Nantahala National Forest Trip Reports

Nantahala Photos

Joyce Kilmer & Snowbird

My first hiking experiences in the Nantahala area came in the mid-90's. In the summer of 1996, Eric and I journey to the Joyce Kilmer / Slickrock Wilderness and spent 4 days backpacking in the rugged mountains. Our route took us up Slickrock Creek to Naked Ground, over to The Hangover, and back down on the Hangover Lead Trail. It rained nearly the whole time, but at least it cleared off for us long enough to enjoy the spectacular view from The Hangover. The next summer we returned. This time we followed another 4-day loop up to Stratton Bald, down to Slickrock Creek, back up to The Hangover, and down through the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. The weather was a challenge again, as a tremendous thunderstorm left us stranded on the wrong side of Slickrock Creek for most of a full day. It was still a grand adventure though, and the magnificent trees of Joyce Kilmer made it worthwhile. One summer, Paula, LL Bob, and I endured perhaps our worst backpacking trip ever in the Snowbird Wilderness. The first day along Snowbird Creek was nice. The next two days though were spent alternating between dodging ATV's and hacking our way through thorns and nettles. The highlight of the trip was running into three undercover FBI agents posing as fisherman but clearly searching for Eric Rudolph. For Labor Day weekend 2004, Christy, Megan, Shawn, and our nephew Nathan joined me for a car camping trip in the Fontana area. We hiked at Joyce Kilmer, Fontana Dam, and in the Snowbird Wilderness. In April of 2006, I did some short hikes at Waterrock Knob, off the Parkway, and along the Cherhola Skyway. I made another visit to the Skyway in July, 2010, hiking to Fall Branch Falls in Tennessee and a watefall on the Tellico River in North Carolina.     (Photos). In April, 2018, we finished up our Spring trip visiting watefalls on Cold Creek, Sand Creek, and Yellow Creek.     (Photos). In July, 2018, we did a kayak camping trip on watefalls on Calderwood Lake, hiked and camped off of the Cherohala Skyway, and kayaked to a waterfall on Nantahala Lake.     (Photos).








Fungi in Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest



Standing Indian & The Fires Creek Rim

My first experience in the Standing Indian area came on a Sierra Club trip the next spring. We did a long 3-day trip as we followed the Appalachian Trail over Mount Albert and Standing Indian. I returned with some friends the following winter. That year we hiked up Kimsey Creek and descended into the beautiful headwaters of the Talluah River. We then looped back up to Standing Indian before returning down Kimsey Creek. That trip will be forever remembered for a massive thunderstorm the final night. We enjoyed it from the comfort of an AT shelter, thanks to Dorcas. She is hailed to this day for making the decision to stay at the shelter rather than camp on the summit of Standing Indian. In May of 2005, Dave and I backpacked a similar route, starting from the Talluah River near the Georgia state line. We ascended through the Beech Creek Gorge, climbed over Standing Indian, and followed the AT and the Bly Gap Trail back to the valley. In April, 2009, I did a quick overnight trip in the same area around the Beech Creek / Big Scaly loop     Photos. Along the way, I took side trips to New Falls, Chimney Rock, Big Scaly, High Falls, Bull Cove Falls, and Denton Creek Falls. Over Thanksgiving, 2010 I car camped near Standing Indian Campground and dayhiked to Tusquitee Bald, Albert Mountain, Pickens Nose, and several waterfalls.     Photos. In January of 2008, a work assignment in Hayesville gave me the opportunity to hike to Boetler Peak on the Chunky Gal Trail. Afterwards, I did a pair of short hikes to Mooney Falls and Big Laurel Falls, near the Standing Indian Campground. In April of 2004, I explored a nearby area on a solo backpacking trip along the Rim Trail above Fires Creek, near Hayesville. In May, 2014, I did a (mostly) solo, 4-day backpacking trip on the A.T. over Standing Indian, Mount Albert, Siler Bald, and Wayah Bald before following the Bartram Trail down to Franklin.     Photos. I returned to the Standing Indian area in April of 2016 with a thorough exploration of the Tallulah River headwaters .     Photos.
My September, 2017 short hikes to waterfalls in the Nantahala National Forest.     (Photos)
My April, 2022 hike with Scott around Big Scaly and to High Falls on Beech Creek.     (Photos)












