Moore Cove Trail and Falls, Pisgah National Forest

This short hike is family friendly, including even toddlers. The Moore Cove Trail leads you 0.7 mile to Moore Cove Falls, a 50-foot free-fall over a cave-like outcropping. As long as you’re careful, you can get in behind this waterfall and peer at the forest through the cascade. Hey, on a hot day it makes a great refreshing shower. In season, you may discover a variety of wildflowers along the trail including orchids, lady slippers, jack-in-the-pulpit, dwarf iris, and of course, the ubiquitous rhododendron. This hike occurred on Sunday, July 14, 2013 from 7:00am to 8:00am. My plan was to take the Moore Cove Trail to its end at Moore Cove Falls, then return.

Hike Length: 1.4 miles Hike Duration: 1 hour

Hike Configuration: Out and back Blaze: Yellow

Elevation Gain: 240 feet Hike Rating: Very easy

Trail Condition: Wet, frequently muddy. Otherwise, good.

Starting Point: Trailhead on Scenic Highway 276 a mile past Looking Glass Falls.

Trail Traffic: I had the trail all to myself just past dawn on a Sunday.

How to Get There: From Brevard, NC take Scenic Highway 276 into Pisgah National Forest. Go 5.5 miles to Looking Glass Falls, then another mile to the trailhead on the right. There is parking for about 10 cars.

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It was time once again to do my National Park Service volunteer thing. I headed up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to pick up trash and debris this morning at the Pounding Mill Overlook. Along the way, I thought it would be a great opportunity to check out a couple awesome waterfalls, and tell you about one of the shortest trails in Pisgah National Forest.

With more than half the month still to go, there has already been more than 12 inches of rain in Western North Carolina in July… an insane amount compared to normal. With that has come swollen streams and rivers, landslides, closed roads and bridges including the Parkway and hiking plans stymied by dangerous creek crossings. I haven’t done a trail report in a few weeks because the last two hikes have been aborted early by rushing water.

So what better way to share the experience than waterfalls? My first stop was the ever popular Looking Glass Falls. Arriving right at the crack of dawn, I beat the usual weekend crowd and had the place all to myself. Looking Glass is easy to get to… it plunges into its basin right beside Scenic Highway 276 just 5.5 miles west of Brevard.

There was a light drizzle falling as I parked, and carried tripod and camera down the 40 or so steps to the viewing platform. I wanted to go downstream a few hundred feet for a view back up Looking Glass Creek toward the falls, but the high water once again put a nix on that thought. To avoid a nasty slip and fall on the extremely slick rocks, I had to be content behind a soaked old log. I thought to myself, “I’m going to the high country next hike to get away from the torrential water.”

Looking Glass Falls and Creek

Back up the stairs to the car, and onward just another mile on 276 to the pullout for Moore Cove. The trailhead is easy to find. There’s a large sign board there, and room for about 10 cars to park. There’s a stone bridge for the road to cross Looking Glass Creek, and a wooden bridge for the foot traffic.

The wide trail begins a slow, easy climb beside Looking Glass Creek, then makes a turn deeper into the forest up Moore Cove Creek. For informational purposes, the trail blaze is yellow, but there’s no worry of losing the trail here. It is plenty obvious and easy to follow.

I heard the rush of the creek below and to my right as the trail was winding through a dense hardwood forest. The rosebay rhododendron was just beginning to display its white blossoms. There was a scent of clean freshness in the air. The heavy recent rain has washed all the leaves and given them a verdant luminance.

After half a mile, I entered a boggy area with lots of mud and standing water. There is a series of plank bridges and boardwalks to help carry you through the seeps, and hopefully keep the younguns from getting totally muddy. Don’t come out here in your Sunday best. But you already knew that, right?

After the last boardwalk, there’s one final small ascent as Moore Cove Falls comes into view for the first time. At the top of the trail, there’s a wooden platform with an excellent view of the right side of the falls. Above the falls is a tiered cascade, but the final plunge is a 50-foot free-fall that forms a spidery pattern as it drops to the basin below. That’s the photo at the top of this post.

Under normal dry summer conditions, you can get behind the falls, even play in the shower it creates. However, on this day, the granite and muck was like ice and I didn’t relish the idea of a mudslide through the falls and into Moore Cove Creek.

Instead, I crossed the creek for alternative views of the falls. There are a couple of old campsites on the west side of the creek, although you should be advised that the Forest Service has closed this area between sunset and sunrise. Those who were camping years ago weren’t practicing Leave No Trace, so they ruined it for everyone.

Looking around me I actually found a 2nd thread of a waterfall spilling down on the opposite side of the gorge from Moore Cove Falls. I wondered if this one is usually even visible when water is at a more normal level. From this area I got a head-on view of the main falls and was able to observe the tiered cascade above the plunge.

I scampered through some overgrown rhododendron and reached the left side of Moore Cove Falls. Still definitely too dicey to try to get behind the falls, if anything it was even more slick on this side. I recalled a visit here 7-8 years ago when children were splashing in the shower from the falls. Ironic now to say it was too wet to get wet.

I took several pictures, then loaded up my gear and headed back the way I came. All told, I was on the trail and at the falls for just under an hour. I think even the toddlers can tolerate that, don’t you?

In summary, Moore Cove Falls is an easy to get to, attractive waterfall. With typical summer conditions, it is quite popular with the local community because you can actually play in it. If you’re coming for photography, like I was, I recommend you get there early so you can beat the usual crowd. I was at the trailhead at 7:00AM on a drizzly, cloudy day and I didn’t see anyone else. But I guarantee, after church, there will be dozens of folks on the trail, even in the rain.

I thought I would mention, just up the road from Moore Cove is another summer attraction of Pisgah National Forest… Sliding Rock. On my continuing journey up 276 to the Parkway, I stopped there just to see what the water level was like on the slide. I’ve included a photo below at the end that shows Looking Glass Creek flooding the stairway and railing normally used to get back upstream for another slide. Crazy. Anyone have an ark?

 

 

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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  • Adventure Strong

    Awesome pictures, Jeff. The water falls are beautiful.

    • Thanks for the kind words Tim. The great thing about these falls is they’re so easy to access.