Thursday, June 14, 2007

Red Fork Falls

This is one of the most beautiful falls in our region, and while it's a short hike from the parking area, it's actually one of the toughest falls to view. The half-mile hike is extremely steep and often very slippery. Many people have been seriously injured attempting to view these falls. You don't so much hike to the falls as you actually climb down to them -- no steps here, just rocks and tree stumps to hold onto. So while it's an amazing waterfall, this trip isn't for everyone. (I don't even bring my dog to this one!) Take your time and use caution and common sense -- for instance, wear shoes with ankle support and stay off the slippery rocks at the top of the falls! If you aren't able to visit, take a look at more of my pictures. Red Fork Falls is actually a series of eight falls. The first three photos here show various views of the main 60' waterfall. The final photo is the corkscrew that the water enters immediately after the main falls -- the water enters from the right and zig-zags through the narrow channel to another cascade. It's an amazing place to visit -- but with all the climbing, you'll be sore the next day or two!

Directions: From I-26 take the Unicoi exit (#32). At the end of exit ramp turn east towards town. At the stop sign, turn right onto Unicoi Road (which is also known locally as the Erwin Highway) and proceed for 0.7 miles. Follow the signs pointing to the Cherokee National Forest by turning left onto Rt. 107 (Limestone Cove Road). Drive 7.8 miles, turn right on Red Fork Road (it's also referred to as Unaka Mountain Road). Proceed up the mountain for 1.2 miles to a small parking area and trail head to your right -- marked only with a big red dot on one of the trees. After a short walk down the initial part of the trail, you'll cross the creek, then turning right, you'll cross another one. Continue a short ways more and your near-vertical descent will commence!

Note: While you won't need a high clearance vehicle to get to Red Fork Falls, I'd recommend one if you wish to continue on Red Fork Road to Stamping Ground Ridge, Horseback Ridge, Unaka Mountain Overlook and Beauty Spot. Click here for a detailed post listing all there is to see and do on Unaka Mountain.

Before venturing out, please read my warnings, safety tips and disclaimers.


  1. In 1973 and '74 I went to college at ETSU. Having not a lot of money and there not being that much to do for entertainment, we used to go on pretty there! Our favorite spot was Red Fork Falls and we would take house guests there. Once we took a friend that had to use a cane. We negotiated across tree trunks, etc to get there and at times had to about carry him, but to this day, he still talks about that place. You have brought back some great memories I had of this and other spots. I don't know the name of it and barely remember how to get there, but there was another falls just off the road that borders the Nolichucky River (sp?), a lot easier to get to, but not nearly as beautiful. Thanks again for the memories. Beth

  2. Yup they are beautiful falls and when I was younger I hiked up to them and down them several times!! One time I almost fell down them as I was climbing back up them!! I was saved by my sister-in-law stopping me by shoving me back up! Lot of ups and downs, lol!!

  3. My husband and I went this past Saturday. The heavy rain the past couple of weeks made the waterfall INSANE. It was so beautiful. We absolutely loved it. It is a pretty difficult climb, though. I am VERY sore lol. It was worth it though!

  4. Beautiful falls! We went there a couple weeks ago, and took our pound puppy with us. We went to the bottom of the falls, which was hard enough for us, and he had to be hoisted up a few times on the way back up. It entered my mind that if one were injured at these falls, it would take an army to rescue you. Nice hike, but if you're going to the bottom of the falls, be prepared to climb.


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