Beech Falls, near Standing Indian Mtn



The Nantahala Gorge and Great Balsam Mountains

Fungirl's first experience in the area was a memorable one on the Bartram Trail. We talked the good folks at the Nantahala Outdoor Center into letting us ride on a bus up to the put-in at Beechertown. From there we hiked the Bartram Trail from the bottom of the gorge to the summit of Cheoah Bald. The hike was brutally steep, and Fungirl swore she'd never set foot on the Bartram Trail again. The rest of the trip was better, as we enjoyed beautiful views from our campsite on the grassy bald. The next day we descended on the Appalachian Trail back to the NOC. We finished our trip by staying at the Nantahala Outdoor Center and spent the final day taking on the rapids of the Nantahala Gorge in a 2-person raft. I returned to the area in June of 2003 for a 6-day solo backpacking trip on the Appalachian and Bartram Trails. I made a long loop starting at the Nantahala Outdoor Center; connecting Wesser Bald, Wayah Bald, Nantahala Lake, and Cheoah Bald.
Two October, 2015 after-work evening hikes. First I hiked with Scott and Nancy from Fisher Creek to The Pinnacle above Sylva. We stayed for sunset and hiked back down in the dark. The next day I hiked solo from Waterrock Knob to Yellow Face and Blackrock. Photos.
May, 2017 featured one of Team Waterfall's grandest adventures to date - an off-trail hike from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Campbell Creek Falls. We hiked over Mount Lyn Lowery and bushwhacked down an unnamed tributary to get there. The hike was through an incredible, vibrant rain forest. Spencer, Scott, Jennifer, Thomas, and John were the ideal crew for this adventure! Photos.
My April, 2018 hike with Wendy and the dogs from Pinnacle Park near Sylva, NC to The Pinnacle and the waterfalls of Buff Creek. We met Scott, Spencer, Carlos, and JD at the base of the upper falls on Buff Creek - one of the most spectacular waterfalls I've seen. Wendy and I also explored a stretch of an unnamed tributary and found two previously undocumented waterfalls.     (Photos)
My June, 2019 weekend with Team Waterfall, including a backpacking trip with Jack and Scott to Cheoah Bald and a hike to Mount Lynn Lowry with John and Spencer.     (Photos)
My July, 2019 backpacking trip with Christy to The Pinnacle and Blackrock.     (Photos)
My September, 2019 hike with Jennifer to Piney Mountain Falls and Bearwallow Falls.     (Photos)
My January, 2022 hike in the snow with Scott and Jack to the summit of Blackrock.     (Photos)






Sunset from Cheoah Bald



Highlands and Cashiers

We've done a fair bit of hiking in the Highlands area in recent years. Our first trip to the area was over a 3-day weekend in January. We car camped at the primitive Ammons Branch Campground. We did one dayhike from the High Hampton Inn to Chimneytops Mountain, another along the Chattooga River, and a final hike to Glenn Falls and Chinquapin Mountain. We returned the next winter and camped at Ammons Branch again. This time I was able to convince Fungirl to try to the Bartram Trail again. She had a better experience this time, as we hiked the Bartram Trail to Rabun Bald in Georgia the first day and to Whiterock Mountain on the second. We returned to Highlands in May of 2005 and stayed at the Van Hook Glade Campground. Bad weather limited us to only one hike, to Yellow Mountain. In February of 2008, I camped at Ammons Branch with Bob and his son Andy. The first day, we hiked along the Chattooga River from the iron bridge on Bullpen Road to Whiteside Cove. The next day, Jack joined us for short hikes to a waterfall on Scottsman Creek, 2 waterfalls on Silver Run Creek, and a longer hike from the Blue Valley to Scaly Mountain. In April, 2010 we backpacked a 56-mile stretch of the Bartram Trail from Buckeye Creek, near Franklin, over the Fishhawk Mountains and on to the Chattooga River in Georgia.     (Photos) In October, 2012, Jack and I camped at Ammons Branch and visited several waterfalls, including Flat Creek Falls.     (Photos). In February, 2013 I joined a group of friends for another car camping trip, with hikes to Crevice Falls, a waterfall on Scotsman Creek, and numerous waterfalls in South Carolina.     (Yellow Branch Falls Photos).     (Crevice Falls Photos).     (Scotsman Creek Photos).     (Bee Cove Photos).
In August, 2015 Spencer, Stephanie, Scott and I spent a weekend around Cashiers and Highlands. On Saturday we explored the upper Whitewater River above highway 281. We found 11 waterfalls, a cave, and an incredible slot canyon.     (Photos). On Sunday we explored Granite City and hiked to the top of Blackrock Mountain.     (Photos).
In January, 2016 Spencer, Scott, Jennifer, and I hiked from highway 107 to Terrapin Mountain, where we were treated to incredible views.     (Photos).
In August, 2016 Spencer, Stephanie, Scott, John, Kyle, Amy, and I explored a portion of the Chattooga River and found a beautiful slot canyon!     (Photos).
Photos from my February, 2017 trip with Team Waterfall near Cashiers and Highlands. First, I hiked with Darrin, Bob, Jack, and Jennifer to Portage Left on the Whitewater River. Then Darrin, Bob, Jack, and I joined Scott and Dillon for some exploring on Whitesides Mountain. Jack, Scott, and I camped in Blue Valley that night. On Sunday Scott and I hit Glen Falls and Loretta Falls and I found an obscure waterfall and a previously undocumented waterfall solo.Photos.
In March, 2018 we car camped and did two hikes near Highlands. On Saturday, Christy, Spencer, Scott, Darrin, Bob, Dillon, and I explored upper Norton Mill Creek. After 6 hours of bushwhacking and scrambling we found a huge waterfall we are calling Ugly Dog Falls. The upper part of the falls isn't visible in my photos, but from a detailed topo map I estimate the total height at 260'. There is probably another 70' waterfall above that. On Sunday Christy and I did the easy hike over Whitesides Mountain.     (Photos)
Our July, 2018 Team Waterfall car camping trip, featuring an exploration of Scottsmans Creek and a visit to Granite City.     (Photos)
Photos from a December, 2021 day with Scott. We started with Buck Creek Falls and ended with a hike up Yellow Mountain by the short route.     (Photos)
Photos from a December, 2021 hike with Scott and Jack to Bullpen Mountain and Jacks Knob.     (Photos)
Photos from a November, 2021 hike with Scott, Jack, Hugh, and Spencer to Terrapin Mountain.     (Photos)






