Lower White Oak Canyon Falls #3, Virginia

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Lower White Oak Canyon Falls #3 in December 2011

In December 2011, I had a chance to visit Shenandoah National Park, and I decided to do the hike to see the waterfalls of White Oak Canyon. I’m not sure why I chose this specific trail, but I believe I knew it had a number of waterfalls along the trail.

I discovered while hiking that there were more waterfalls than expected, though I always wonder whether to count all of the drops along a creek/river as just one waterfall, or how to decide what counts as a separate drop. I decided that there were 5 interesting drops in the canyon, which you can easily find by looking for the correct category tag. I also found that there were 2 “side-falls”, which were waterfalls that were not on the main creek/river, but instead flowed into them. It was an interesting hike, but you should realize that it’s also a strenuous hike, depending on how far you go. I went a pretty good distance (almost 5 miles round-trip), but that also includes a significant elevation decrease on the way down, followed by a significant elevation increase on the way up. It will definitely give you a good workout, but make sure to bring water!

Directions:

  1. At the intersection of US-211 and Skyline Drive, head south on Skyline Drive.
  2. After five or six miles, you should see the parking area for the White Oak Canyon Trail, which is where your journey begins. It’s just after the entrance to the Skyland Resort.
  3. From here, follow the very clear signage for about 2.5 miles to the first falls. After the first lower falls, this is the next in succession. Be aware: the further downhill you progress, the longer the uphill climb you have. The uphill climb is where the difficulty lies.

Accessibility: 2/10 (strenuous)
Height: 10′
Length of Hike: 4.6 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Lower White Oak Canyon Falls #3?

Tom Branch Falls, North Carolina

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Tom Branch Falls in March 2017

Just inside the boundary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Bryson City, North Carolina are three waterfalls that can be seen in a not-so-difficult hike. Tom Branch Falls, Juney Whank Falls, and Indian Creek Falls can be found by starting at the Deep Creek Trail head. I think the trail continues on, but you can see all three falls within a 2 mile or so hike.

Tom Branch Falls is the first waterfall you’ll encounter, and you don’t have to hike the whole 2 miles to see Tom Branch Falls. The hike to Tom Branch Falls is only about 1/4 of a mile one-way, and the elevation gain is minimal. I remember the trail being rather flat up until this point. It does then change more in elevation to see the other two falls. I think I showed up when there wasn’t as much water flowing over Tom Branch Falls, so the other two falls were more exciting, even though they required a longer hike to view.

Directions:

  1. There isn’t one specific set of directions that will get you to the falls. It all depends on where you start. So head toward Bryson City, which is not far from US-19 or US-74.
  2. Route 1337 (W Deep Creek Road) is the most direct way to lead to the trail head. It is off of 1336 (Old River Road), which is on the north side of the Tuckasegee River.
  3. Drive 2.5 miles along Route 1337, W Deep Creek Road. Pass a number of other parking areas, and park in the Deep Creek Trail head parking area.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 80′
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Tom Branch Falls?

Christine Falls, Washington

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The lower drop of Christine Falls in July 2018

During the 4th of July weekend, I had the chance to visit Mount Rainier National Park, which I would absolutely suggest doing. It’s another stunning national park to add to the list if you haven’t already. One of the benefits of Mount Rainier…a lot of waterfalls!

Mount Rainier is over 14000′ in elevation, and if you consider that much of that elevation change happens over a relatively short distance from sea level, it leads to a lot of chances to find waterfalls. There are a number of marked waterfalls on the main map, but there are many others that you can find along the way. One of the first waterfalls you might encounter is Christine Falls. It’s essentially a roadside waterfall you’ll come across along one of the main roadways in the park. It’s taller than it appears in this photograph, but one part of the drop is at an angle hidden behind a rock. You can view the upper portion of the falls from the road. The road is narrow, though, so you have to careful if you want to view the upper portion.

