A few years back, Peter Barr gave me a tip about a major waterfall in World’s Edge, in the brand-new Chimney Rock State Park.  It’s called Wolf Creek Falls, on a tributary of Wolf Creek.  The hike to the falls is easy, but it begins on private property that isn’t accessible to the public.  Since then, I’ve occasionally contemplated a much longer approach that avoids the private property.


Last Sunday I had a dilemma – watch football or go hiking?  My original plan had been to hike on Saturday and watch football on Sunday.  Unfortunately, steady, cold rain (and even a little bit of freezing rain) derailed the Saturday hike.  Since this would probably be my last chance to hike before Christmas, I decided that the football would have to be sacrificed.


As usual, I considered several options.  One of the first to come to mind was World’s Edge.  The cliffs there offer great views, and the valleys harbor several known waterfalls, along with the potential for many more.  The two biggest streams, Pool Creek and Wolf Creek, are fairly small.  I figured that the best time to visit them would be right after a lot of rain.  Sunday seemed to be the perfect day.


Jack and Waterfall Rich had done an exploratory hike along Pool Creek several years earlier.  They had found a whole series of waterfalls and cascades.  I had actually been to the lowest of the waterfalls, on an official CMLC (Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy) hike starting on private property.  The CMLC has been instrumental in acquiring much of the land that is now part of the new State Park.


Pool Creek was one option for Sunday, but I was a little leery about exploring it while the water levels were high.  My understanding was that Jack and Rich had scrambled up the bare rock next the falls during part of their exploration.  Would that be slippery?  It would certainly be wet, and possibly icy.  The more I thought about it, the more I thought about heading towards Wolf Creek instead.  That would be a longer, more difficult hike, but Wolf Creek Falls is supposed to be impressive.


I have a map of World’s Edge that (I think) Rich created.  It shows the trailhead at the end of World’s Edge Road, at Ottanola Gap, along with some of the property lines.  It also notes some of the old roads in the area, including a now gated extension of World’s Edge Road along the cliffs, as well as another gated road that descends into the valley.  It follows a ridge down between Pool Creek and Wolf Creek. Wolf Creek Falls is noted on the map, but even more intriguing was a gorge on Wolf Creek, a bit farther to the north.  I figured we would descend the main access road and then decide what we wanted to do from there.  At that point we would be fairly close to both Pool Creek and Wolf Creek.


I met Darrin and Van at the Ingles on the east side of Hendersonville at 8am.  I actually arrived at 7:35, despite leaving Charlotte only a few minutes before 6.  Since I’d made great time, I took a few minutes to buy some oranges and look for Highland Brewing Companies Cold Mountain Winter Ale.  Ingles had 4 or 5 Highland varieties, but Cold Mountain wasn’t one of them.


Darrin and Van arrived at 8, and they followed me up to Ottanola Gap.  There is a cul-de-sac here, with 2 gated roads.  One, next to a barn, is posted private property.  The other also passes through private property briefly, but CMLC members have been granted access to pass through.  We parked on the shoulder and quickly got organized.  An icy wind was howling through the gap, and we were eager to get into the shelter of the trees.


We started the hike at 8:30, heading down the gated dirt road that follows the ridge east along World’s Edge.  There are a number of cliffs with expansive views along this ridge, but we didn’t make it to them.  After a short distance, we reached a loop in the road.  We turned left here, leaving the ridge in favor of the old road that descends into the valley.  After a short distance we passed fairly close to a house.  Then we reached another gate at the boundary of Chimney Rock State Park.


A few years ago, I asked Jack about his hike with Rich along Pool Creek.  He mentioned that the creek and waterfalls were nice, but the approach had been long and boring.  Boy was he right!  It seemed to take forever to get down into the valley, and coming back up later that afternoon was even worse.  I didn’t think that slog would ever end.  On the other hand, there were some nice winter views (through the trees) of Lake Lure and the numerous open cliffs surrounding us.  Some of those cliffs were really impressive, but they were all above us.  On my next visit to World’s Edge, I think I’ll focus on exploring higher up.


We crossed several small streams in the headwaters of Pool Creek early on.  Although they were just minor tributaries, all of them were running strong thanks to the recent rain.  A bit farther on we passed above one of the cascading waterfalls on Pool Creek.  We thought about bushwhacking down to it, but decided to save it for later.  Depending on how the exploration of Wolf Creek went, we might have time to check it out on the return. 