Waterfall on Scottsman Creek



Panthertown Valley, Little Canada, and the Tuckaseegee

Our favorite part of the Nantahala National Forest is probably Panthertown Valley. We've discovered that it is a great place to basecamp, relax, and do dayhikes. Fungirl and I first visited the area on a dayhike with Joel and Paula. That first hike inspired us to return for a full weekend backpacking trip in May. That year we camped on Panthertown Creek and dayhiked in the valley. The next May we returned and did more dayhikes from our basecamp. We finally returned in May of 2004. This trip was more thrilling as we were stranded by a flash flood on the hike out. The next May, we brought some friends with us to the valley for their first backpacking trip In May of 2006 we returned to Panthertown and thoroughly explored Greenland Creek and the Tuckaseegee River. In May of 2008, we camped at a "secret campsite" and hiked to the cliffs of Laurel Knob. In July, 2010 I visited "Little Canada" for the first time and hiked with Jack to Paradise Falls and Upper Sols Creek Falls.     (Photos). In April, 2011, Christy and I car camped near Highlands and did dayhikes to Whitesides Mountain, Secret Falls, and Panthertown Valley.     (Whitesides Mountain and Secret Falls Photos)     (Panthertown Valley Photos). In February, 2013 I visited Panthertown in the winter for the first time. I did a weekend backpacking trip there with J Bob, and we were treated to several inches of fresh snow.     (Photos). In May, 2014, Brenda and George joined me for a dayhike in Panthertown Valley that included Little Green Mountain, The Great Wall, and Panthertown Creek Falls.     (Photos). In June, I did a short backpacking trip to The Pinnacle, above Sylva. The next day I joined Brenda, Bernie, and John for hikes to High Falls on the West Fork of the Tuckaseegee and Bernie's Falls.     (Photos). The next weekend Team Waterfall did some car camping and Van and I hiked to Dismal Falls.     (Photos). In October, 2014 Christy and I car camped at Cherry Hill Recreation Area in South Carolina and did dayhikes in Panthertown Valley and the Fishhawk Mountains.     (Photos).
Photos from a Team Waterfall camping trip on Bear Creek Lake with hikes to Sols Creek Falls, Verde Falls on Robinson Creek, and Bonas Defeat: Bear Creek Lake photos.
Photos from a hike to Bernie's Falls with Christy and Brenda: Bernie's Falls photos.
Photos from High Falls on the West Fork of the Tuckaseegee River during the June dam release, with Christy: High Falls photos.
My October, 2015 dayhike with Jack, Thomas, and Kitty to John B Neale Falls and Bernie's Falls in the Nantahala National Forest. Photos.
Two October, 2015 evening hikes in the Little Canada area. The first was a solo hike to Upper Sols Creek Falls. The second was a hike with Scott and Thomas to the top of Cedar Cliff above Bear Creek Lake and Cedar Cliff Lake. Photos.
My October, 2015 short hikes with Christy and the dogs in the rain to several waterfalls in and around Little Canada and Highlands. The next day Dillon joined us for a hike to Cold Mountain in Panthertown Valley. The fall color was spectacular! Photos.
My January, 2016 dayhike with Team Waterfall to Stillhouse Falls and Elmo's Falls on Fork Creek.     (Photos).
My May, 2016 dayhike with Team Waterfall to August Cave and Panthertown Valley.     (Photos).
My March, 2017 hikes to several waterfalls in the Caney Fork headwaters near Cullowhee. Photos.