The main thing that has kept me from visiting Mount Rainier until this point…the weather. The other times I have visited Washington have been earlier in the year, generally. This is not the ideal time to visit much of the park, as many of the roadways and trails will be covered in snow. Even in early July, a number of the trails at Paradise were STILL covered with feet of snow, though the outdoor temperatures were very comfortable. You still maybe able to visit some of the lower elevation waterfalls, but it’s a better bet to show up in the summer months. (Of course, you then run into more people…)

Directions:

  1. We entered the park on WA-706 heading east (at the Nisqually Entrance).
  2. You will pass the National Park Inn and Longmire Museum, and after a few more miles and switchbacks, you will pass the trail head for Comet Falls. Comet Falls is on the same creek, but is at a higher elevation and requires a longer hike (which I didn’t attempt).
  3. Shortly after passing that trail head, you’ll cross a bridge where you may notice the upper portion of the falls. After this, there is a parking area on your right.
  4. From this parking area, there is a very short downhill hike that leads to the view shown in this pictures.

Accessibility: 9/10 (Easy)
Height: 75′
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round-trip (essentially roadside)

Where in the World is Christine Falls?

Tropic Ditch Falls, Utah

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Tropic Ditch Falls in May 2015

Tropic Ditch Falls is a fascinating waterfall. It is not a natural waterfall, at least not in the sense that it wasn’t flowing 100+ years ago. From the National Park Service website: “Mormon farmers diverted water from the East Fork of the Sevier River near Tropic Reservoir to irrigate fields around Tropic City.” (More info here.) In the process, the diversion led to water flowing through uneven terrain, and a waterfall was inadvertently created.

If this is a man-made waterfall, why should you go and visit? Because it’s got some of the most stunningly beautiful colors in the rocks around the waterfall that I have ever seen. (Red Dirt Falls on the island of Kauai is another.) It’s in Bryce Canyon National Park, which is an amazing place to visit. While this is not in the main park thoroughfare, it’s still relatively easy to get to. The hike is short but full of color. I figured even if I didn’t see a waterfall, the views were still worth it. And then when I saw the falls, it just confirmed that.

Directions:

  1. To get to the main thoroughfare of Bryce Canyon National Park, at the junction of UT-12 and UT-63, you would head south on UT-63. Instead of that, head east (southeast) on UT-12 toward Tropic.
  2. Drive about 3.5 miles on UT-12 to the Mossy Cave Trailhead. If headed southeast, it will be on your right. If I remember correctly, there was more than enough parking there.
  3. Follow the trail. I think there were signs to the waterfall, though I could be wrong. It’s pretty easy, though, just follow the water. I believe I turned right at one point. All in all, it’s about 0.4 miles one-way.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 15′
Length of Hike: 0.8 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Tropic Ditch Falls?

Whiteoak Flats Branch Falls, Tennessee

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Whiteoak Flats Branch Falls in February 2016

As I enter in to Great Smoky Mountains National Park at the Townsend entrance, my plan is to go see Meigs Falls. It seems like it should be an easy-to-view waterfall in the park, and I can enjoy the beauty that is the Smoky Mountains while I’m there.

Meigs Falls was easy to view, though it’s not a waterfall you can get close to. As I was driving in, though, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed another waterfall. On the way out of the park, I decided to see if I could pull over and get a better glimpse of the falls. Luckily, there was adequate gravel parking off of the road, and I was able to get some shots of Whiteoak Flats Branch Falls. At the time, I don’t think I knew the name of the falls. It wasn’t until I got home and looked at Google Maps that I discovered it was Whiteoak Flats Branch Falls. If I had looked at Google Maps, I would have also noticed Cane Creek Falls, Mannis Branch Falls, Spruce Flats Falls, and Meadow Branch Cascades. (This site gives a pretty good overview of some of the falls in the vicinity.)

Directions:

  1. I took US-321 from Knoxville into the park. Once you’re on the Lamar Alexander Parkway, it’s pretty difficult to miss the entrance. There are signs everywhere!
  2. After entering the park, about a mile or so in, you’ll have a choice to take a right toward Cades Cove (which will lead to a number of waterfalls, including Abrams Falls) or a left toward the other park entrance and Gaitlinburg.
  3. Take a left, and drive about 0.6 miles, where you’ll notice Whiteoak Flats Branch Falls on your right. (The parking area was on the left.)

