|Laurel Falls (Gatlinburg)|
We traveled through the park across Newfound Gap toward Cherokee, NC. After a quick breakfast in town, we set off to find Mingo Falls. The falls is located on an indian reservation near downtown, and with a short climb of 200 stairs, a small footbridge crosses in front of the 120ft falls. They are said to be the highest in the Smokies. Thankfully, we arrived with perfect timing just barely beating the sun from being directly over the falls ruining any photo opportunities.
|120ft high Mingo Falls|
We got on the Blue Ridge Parkway and began our days travel toward Asheville and eventually home. The road climbs steadily for near an hour and follows the ridge line high above Cherokee. We stopped at the Balsam Grove overlook which is the highest point of the Blue Ridge Parkway at 6053ft. We traveled on for another hour before the BRP intersects highway 215 which travels to either Brevard or Waynesville. It's also home to a cluster of beautiful waterfalls which I have explored in past visits. I decided to give Steve the highlights of the area and we traveled down to 215 to Dill Falls, a nice 60ft waterfall in a deep cove. From there it was on to the Waynesville side of 215 and a visit to Sam's Branch Cascades and Wash Hollow Falls. I like these two because they are on the same trail and very different style waterfalls, the easy half mile hike is an added bonus. Sam's Branch Cascades is a 100ft multilevel waterfall which the trail crosses about halfway up the falls. Once crossing, a small tributary enters from the left and around the bend Wash Hollow flows 50ft off a rock cliff into a clear green pool. We spent a few minutes resting and hiked back out to the truck parked along the highway. We drove down to Sunburst Falls which can be photographed from the road and then turned heading back up the mountain. Bubbling Branch Cascades is also visible from the road but warrants walking over for a closer look. The falls cascade down a slick rock face and pool deeply on various levels, they are fun because they are easy to climb and at the top is a clear deep swimming hole with a rope swing. The clear water rivals that of the Devil's Bathtub. We waded around some of the pools but was hesitant to get wet for the ride home. Some of the rhododendron bushes were in bloom along the creek allowing some good photos.
|Highest point on BRP. Balsam Grove|
|Wash Hollow Falls|
|Upper pool at Bubbling Branch Cascades|
|Dill Falls estimated between 60-80ft|
After leaving Bubbling Branch and 215 we followed the parkway toward Asheville making a pit stop at the Graveyard Fields overlook, an extremely popular stop due to the two waterfalls here. For time reasons, we only visited Second Falls which is my favorite of the two. It has a great swimming hole at it's base and looks to be about 15ft deep.
|Second Falls at Graveyard Fields|
The first hiking vacation went better than I had ever expected. I was able to take in nearly 20 waterfalls and spend time with one of my best friends. However, I missed my wife and was looking forward to getting home and spend some time with her. Steve's ride was still working when we arrived back to my house so we had a few minutes to reflect on our trip. I was playing on the laptop and stumbled across a waterfall in Oregon that caught our interest. We researched it further and found the area to be a hotbed for waterfalls. Could it be the birth of Hiking Vacation Part II? TO BE CONTINUED....Happy Trails!