Toms Creek Falls Hike

Synopsis

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.

Hike Statistics

  • 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: Toms Creek Falls
  • Hike Configuration: Out-and-back
  • Starting point: Parking area just before bridge on Huskins Branch Road, about 8 miles from Marion, NC.

Directions

From Asheville, take I-40 East down the Old Fort Grade. Exit on US 70 - Old Fort at the bottom of the grade. Follow US 70 thru Old Fort 11.5 miles to Marion and the intersection with US 221. Turn left. Go 5.7 miles and turn left on Huskins Branch Road. Be careful - the road sign is small, and this section of 221 is down hill. (If you pass the Woodlawn Motel on your left, you've gone too far). This road turns to gravel and then back to paved. Travel 1.2 miles to the trailhead on the right; you'll see a split-rail fence and a Forest Service trail sign marking the spot.
Directions on Google Maps

Details

Hike Description

Dwarf Crested Iris
Dwarf Crested Iris along the Toms Creek Falls trail.

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.

Toms Creek Falls
Toms Creek Falls, at 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.

Map

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.

Download GPS Data

Click routes, trails, or points on the map to download them individually (on the GPS Data tab).

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Points

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Ratings

Average Rating: 4.8 (rated 6 times)

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Comments

Abby Lee said: this is a great hike
Sunday, September 7 2014 4:05pm
F Lamar Wakefield said: This is a beautiful falls which I have been hiking to since 1979 when I took my sons and a church group. It looks to me to stand at least 100 ft tall. A large pool is at the top and an enjoyable trail easy to walk for about a mile merging into a fire road. I only know of someone getting lost when hiking up on the cliffs going to Woods mountain. I am 71 year old boy scout and still love to camp,sleep,and meet God on the mountain side. You will share my love for this piece of Jurassic fantasy.
Monday, March 11 2013 12:00am
tony said: Great hike. Did this with my seven year old daughter. The foundation was for a water wheel. Miners would use the wheel to power pumps to pump water from the mine shafts. The shafts were prone to take on rain water and flood. The water wheel would be powered by a water flume starting up the river.
Saturday, October 8 2011 11:19pm
Kim said: We hiked to the higher falls with our 1.5 year old in the summer. It is amazing place. Our little one played in the pools and had a blast in the clear cool water. Worth the drive from Asheville.
Tuesday, December 16 2008 1:34pm
Jordan said: I'm not sure exactly what the foundation was for or what they were mining, but with all the mica lying around, I wouldn't be surprised if that's what it was. Rich of www.ncwaterfalls.com and Kevin Adams' book "North Carolina Waterfalls" list the falls as about 60 feet high, which seems like a reasonable estimate to me. I'll add it to the description.
Thursday, February 28 2008 4:29am
Linda Kritemeyer said: Our Model A Ford Club toured to these falls. Very pretty and interesting with the mica on the path, daffodils ready to bloom,the height of the falls and the old mine and what looks like a foundation for a water wheel. Do you know what they were mining there and what the foundation was for (what kind of mill). Also how tall are the falls?
Tuesday, February 19 2008 8:46pm
John said: This is a great hike for kids. It's short, easy, and safe with all the things kids like for the entire hike: a creek, big rocks and a spectacular view at the end.
Friday, December 14 2007 1:30am
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Toms Creek Falls