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: ~20′
Length of Hike: roadside

Where in the World is Whiteoak Flats Branch Falls?

Firehole Falls, Wyoming

There are many memorable waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park. Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls are probably the main attractions, understandably so. Other falls, like Tower Falls and Gibbon Falls, might play second fiddle, but are still interesting stops. Firehole Falls is a nice waterfall, but probably one of those waterfalls you’d go searching for if you’re really into waterfalls (like me).

A few reasons do exist to view the falls. First, it’s easy to get to. While the road to the falls is one-way (so choose where you start carefully), it’s a short drive, and once you arrive at the falls, you’re there! There’s no hike involved. Second, you’ll probably be one of only a few people there. Some parts of Yellowstone are moderately to crazy busy, depending on the time of year. Firehole Falls is a quiet respite from the crowds. And honestly, I would argue anywhere in Yellowstone is worth the visit!!

Directions:

  1. From the intersection of US-89 and US-20/191/287, head south on US-20/89/191/287 (Grand Loop Road). (There are a lot of numbers for this one road!)
  2. After about 2000 feet or so, turn right onto Firehole Canyon Road. It’s one way, so you can only enter at this point.
  3. Drive a bit less than a mile along Firehole Canyon Road to the waterfall, which will be on your right.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 40′
Length of Hike: roadside

Firehole Falls

Firehole Falls in June 2014

Where in the World is Firehole Falls?

Mingo Falls, North Carolina

I’ve had the chance to visit Mingo Falls twice, once in late April 2013 and then just a few weeks ago in early March 2017. I hadn’t looked at the two pictures side by until just recently, and realized Mingo Falls could present very different personalities depending on the time of year.

Let’s start by stating: Mingo Falls is a fun waterfall to visit. It’s right at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and is a few minutes drive from Cherokee (which is a town I could visit pretty frequently, especially in non-peak season). The first time I visited, I made sure to see Mingo Falls. The second visit, I had time to kill before the sunset, and figured I should go and see Mingo Falls again.  I’m glad I did.

In late April, the leaves on the trees were emerging and so they covered up part of the falls. That wasn’t a problem in early March! What’s also striking is the amount of water flowing over the falls. After doing a bit of research, I found that this year (2017) has been a rather dry year in the Great Smoky Mountains region. Many of the falls were not as intense as I expected. As you can see, much more water was flowing in late April of 2013 than this year. (Usually, as the spring progresses toward summer, the opposite holds true.)

One issue with writing about waterfalls sometime after I visit them is I don’t always remember the fine details. When I arrived this year, I was surprised to find steps leading up most of the way to the falls. I don’t exactly remember that the last time, but it was four years ago…It is a short hike, but it is also consistently uphill. You’ll get a bit of exercise. I probably went a bit too fast on the way up, as I could feel the burn.

Directions:

  1. You want to end up on Big Cove Road (Road 1410), and there are a few different ways to get there. If you’re on US-441 in Cherokee headed toward the Smoky Mountains Park entrance, you could turn right onto Acquoni Road, and then very soon after turn left onto Big Cove. (If you miss that, there’s another road that leads to Big Cove right after that.)
  2. Drive for approximately 3.5 miles on Big Cove Road.
  3. There should be a sign for Mingo Falls, turn right onto Sherrill Cove Road. Literally a few hundred feet after this turn is the parking area for Mingo Falls. (Some GPS systems might direct you to turn onto Sherrill Cove Road much earlier, but ignore this. Sherrill Cove Road is a very narrow, winding dirt road, whereas Big Cove Falls is a paved road.)
  4. It’s an uphill hike from the parking area.

Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate, this would be fine for kids, it’s just almost all uphill with stairs)
Height: 120′
Length of Hike: 0.8 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Mingo Falls?