A large and powerful waterfall that is accessed via a moderate 1 3/4 mile hike. Not recommended for small children due to steep ledges.
In the beautiful Wilson Creek area of North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest is the tall and impressive – Harper Creek Falls. At about 50ft high, this multi-tiered cascade is exceptionally beautiful and can be extremely powerful after heavy rains. The lower section, just below the falls, is also a popular swimming hole during the summer months although getting down to the creek is very steep and difficult. This is a very rugged section of the forest with many sharp ledges and narrow sections of the trail. It is not recommended for small children. But for the experienced and responsible hiker, this is a wonderful spot to visit and the 1 and 3/4’s mile moderate hike to the falls is very enjoyable.
The trailhead for Harper Creek Falls is located on the unpaved Brown Mountain Beach Road in the town of Collettsville, North Carolina. The trailhead is marked and is about 7 1/2 miles up Brown Mountain Beach Road after it turns and parallels Wilson Creek. Although the majority of the ride is on an unpaved road, the road is in very good shape and the scenery is gorgeous. There is also plenty of parking available at the parking area for the falls. Harper Creek Falls is about 45 minutes from Morganton, North Carolina. There are no restroom facilities at the trailhead.
The orange blazed hike to the falls starts at about the middle of the parking area on the marked trailhead. The hike starts ascending right away and continues up several switchbacks to the top of the ridge. Once at the top you will intersect the Yellow Buck Trail but continue straight on the orange blazed trail which will start descending now.
After awhile you will encounter some camping areas along the trail. Look for the second camping area, which is much larger, where the trail will bear right and join up with the white blazed Mountains-to-Sea Trail. It is a very obvious and well marked turnoff.
The trail will start to climb again and after about 1/4 of a mile, the trail splits again with the white and orange blazes going right up the hill. However, you will break away from these trails now and continue on the left fork. The falls are just a short distance up the narrow trail where it ends at an unprotected viewing area above the falls.
The observation area provides a good view of the upper falls and a somewhat limited view of the lower cascade. Other than the fact that it is unprotected and there are steep drop-offs, the end of the trail is the safest spot to view and enjoy the falls. There are a few scrambles leading down to the creek that provide access to the swimming hole and a better view of the falls. However, these are extremely steep and should be cautiously approached when deciding whether to go creek side or not. This is a very remote area and help would be a long way away.
Wherever you decide to enjoy Harper Creek Falls, make sure you take enough time to enjoy the beauty of this rugged area and stunning waterfall.
This is an out and back hike so walk safely back to the parking area when you have finished enjoying the falls.