Switchbacks followed.  Before long, the GPS on my phone indicated that we were at a private property boundary.  There were no signs or markers, but we wanted to get to Wolf Creek without trespassing.  This would be doing it the hard way.  The road we were on descends to a junction with another road, which leads to Wolf Creek.  However, the lower part of the both roads is on private property, and there is also a house down there.  Since the easy way wasn’t an option, we decided to bushwhack north along the property line.  The forest didn’t look too bad, and the road to Wolf Creek was only a ˝ mile or so away.


The going was easy for a hundred yards or so, before we wandered into a rhododendron jungle.  This was disappointing, but certainly not surprising.  We bushwhacked north, and reached an old road a few minutes later.  We were still well south of the road we were looking for though.  We fought our way north, and reached the brink of a deep gully.  There was no good route down, so we followed the rim east.  Eventually we found a place to descend.  We crossed a small stream, and then climbed steeply up the ridge on the far side.  At this point we had drifted slightly into private property, despite our best intentions.  As usual, hiking against the grain of the terrain looked easier on the map than it actually was.


We veered back to the northwest, through relatively open forest.  A couple of minutes later, we reached the old road we were looking for.  We marked the spot with some branches before heading up the road towards Wolf Creek.


A fair climb followed, and we passed a couple of spur roads leading off the left.  We rock hopped a large tributary, which features an intriguing sliding cascade just below the trail.  I was a bit puzzled by this, as the map didn’t indicate any substantial tributaries along the way to Wolf Creek Falls.  I chalked it up to the heavy runoff, and we continued ahead.  A few minutes later we reached a ford of Wolf Creek.


This definitely wasn’t correct.  I checked the GPS again, and discovered that we were actually at the foot of the gorge on Wolf Creek.  Apparently we had missed a turn that would’ve taken us to Wolf Creek Falls, which is actually on an unnamed, southern tributary of Wolf Creek. 


It looked like it would be easy to backtrack to it, but I was intrigued by the gorge ahead of us.  The map suggested the potential for significant waterfalls, but to my knowledge, no waterfalls have ever been documented there.  Since we were so close, it would be a shame not to explore.


We bushwhacked up the bank on the south side of the creek.  After a short distance we found an old, overgrown roadbed.  This was barely better than pure bushwhacking, but at least it was graded.  We scrambled through fallen trees and briars for a few minutes, before arriving at the base of a 20’ cascade.  This was a nice little drop, so we paused for photos.  I finished first, so I scouted upstream ahead of Darrin and Van.  High cliffs closed in on the south side, and I climbed higher to avoid some thick tangles of rhododendron.  I actually passed above the next cascade, which is a lovely 12’ tumble in a dark grotto.  Darrin and Van caught up, and I scouted ahead again.  Before long the cliffs on the south side forced me to rock hop the creek.  The north side was a little easier, and before long the first major waterfall loomed above me.


I rock hopped out to an island, and scrambled to its upper end at the base of the falls.  This is a nice 50 footer with a sheer drop near the top and steep cascades below.  From my vantage, it looked like it may be possible to walk behind the upper drop.  That part of the falls reminded me of Bridal Veil Falls in DuPont State Forest.  However, getting to that spot looked treacherous.  The right side of the creek was a steeply sloping rock covered in wet leaves.  That route was a death wish.  Sheer cliffs rose above it, too.  The left side looked slightly better.  It was incredibly steep, too, but at least there were trees to hold onto.


Darrin and Van caught up again, and we all had lunch at the base of the falls.  I ate quickly, because I was in the full grip of waterfall fever.  I told Darrin that I was going to scout ahead again.  I wasn’t sure if climbing the left side was feasible though.  I told him that I might be back in a couple of minutes.  If not, that meant that they should follow me.


The left side of the falls looked dangerous, so I picked a route farther to the left, away from the creek.  It was steep and slippery, but doable.  I climbed until I was roughly parallel with the top of the falls.  Then I made a careful traverse towards the brink.  I angled a bit higher and away from the creek though, as I didn’t want anything to do with the top of that waterfall.  I had both dogs with me, and after seeing Boone slip off a high sliding waterfall in South Carolina a year earlier, I was being extremely cautious.  Miraculously, Boone survived that fall uninjured.  Still, I don’t want to repeat that experience.


