Road. Do NOT turn onto Leatherwood Road. Keep going. The road will go from paved to unpaved, and there will be a sign for FR-340. Follow this for a VERY SHORT distance to the parking area on your left. A picnic table can be found there, along with the Leatherwood Loop.
Accessibility: 7/10 for upper views (10/10 for a not so great view of the falls across the creek)
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip (though you can see part of the falls from the parking area)