Triple Falls, High Falls, Hooker Falls, DuPont State Forest

With so much interest in The Hunger Games movie, I thought it was time to head out to DuPont State Forest for a dawn hike to Triple Falls, one of the scenes in the film. Triple Falls is a tiered cascade on the Little River that drops 120 dramatic feet and was also featured in the Last of the Mohicans movie. A photo of Triple Falls was used by the Friends of the Falls conservation group to convince the North Carolina Governor and the Council of State to protect the waterfalls of the Little River from private residential development. After considerable debate, thus were the waterfalls added to DuPont State Forest. This hike occurred on Friday, April 20, 2012 from 6:45am to 9:00am. My plan was to take the Triple Falls Trail for some early morning photos of the waterfall. I enjoyed myself so much that I continued to the other falls in the area.

Hike Length: 5 miles Hike Duration: 2.25 hours Hike Rating: Easy

Blaze: None needed Elevation Gain: 290 feet Hike Configuration: Lasso

Trail Condition: Gravel road.

Starting Point: Hooker Falls parking area on Staton Road.

Trail Traffic: I did not encounter any other hikers.

How to Get There: DuPont State Forest can be accessed from Hendersonville, NC via Kanuga/Crab Creek Rd., from Asheville/Brevard via US64 and Little River Rd., or from Greenville, SC via Cedar Mountain and Cascade Lake Rd. Look for printed trail maps at public parking areas.

The map above only contains the Triple Falls Trail. When I set out on this day, I wasn’t really intending on taking The Waterfalls Hike. I merely wanted some early morning photos of Triple Falls. Well, the sky didn’t cooperate particularly well, and it is a 45 minute drive from my home after all, so I decided to continue on to High Falls and Hooker Falls. By then I had shutdown my GPS trail tracing app. Someday soon I will go back and track the entire hike for you.

The area around the Hooker Falls parking gets very busy on weekend afternoons, as you can imagine with the popularity of these beautiful waterfalls and the easy access. So I would recommend visiting the falls on a weekday in the morning. I didn’t see anyone else on this Friday at 7:00am.

From the parking area on the west side of Staton Road you must cross to the east side. Be careful here because traffic passes at 45 mph. The road crosses Little River and offers a delightful scene in both directions before you even hit the trail. You’ll have to hop over the guard rail to get to the steps down to the trail. From there, the trail is an old gravel road that follows Little River. There are occasional cutouts through the rhododendron thickets to the rocks on the river bank. It’s less than half a mile to the upper overlook.

About half way there the trail makes a bend to the right and begins a pretty steep, but short climb of about 160 feet. If you aren’t in very good shape, you may huff and puff a bit, but really it’s not too bad. Know that the view at the top is absolutely worth the exertion. There are two viewing areas here. The first is on the trail itself at a split rail fence, and the 2nd is just a little higher at the Triple Falls Shelter, a covered picnicking facility.

From either vantage point you can see all three tiers of the waterfall, hence the name Triple Falls. The river is surrounded on both sides by thick forest comprised of mostly hardwoods with some hemlock and the ubiquitous rhododendron. Remember this spot when you’re searching for color during peak leaf peeping season in the fall. This is a big waterfall. The roar of the falls drowns out most other sound. No matter the season there is always a lot of water flowing here so you will be given a show.

Just another hundred feet beyond the overlook, the trail forks to the left and goes down a series of wooden plank stairs, more than 100 total. At the bottom is a flat granite slab at the precipice of the lower tier, and just below the upper two tiers of the falls. Don’t miss this spot! From here you can see the Little River continuing its trek through the forest below the falls. Looking back toward the falls, there is always a mist floating on the breeze from the rush of the whitewater. You can walk right to the water’s edge at the base of the falls, but don’t be tempted to get any closer. Unfortunately, people have lost their lives here. One misstep can be fatal. The wet granite is very slippery.

Little River at DawnAs the morning light began to appear over the trees on the east side of the falls, I scurried back up the steps to the overlook to give my camera an opportunity to capture the scene. That’s the photo you see at the top of the post. Click it for a larger image. Then when the light reached southward, down river, I headed back down the steps again to take this shot of the river. As you can see, it was still pretty dark in the canyon the falls and river carve through the granite, while the sky was beginning to do it’s good morning, look at me dance. It’s why I went.

About this time I’m thinking to myself, this is fun. I have the place all to myself. I have nowhere I have to be. I am in an absolutely beautiful mountain landscape. Why not go check out the other waterfalls that are also nearby? So I did. At the top of the stairs, if you go left, there is another trail junction just a hundred feet up the hill. These trails go to High Falls, and make a loop back to Triple Falls.

You can either take the left fork to the base of High Falls or the right fork to the overlook. Either way, it’s 0.6 mile to get there. Very doable. If you take the upper trail there is a little bit of mild, gradual climbing to get to the overlook, but if you take the lower trail the only climb is from the base of the falls up to the overlook. If you choose to do that it is pretty steep. After all, High Falls is 150 feet of awesome power. As stated before: be very careful near the waterfall. The wet rocks are extremely dangerous.

At the top of High Falls is a scenic covered bridge over Little River that was built in the late 1990s to accommodate the high-dollar real estate development that was planned for this area. Thanks to the foresight of the Friends of the Falls this picturesque region was saved for the enjoyment of future generations. And DuPont State Forest gets a nice covered bridge too.

From the overlook of High Falls, it’s just a half mile stroll to the covered bridge. On the other side of the bridge is an entire other set of trails, including one to Bridal Veil Falls, also a scene in The Hunger Games. By now, the sky was beginning to cloud up, so photos of High Falls and the covered bridge have a grey, gloomy background.

The other side of the loop to High Falls takes you back by Triple Falls for another peek at this astounding gift of nature as you return to the parking area. On the south end of the parking lot is the trail to Hooker Falls. It’s just a quarter mile on a handicapped accessible trail. Hooker Falls drops off an 11′ ledge directly into Cascade Lake, a commercial camping and water sports recreation area just outside the boundary of the state forest. Perhaps not as spectacular as Triple and High Falls, Hooker is the widest of the three.

Best Hike No visit to DuPont State Forest in southwestern North Carolina is complete without taking The Waterfalls Hike. You can make it as short or as long as you like. If you just visit Triple Falls, that would be a wonderful sight in itself. But you owe it to yourself sometime to make the full circuit and check out High Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Hooker Falls as well. The movie-makers thought enough of the scenic beauty to bring their crews here to film. I consider it one of North Carolina’s best hikes.

 

 

Update This is such a great hike, I will try to give seasonal updates. On Tuesday July 3, 2012 I made another visit to Triple and Hooker Falls. The highlight of the day had to be the great blue heron that swooped in right as I was setting up the tripod for pictures of the lower cascade at Triple Falls. Talk about your lucky timing.

Since there hasn’t been much rain for a month, Little River was running pretty puny, enabling close access to the lower cascade. It isn’t recommended when the water is rushing, but it’s pretty safe during the low flow seasons. Regardless, it’s a remarkable place surrounded by a forested granite gorge and the ubiquitous sound of the surging river.

As I approached Hooker Falls, I was just in time to see a father and son canoeing in the plunge pool beneath the falls. By the time I had the camera ready they were nearly around the bend, but I did manage to capture the gratification of this familial bonding. I hope you enjoy the new photos as much as I savored being there.

 

 

This post was created by Jeff Clark. Please feel free to use the sharing icons below, or add your thoughts to the comments. Pack it in, pack it out. Preserve the past. Respect other hikers. Let nature prevail. Leave no trace.

 

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