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 (easy/moderate) for upper views (10/10, easy, 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)
A portion of Leatherwood Falls in May 2012
Where in the World is Leatherwood Falls?
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!
- The waterfall is accessible from US-64.
- 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.
- From the parking area, it’s pretty self-explanatory.
Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round-trip (though there is a viewpoint that is handicapped accessible)
Where in the World is Dry Falls?
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.
- Drive on US-64 between Franklin and Highlands. If you’re driving north, the waterfall will be on your right.
- Park and enjoy.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: roadside
Where in the World is Bridal Veil Falls?