Leatherwood Falls, North Carolina

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.

Directions:

  1. From US-64 heading west from Hayesville, turn right onto Fires Creek Road and drive.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 (easy/moderate) for upper views (10/10, easy, for a not so great view of the falls across the creek)

Height: 25′
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip (though you can see part of the falls from the parking area)

A portion of Leatherwood Falls in May 2012

Where in the World is Leatherwood Falls?

Toxaway Falls, North Carolina

Sometimes, a waterfall can be so close, and yet so far away. As you’re driving along US-64 in North Carolina, you’ll pass right over the Toxaway River only a few feet from the beginning of Toxaway Falls. There are no places to pull off on the road to get a better view, so give that idea up from the beginning. There is no place to stop on the one side of the river, so that’s also an issue. The only “view” is from a restaurant parking lot near the falls. You can’t get any closer to the falls because of private residences. Oh well, some waterfalls have to be nearly unobtainable. Who knows, ten years from now the view might be different.

Directions:

  1. The falls will be found on the Toxaway River, which US-64 intersects in Transylvania County, North Carolina.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 150′
Length of Hike: roadside

Toxaway Falls in March 2009

Where in the World is Toxaway Falls?

Dry Falls, North Carolina

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Dry Falls in March 2009

I get the sense that I wasn’t supposed to see Dry Falls when I visited the area in March 2009. Dry Falls is supposedly closed, or was closed until at least July 2009. I was going to pass by until I noticed that numerous other cars had stopped and were getting out to view the falls. No workers were there, so I don’t think we were interrupting anybody. I actually didn’t see any work going on at all.

Dry Falls is now open, so this is one waterfall that you should definitely go and visit. Actually, this stretch of US-64 has two very easy-to-visit waterfalls, Dry Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. Dry Falls is cool because you can walk behind the waterfall. You’re sure to get at least a little bit wet! Go check it out!

Directions:

  1. The waterfall is accessible from US-64.
  2. If you are heading north on US-64, the parking area for the falls will be on your left. You will have passed Bridal Veil Falls on your way there.
  3. From the parking area, it’s pretty self-explanatory.

Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 70′
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round-trip (though there is a viewpoint that is handicapped accessible)

Where in the World is Dry Falls?

Upper Whitewater Falls, North Carolina

I always have a hard time choosing favorites. I like most waterfalls that I’ve seen, and each of them has it’s own unique qualities, whether big or small. Upper Whitewater Falls has the distinction of being one of my favorites, though. It’s a big waterfall, but that alone does not make it my favorite. I’ve seen waterfalls that are bigger (Multnomah Falls), but that doesn’t mean that they’re my favorites. There is a complexity about Upper Whitewater Falls that puts it in the top ten.

At 411′ tall, it is one of the larger waterfalls east of the Mississippi River. It’s not a straight 411′ drop, but instead a series of drops that add up to the total. This is what makes Upper Whitewater Falls so beautiful. It’s narrow and then it’s wide, and then narrows down again. At some points, there are actually three separate “waterfalls”, or at least the river splits into three. In the picture below, you can’t even see the whole falls because it’s so large.

There are at least two easily accessible viewpoints. One of the viewpoints is right near the parking lot, while the second is accessed from a walk down some stairs. There may be a third viewpoint at the base of the falls, though I’m guessing that this is more complicated!

Directions:

  1. From US-64 in North Carolina, turn left onto NC-281.
  2. Head south on NC-281 to the entrance for Upper Whitewater Falls.
  3. After parking, pay the $2 entrance fee, which is definitely worth it. Then follow the paved trail to the upper view.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 411′
Length of Hike: 0.4 miles round-trip

Upper Whitewater Falls (3)

Upper Whitewater Falls in March 2009

Where in the World is Upper Whitewater Falls?

Bridal Veil Falls, North Carolina

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Bridal Veil Falls in March 2009

Bridal Veil Falls is one of those waterfalls you should stop at if your nearby simply for the reason that it’s so easy to see! As you’re driving along US-64 between Franklin and Highlands in North Carolina, this waterfall plunges out onto the road below. Drivers used to be able to drive under the falls, but that part of the road has been blocked off because of falling rocks. You can still park and walk up to the beautiful waterfall, though.

Directions:

  1. Drive on US-64 between Franklin and Highlands. If you’re driving north, the waterfall will be on your right.
  2. Park and enjoy.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 45′
Length of Hike: roadside

Where in the World is Bridal Veil Falls?