Toms Creek Falls Hike
This easy hike is excellent for families and children, with a reward at the end that everyone will look forward to. You'll see a lush cove hardwood forest, huge boulders, and possibly an old mining shaft. Kids will love the small pool at the base of the 60-foot falls which is perfect for wading. During the spring, there are a wide variety of wildflowers to see and photograph.
- Difficulty: Easy
- Total Length: 0.8 mi
- Trail Tread Condition: Few Obstacles
- Climb: Climbs Gently
- Lowest Elevation: 2000 ft
- Highest Elevation: 2001 ft
- Total Elevation Gain: 120 ft
- Trails Used: Falls Branch
- Hike Configuration: Out-and-back
- Starting point: Parking area just before bridge on Huskins Branch Road, about 8 miles from Marion, NC.
From the intersection of US 70 and US 221 North in Marion, NC, drive about 5 1/2 miles North on US 221. Turn left on Huskins Branch Road, just before the old Woodlawn Motel. The road climbs and turns gravel, then paved again. At 1.2 miles from the start, park in the gravel lot on the right.
Note: the Forest Service completed work on this trail in spring 2015, including re-surfacing and installation of an accessible observation deck at the falls, meaning it will likely be even easier to follow than the description here. We'll update when we get a chance to visit in person!
This hike starts in an old field or homestead, as evidenced by the even-aged stand of Tuliptrees that grow there, as well as the patch of prolific, non-native flowers to the left of the trail sign. The trail follows an old road bed most of the way, and it is generally very easy, except at a couple of creek crossings and steep (but very short) hills right at the end.
The forest is a typical mixed cove hardwood forest. A variety of wildflowers grow here in the spring. There are also a number of Eastern Hemlocks mixed in with the hardwood trees. Judging by the number of hemlocks that are growing in the understory, the ratio of hardwoods to hemlocks might have gone way down in a century if the forest remained healthy and unlogged. However, the Hemlocks in this area are heavily infested with the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, meaning in all likelihood there will probably be none by that time.
Just after you start the hike, you'll cross a muddy seep, and then see a grand boulder on your right like a sentinel guarding the waterfall's valley. There are many of these boulders and angled rock slabs along the way, and most of them are covered with moss and lichens. Look closely at one of these rocks, and you will likely see lots of embedded mica. Mica is a group of silicate minerals composed of varying amounts of aluminum, potassium, magnesium, iron and - believe it or not - water. In fact, most rocks and minerals contain trace amounts of water, even deep within.
Micas form flat, plate-like crystals which cleave into smooth flakes. There are sections of this trail that are completely covered with these flakes, and they shine and glint in the sun. Mica is used as an electrical insulator and also as an insulator from heat. Up the mountain and across the Blue Ridge Parkway from this point is the town of Micaville, where mica is mined extensively and used all over the world. There is also an old mica mine just downstream from Toms Creek Falls, which you will see near the end of the hike.
The trail loosely follows the creek, and at times it is very deeply eroded. A small stream will cross the path in a ditch, and at this point the old roadbed heads up the ridge to the right. This is the only intersection on the trail - turn left and descend into a campsite.
Proceed up the creek; another smaller tributary emerges from the base of the ridge as a spring and crosses the trail. After this crossing is a short, moderately steep climb, then the trail levels out. Then, after one more short climb up the bank to the right, the trail approaches the falls.
You'll end up in another campsite with a fantastic view of the approximately 60-foot high falls. You can descend the bank to the base from here, where there is a nice flat area, a gravel and sand bar, and pools great for wading. Be careful on slippery rocks! Do not attempt to reach the top of the falls.
To see the old mica mine, cross the creek below the falls. A trail leads downstream on the other side of the creek for a few feet, then turns into a large gully cut into the mountainside. Follow this gully uphill for a few more feet to the entrance of the old mine tunnel leading downhill and into the mountainside. The walls of the gully tower 50' above you on both sides. A vertical shaft leading into the tunnel leaves an "unnatural bridge" of sorts hanging in midair above you. Water drips from above, and the tunnel is filled with water.
Although the tunnel is not vertical, so you don't have to worry about falling straight in, don't enter the water. It looks to be very deep. There may be the possibility of falling rock as well - especially during freezing and thawing weather. Be very alert and careful in this area.
When you're finished exploring the falls and mine, return to your vehicle on the same path.
View more photos in this hike's gallery.
Here's an interactive GPS map of this hike. Yellow highlight indicates the route followed by this hike within the trail network. Only the trails and points of interest along the hike, and those in the immediate vicinity, are shown. For expanded maps, see this hike's Trailhead area.
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Click routes, trails, or points on the map to download them individually (on the GPS Data tab).
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