Monday, May 23, 2011

Wolf Creek Falls

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.
--Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) American Essayist, Poet and Philosopher 

It's not that we were lost. It's just that we weren't entirely sure where we were going. But the good news is that Understanding did arrive, it was just a bit late. My friend Lee and I set out to find Wolf Creek Falls outside of Hot Springs, NC and discovered that there's an easy way to get there, and a hard way.  We, of course, chose the hard way.  A revisionist history may insist that it was our love of adventure and our desire to explore the unknown that drove our choice. But mostly it was ignorance.  :)

Wolf Creek Falls (30 feet high) is located just inside the Tennessee border in Cocke County.  As we later learned, it can be driven to from the Max Patch/NC side of things (Directions here). But that's if you want to drive there. Jeesh, what fun is that? If you want an adventure, enter from the TN side, and wander up an old logging road filled with muddy bogs, stinging nettles, poison ivy, swarming gnats and dozens and dozens of downed trees. And did I mention the four creek crossings? Let me tell you, it all adds up to an enjoyable walk in the woods.

It actually would not be so bad of a hike if the recent high winds (tornado?) had not knocked down dozens of large trees in the area, many blocking the trail completely. Fortunately this only impacted the first third of the trail. But the muddy bogs were encountered throughout the hike. The good news is that along the way we saw lots of beautiful, mossy creek scenes and wild flowers.  Obviously I recommend you visit Max Patch (a scenic bald southwest of Hot Springs, NC) and then head north to Wolf Creek Falls -- driving there.  But if you do, just go knowing that Lee and I appreciate this waterfall more than most visitors ever will.  I'll give the full directions from the Wolf Creek Trailhead just to have them out there in case any adventurous soul wants to appreciate this waterfall on as many levels as we do.

Directions from Max Patch, NC: Click here.
Directions from downtown Hot Springs, NC: (map here). Turn right onto Rt 25/70 (heading west) and drive 6.4 miles (entering TN), turn left onto Wolf Creek Rd. and travel 0.1 mi and then take the first right and drive 0.6 miles to the large, gravel parking lot for the Wolf Creek trailhead. You will want and need a high clearance vehicle for this last stretch of road. Large, deep bogs will make you think you're making a Subaru Outback commercial.  From the parking lot, start your adventure by continuing up the road on foot; you'll quickly come to two creek crossings.  If there's little or no water in the creek, and making these crossings is easy, I'd turn back, the falls won't be worth the effort.  You'll soon come to the area impacted by the high winds. Take your time, watch for poison ivy, and you'll be able to find your way over and around these obstacles.  About 1.5 miles (approx) of fairly level hiking, you'll cross the creek again, and begin a slight climb. After a mile or so, you'll cross again for the fourth time and the trail will get even steeper and will no longer parallel the creek. After this steep climb, you'll reach the top and then start a decent that will soon meet a road, turn right and you immediately come to a campsite.  The top of the falls are located to the left (very dangerous), a short winding path to the right leads to the base of the falls and the view you see above. Total mileage roundtrip is approx. 6-7 miles.


  1. Quite possible to drive there from the Tennessee side, too. Simply drive up Round Mountain Road, (off of Rte 107) outside of Del Rio/Harmony Grove. At 6 miles, pass the campground and drive 1 more mile to a left turn at the Rattlesnake Gap road. Turn right at the top of the gap and drive to the bottom, near where the old logging community of Wasp used to be. Turn left, ford the stream a couple of times and there you are. Round Mountain Road is the same road as Max Patch Road, but on the Tennessee side.

  2. Can you get from Round Mountain Campgroud to Wasp on Wolf Creek Road on a dirt bike? Or is it hiking only? thank you!

  3. Can you get from Round Mtn Campground to Wasp on Wolf Creek Rd on a dirtbike? Or is it hiking only???

  4. I'm sorry I won't be much help on this. I've only been to this area a couple times and don't have an answer for you on that. My excursions have been to the falls above and Max Patch.

  5. Ahh the water fall is gorgeous. We found it by mistake a couple years ago now we visit twice a year, once in summer and once in winter. Very beautiful in both seasons, highly recommend both, for each season has its own beauty.

  6. Did this hike yesterday, and it is currently a delightful hike, without any issues of downed trees or wayfinding. Forest Service signs clearly show where to turn off Hwy 25/70, as well as the next 2 turns. And, the road to the parking area has been improved so that pretty much any car can travel it. A few potholes to dodge, but other than that, easily traversed.

    I last did this 3.5 mile (one way) hike in 2013, and at that time, the first mile had a lot of signs of ATV use. All of that is gone now ... the entire trek is a very pleasant walk through the woods.

    One new thing (from my 2013 hike) is that at the 3.5 mile point, the trail forks. Either fork will get you to the waterfall, but taking the right fork takes you STRAIGHT there, in about 300 feet or so. You go around a switchback and then boom ... the waterfall is clearly visible thru the trees. This route takes you directly to the base. The left fork takes you to the camping area at the top of the falls.

  7. Has anyone ever been to Wasp? It's near this area. Does it still exist as a ghost town?


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