We reached the creek well above the brink of the falls.  Once again, the terrain on the right side looked easier to traverse.  I rock hopped again, and scrambled upstream.  A few minutes later I arrived at the base of a nice 30’ waterfall.  This would’ve been quite photogenic, except it was marred by fallen trees.  A steep scramble up the right side followed, and I actually spotted a few old ribbons along here.  At this point, instead of continuing upstream, I decided to climb the hillside above.  I thought there might be more waterfalls upstream, but I wasn’t sure.  I thought a view from a higher vantage point would indicate whether I should continue.


I didn’t have to climb far before spotting another nice waterfall just ahead.  I couldn’t see above it, but knew I had to at least get to its base.  I scrambled back down to the creek, and paused briefly next to a pretty cascade shrouded in rhododendron.  Then I scrambled upstream, reached the base of the next waterfall in a few minutes.


This was the best one of the day.  It was somewhat similar to the one below, but taller.  In fact, it was probably a hundred feet or so.  The upper part features a sheer drop, followed by a long run of steep, sliding cascades.  A large boulder near the base added to the foreground, and some clouds rolled in, providing better light for photos. 


I loitered there for 10 minutes or so, hoping Darrin and Van would catch up.  I was getting chilled though, so I started back down the gorge.  Briefly I was tempted to explore farther upstream, but I was running out of gas.  It was early afternoon, and we still had a long hike back to the car.


I more or less followed the same route back to our lunch spot.  Darrin and Van were still there, waiting for me.  They had contemplated following me, but hadn’t paid much attention to the route I’d taken up the left side of the falls.  By the time they decided to follow, they realized that I was on my way back down.  I felt bad, because they had missed out on a really nice waterfall.  I’m sure we’ll go back though, as several other hikers in our regular crew will want to see this area.


The hike back down the gorge was much faster than the ascent.  There were only a couple of mishaps.  Van and I both dunked boots at different times.  Van tried to rock hop across some leaves that weren’t supported by anything.  Meanwhile, my left leg plunged through a rotten log and into the creek. 


Reaching the old road was a relief.  We followed it to the tributary, and reached a spur road heading upstream a hundred yards later.  I was pretty sure this would take us to Wolf Creek Falls (on the tributary, not to be confused with the waterfalls on Wolf Creek we’d found earlier).  We decided to give it a try.  10 minutes of easy climbing brought us to a distant but breathtaking view of the biggest waterfall of the day.


Wolf Creek Falls spills over a nearly vertical cliff, probably a 100’ high.   The creek is fairly small, but the waterfall benefited from the high water level.  The most impressive aspect of the scene was probably the cliff itself.  It continues for some distance on either side of the falls.  On the south side of the falls, there is a massive slab of rock that is somehow attached to the face of the cliff.


There is a break in the cliff a short distance to the north.  It looks like it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to climb it there.  From that point, it may be possible to work your way back over to the creek.  Judging from the map, it is entirely possible that there could be another waterfall upstream.


We took a few photos before heading back.  We returned to the spur road, and followed it to the main road.  We took this east, roughly to the private property boundary.  We left the road at the same point that we joined it earlier that morning.  However, we stayed a bit east of the route we had bushwhacked earlier.  This was much easier, and it dumped us out on the other main road in a matter of minutes.  We were definitely on private property at that point, but it isn’t posted or marked in any way.  A few minutes of walking back up the road brought us back into Chimney Rock State Park.


The hike out was long and tedious on tired legs.  Through the trees views of the surrounding cliffs were inspiring though.  We returned to Ottanola Gap a little after 4pm, and the wind was still howling just like it had been earlier that morning.


My first visit to World’s Edge was a fun little adventure.  It was nice to hike with Darrin again, and with Van for the first time.  I’ll definitely go back.  Wolf Creek and the tributary of Wolf Creek are worthy of additional exploration, and I still haven’t seen everything that Pool Creek has to offer.  Plus, the many impressive cliffs are bound to have exceptional views.  World’s Edge is only one section of Chimney Rock State Park, too.  It’s exciting to think about what else might be there.

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