May, 2017 included the annual Team Waterfall trip to Party Island on Bear Creek Lake. Jack, Christy, and I camped Friday night. The next morning Darrin and Bob joined us, and we hiked up to the slot canyon in the Tuckaseegee River Gorge (Bonas Defeat). Spencer and Carlos joined us at camp that night. It started raining late Saturday night and never let up. Most of us wrapped everything up Sunday morning, but Spencer and Carlos did a couple of waterfall hikes. Photos.
My May, 2017 hike with Spencer, Thomas, Justin, and Amanda in the Tanasee Creek Gorge.     (Photos).
My November, 2017 dayhike with Team Waterfall to Fulfillment Falls for Badger's 1,000th waterfall celebration.     (Photos) The next day I did an exploratory hike with Spencer and Scott along the base of the massive cliffs on the south side of Whitesides Mountain.     (Photos) .
Three days of hiking in the mountains of North Carolina in January, 2018. The first two days were at the end of a 2 week run of sub-freezing temperatures. The last day was during the thaw. On day 1, John joined Christy and me for a short hike to Catawba Falls and a visit to Andrews Geyser. That afternoon we hiked to Bear Creek Falls, a waterfall on a tributary of Wolf Creek, and Upper Pool Creek Falls in Chimney Rock State Park. The next day Christy and I hiked to Horseshoe Falls in the Tanasee Creek Gorge, where we found a 30' tall "snowcano". Later we visited Dry Falls. On Thursday, Christy, Stephanie, Jennifer, and I hiked to Bernie's Falls. The sudden thaw combined with a day of heavy rain turned this normally elegant waterfall into a raging torrent! The ford of Parker Creek at the beginning of the hike was a little sketchy, with swift water nearly knee deep. Four hours later it was raging and up to mid-thigh!    (Photos)
Our June, 2018 backpacking trip, featuring hikes to Stillhouse Falls, Elmo's Falls, and Dismal Falls.     (Photos)
My May, 2019 hike with Christy in Panthertown Valley.     (Photos)
Photos from an October, 2020 hike with Christy to Wiebeaux Falls.     (Photos)
Photos from an October, 2020 hike with Christy to a view of Flat Creek Falls, followed by a hike to Upper Sols Creek Falls.    (Photos)
Photos from Badger's October, 2020 birthday backpacking trip to The Dismal cliffs, with Christy, Thomas, Kitty, Jennifer, Scott, Spencer, David, Brandi, and Zachary.    (Photos)
Photos from a solo October, 2020 hike to the upper waterfalls on Beechflat Creek.    (Photos)
Photos from a September, 2020 weekend kayaking trip on Bear Creek Lake with Christy.     (Photos)
Photos from a May, 2020 hike with Scott, Jennifer, Thomas, Kitty, and John to Wiebeaux Falls.    (Photos)
Photos from a May, 2020 hike from the Parkway to many stunning waterfalls on Beechflat Creek.    (Photos)
Photos from a May, 2020 weekend backpacking trip with Christy to Panthertown Valley.     (Photos)
Photos from a June, 2021 backpacking trip with Christy and the dogs in Panthertown Valley.     (Photos)
Photos from a June, 2021 hike with Christy and the dogs to Serenity Falls.     (Photos)
Photos from a May, 2021 hike with Christy and the dogs from the Parkway to Wet Camp Gap and Gage Bald. I continued solo from there to Charley Bald. .     (Photos)
Photos from my April, 2022 hike with Jennifer to Carlton Falls.     (Photos)
Photos from our August, 2022 kayak camping trip with Darrin, Jack, Scott, and John to Party Island on Bear creek Lake.     (Photos)
Photos from Christy's September, 2022 Dam to Dam swim on Lake Toxaway.     (Photos)
Photos from my October, 2022 hike with Scott and Jack circumnavigating Flat Creek Falls and visiting all of the major viewpoints.     (Photos)






Panthertown Valley Campsite





Nantahala Photos


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