A visit to Catawba Falls

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, July 8, 2015


Although I can think of many reasons not to go hiking in the summer, the thought of waiting another three months to see a waterfall up close was more than I could bare.

About 15 years ago I had tried to hike in to the headwaters of the Catawba River. The main reason was the search for wild trout, but seeing the falls was going to be a bonus. I was very disappointed when I arrived at the end of the public road to find out the area was on private land and it was then posted.

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Apparently someone had sued the landowner when they fell on their land so the landowner had posted his land (yet another instance one person ruins something for everyone).

I had read the U.S. Forest Service had acquired an 88-acre tract in 2010 from the Foothills Conservancy. Funding for the land purchase came from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, so we decided to check it out as a family unit.

The trail is about 1.5 miles one way and is a moderate hike. There are a couple of stream crossings and the trail is fairly wide, even in the summer with all the poison ivy growing along the sides in certain areas. The waterfall is the highlight of the hike, but along the way you will pass some old foundations, a rock building on the river that I read was an old powerhouse, and an old dam used to generate power in the early part of last century. The dam is positioned at the top of a small waterfall. It has a large hole in it so it no longer backs up water.

The trail follows the river almost the whole way. The trail takes you to the lower falls, estimated about 100 feet tall. There is another fall called the upper falls above, but it requires a very strenuous hike/climb to get there – not a good idea for a family outing.

The fall is easy to access so it’s very popular. We went early and left early, right as the crowds were arriving. There are many spots along the trail to check out the river, and cool off in the water if you choose.

I plan on visiting this fall in the winter, to access the upper falls, and the lack of foliage will make the fall easier to view. The wide cascading fall would really look good covered in ice or snow.

To get there, take Hwy. 9 North to Black Mountain, travel a short distance on I-40 east to exit 73. As you are driving on the off ramp, Catawba River Rd. turns to the right before the end of the off ramp. Stay on this road to the end where you will see a parking area and info area after crossing a small bridge.