Monday, March 26, 2012

Red Fork Falls is one of the more impressive waterfalls in our area, unfortunately it's also one of the most deadly. The remote waterfall is located on the scary narrow Unaka Mountain Road in the Erwin community of Tennessee. Although the road is paved, there are no guardrails and nowhere to pass as the road steeply switches back and forth up Unaka Mountain. The parking area for Red Fork is a small pull off with a tree with a spray painted dot on it. The trail descends from there arriving at a creek crossing. The crossing in normal flow allows you to rock hop but if it has rained prepare to get wet. After the first crossing, the trail bears right and crosses another creek, again you will get wet in high flow conditions. These two creeks converge and head downstream. The trail then follows the creek on the left side a short distance before arriving at the top of the falls. It's an 80 foot drop straight down and to get to the base you have to climb around a slick and sloped cliff against the falls. The trail then goes through a series of vertical drops of 10 feet or more and the mud and rock make it slick and any slip up and you will fall into the falls which would result in severe injury or death.

During periods after heavy rain, such as yesterday, this falls really churns some water through the gorge. Of course it also makes conditions difficult at best for both hiking and photography. After Steve, Amber, and I arrived at the bottom, the mist off the falls was so intense I had to stand back as far as I could to try to photograph this beauty.
Red Fork Falls
From the main falls, the trail continues to wind down the gorge steeply, at the bottom there are several small falls coming from three feeder streams! I really love Red Fork Falls, it's a challenging yet rewarding hike. The danger is real and the remains of a forest sign remind you that people have lost their lives here. I wouldn't recommend children or hiking alone here, there are too many ways to hurt yourself. Even with the difficulty climbing around the falls, the beauty makes the workout fully worth it. I have been to this falls in all seasons now and it is beautiful every time. The next time your in the Erwin area, it's definitely worth checking out. Stay safe and happy trails.
Red Fork Falls and the cascade below the drain pool
close up second cascade
fourth cascade and the fog settling in
fifth cascade. possibly more further down.
Hidden took some work to get this picture
beautiful small falls just above Red Fork Falls

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