Paradise Falls is just a short distance below the dam and with the unannounced release of water from the reservoir above, you are really putting yourself in harms way by visiting the base of the waterfall. The swimming hole below the falls is a popular place for local college students from Western Carolina, and two of them were killed when the water rose too rapidly for them to reach safety just a few years back. The flow of the waterfall is normally a trickle with the stream being controlled by the dam but with it being a really rainy summer we had our hopes up of seeing it with somewhat of a heavier flow.
|Steve eating bread and approaching danger.|
The parking for the falls is in a wide pull off in a curve off 281 near a white church. A large sign greets you at the trail head stating "DANGER: WATER LEVELS CAN CHANGE" from there the trail descends steeply reaching the stream. We were unsure where to go but I noticed the trail on the other side of the creek and we followed it steeply up the other side of the bank to where it leveled on a sharp ridge. The unmistakable sound of a waterfall greeted us and I saw a trail that went straight down. For those of you familiar with Compression and Twisted Falls trails, well this one was actually worse. There are points on the trail where it is hand over hand climbing (similar to using a ladder) made of tree roots and rock ledges. The roar of the water had me convinced that we had picked the right day to view the falls, because there was no way a trickle could make that much noise. As we nervously scaled down toward the base, I was mesmerized by the deep green pool. I had been having trouble with my hip and it was on fire from our first hike so some cold mountain water looked like the perfect cure. We soon reached the base, but the falls are hidden from two large boulders that stagger in front of the base. Crossing the creek isn't easy either, the bed is worn from years of water erosion and foot traffic on the rock at the base of the pool. Once I crossed though, I was greeted with the wonderful sight of Paradise Falls flowing at full blast.
|Another view of the falls.|
Steve and I both were taken by surprise of the beauty of the falls because we had only looked at pictures of it with a trickle running off. I took picture after picture and eventually lowered my ailing hip into the cold pool at the base. The water was stinging cold but soon I was numb and my hip was off of my mind enough for me to climb out of the steep trail. As I looked around the area I could see signs of how high the water gets when they release it from the reservoir and it was a little unsettling as I sat in the pool below the falls. I convinced Steve to head out and we both gasped and grunted our way back to the truck.
|Steve resting by the pool at the base of the falls.|
Paradise Falls is aptly named, it truly has a feeling of paradise. The unique surrounding boulders and deep pool separate it from most waterfalls as well. It's a very short but strenuous hike but can easily be done if you just use caution and care, just remember not to let your guard down when you get to the base because you aren't out of harms way. Until next time, happy trails.