Wintergreen Falls on the Toxaway River
Gorges State Park
Transylvania County, NC
Saturday, August 4th, 2012
Me at Wintergreen Falls
Andy and I planned a weekend of camping at the Cherry Hill Campground. Unfortunately, Andy would not be able to make it for Friday Night, but I headed up anyway after getting off from work. As usual, soon after I arrived and set up my site, the rain started.
So I introduced myself to the group at the neighboring campsite and took advantage of their tarp for most of the evening. We enjoyed some FABs and shared some stories, which was much more enjoyable than sitting alone in the rain!
Saturday Morning, I met Andy, Boone, and Kona at the Frozen Creek parking area of Gorges State Park.
The first three miles of the hike is rather uninteresting along the Auger Hole trail, which is basically a wide track forest service road. The gate and several areas of deadfall are the only things that would prevent this part of the route from being drivable.
Boone and Kona enjoying a mud puddle along the Auger Hole Trail
There are several side paths along the way that lead to other waterfalls, but we had a long hike ahead of us and decided to pass them by. At about the 3 mile point, we turned on to another less traveled forest service road which eventually took us to the Toxaway River. From here we basically just followed the river upstream.
There is no official trail, but enough people have gone this way that some unofficial "fisherman's paths" do exist.
We made our first stop of the day at a small sliding cascade called 10-foot falls which got it's name because it is about 10-feet high.
Continuing on, we crossed over Panther Branch at which point we picked up the remnants of an old logging road which headed uphill above the river. This avoids a very difficult section of the river, but does require a steep bushwhack scramble to get back down to the river closer to Wintergreen Falls.
We had no problems making our way back down to the river and continued upstream to the base of Wintergreen Falls. This one is a beauty! More more impressive in person than any photos can show! And it has one of the best swimming holes I have ever seen which we would take advantage of later!
Andy and Kona taking a break
Boone at Wintergreen Falls
Due to the long and difficult hike, not may people make it to Wintergreen Falls, and even fewer are crazy enough to try and continue upstream. . So we continued on upstream. Absolutely no trails of any sort continue on past this point. The left side of the falls looked a bit more hospitable, so we crossed the river and started some intense bushwhacking!
Thick brush, steep rocky cliffs, briars, stinging nettle, and poison ivy were just some of the many obstacles we had to navigate through. There was no easy way, but we surged ahead via the path of least resistance. We eventually made it back down to the river above the lower drop at the base of the next series of falls.
Upstream from Wintergreen Falls
Boone and Kona
This is another neat spot. Once of the coolest features is a huge boulder that forms a natural bridge above one of the drops.
You can see the Natural Rock Bridge in the Upper part of this photo
We know there were other waterfalls upstream, but since we had gotten a few sprinkles of rain throughout the morning and the humidity was about 100%, the rocks were wet and very slick. Heading up the rock face along side the falls was out of the question.
So we decided to cross the river and try bushwhacking up the right side. After about 30 minutes we made it only about 100 yards and decided that this was not the way to go. We backtracked and tried bushwhacking up the right side. We made slightly better progress here, but still barely gained any ground. We both absolutely beat, so we decided to give up and save further exploration upstream for a day when the rocks are dry!
We were drenched with a combination of sweat and moisture from the rain and wet foliage we were bushwhacking through. So when we returned to Wintergreen Falls we decided to take advantage of the awesome swimming hole to cool off and wash all sweat and grime away. Plus it is an excellent idea to try and wash up as soon as possible if you at all suspect you might have come in contact with poison ivy.
Andy and Me going for a swim at the base of Wintergreen Falls
From there is was a long and and mostly uphill 6 mile trek back the way we came to our vehicles at the trailhead. That first FAB I popped open sure did taste good!
Back at the Cherry Hill Campground, it was a very enjoyable evening around the campfire. And the rain actually held off until after we called it a night and retired to our tents.
The complete set up photos from our Wintergreen Falls Hike is posted here:
Next up, Sunday Morning's exploration of Crane Creek