A trip to High Shoals Falls

Published 9:00 pm Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Rain, and lots of it. That seems to be par lately. One of the many benefits that comes with rainfall is higher water levels, and that means higher flows on waterfalls.

Waterfalls each have their own character. Some are rushing, some all calm and relaxing, and some are just unique. But waterfalls “just ain’t themselves” without at least a normal flow of water.

After a rather dry summer, the recent rains have made for some good waterfall conditions. Most of my mountain travels have been north and or west of Polk County, so this year I’ve been a bit more interested in what’s north and east.

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While most of our mountains and waterfalls are on western side direction, there are still some areas to check out northeastward.

Recently our family headed out to check out some waterfalls on a rainy day. I was surprised that, although it was far from crowded, there were a few others out in the weather. We ended up the day in South Mountains State Park, just south of Morganton. There’s really no good way to get there from here, you either need to go ’round about to Morganton and back, or take some back roads through Golden Valley in Rutherford County. I would recommend Google, Mapquest, GPS, etc. for directions.

The drive in was more rolling hills than mountains, but the Jacobs Fork river ran through a rather steep “gorge” type area that felt mountainous. The roughly 2.4 mile loop trail, that’s about one mile in and 1.4 out, started as an easy hike on a wide trail. The trail is very well maintained and easy to follow, and shortly after I mocked the sign that said a strenuous trail. I ate my bitter words as the trail went over a very rocky or “bouldery” patch, and proceeded up many very vertical steps.

There are very nice bridges and observation areas on this trail, and they led to the approximately 80 ft. High Shoals Falls. The fall was slightly blown out from all the rain, which made for a cool experience on the observation deck, feeling the spray and hearing the roar of the plunging water. It was difficult to photograph with all the overspray though.

I usually write about easy to moderate access falls so more people can have access, but this one may be a bit tough for some. The trail continues up some very vertical steps to the top of the falls then crosses the river on a bridge to a very nice descent on the 1.4 mile remainder of the loop. Even though it’s longer, I think it’s easier since you don’t have to walk down the many steps and cross the boulder field.

Experiencing waterfalls in inclement weather is quite a treat, but it can be a bit more challenging. The right gear, and being safe can make for a good day.