Dupont Waterfalls Tour Hike
Note (July 2013): the Hooker Falls parking area has been expanded and the new pedestrian bridge is in place!
On this hike, you'll visit up to 5 of the 6 major waterfalls in Dupont State Forest. It starts as an easy path to some of the most spectacular waterfalls in the area: Hooker, Triple, and High Falls. Covered picnic shelters with views of the falls make for excellent family outing possibilities. If you wish to continue to Grassy Creek and Bridal Veil Falls, this will become a moderate hike. You'll cross the big covered bridge and pass a beautiful mountain lake on the way - well worth the extra effort!
- Difficulty: Easy
- Total Length: 0.6 - 6 mi
- Trail Tread Condition: Some Obstacles
- Climb: Climbs Moderately
- Lowest Elevation: 2230 ft
- Highest Elevation: 2560 ft
- Total Elevation Gain: 120 ft
- Trails Used: Bridal Veil Falls Road, Conservation Road, Triple Falls, River Bend, Buck Forest Road, Hooker Falls Road, Covered Bridge, High Falls
- Hike Configuration: Partial loop, out-and-back
- Starting point: Hooker Falls Parking Area
From Asheville, take I-240 west to I-26 east to the exit for Asheville Airport (exit 40). Head south (right) on NC 280 (4-lane highway) toward Brevard for 16 miles. Turn left on US 64 East and drive 3.7 miles. Turn right on Crab Creek Road. Drive 4.3 miles and turn right on Dupont Road. The road will climb and change names to Staton Road, then begin a long downhill, at the bottom of which is the bridge over the Little River. The parking area is on the right just before the bridge. The trail to Triple and High Falls starts on the other side of the bridge.
This hike, which has several parts, includes some of the best points of interest at Dupont State Forest. You may turn around at any time, or visit them all. While the first part of the hike is easy and perfect for families, the second half is suitable for those wanting a more rigorous workout with plenty of scenic attractions. There is such a large network of trails at Dupont, and many other hiking possibilities are available. You will definitely want to have the map handy when you hike!
The surface on all the trails on this hike is gravel, with only a very short section of dirt trail with some obstacles (a few rocks and roots on the Three Lakes trail). Distances shown are round trip, including everything up to that point.
Preamble: To Hooker Falls (Easy, negligible climb)
Though the falls is nothing spectacular since it's not very high (about 15 feet), it is pretty, and well worth the leg-stretcher required to get to it. Take the gated trail to the right of the sign board (Hooker Falls trail), and bear left at the first intersection. The trail, which is mostly level, leads about 1/4 mile through a forest of white pines and hemlocks. Some of the hemlocks have been treated for the Wooly Adelgid and are in great shape.
The trail leads to a viewpoint at the top of the falls, then continues down a small hill and turns left to reach a restored area along the river at its base. Return to the bridge and parking lot when you're done viewing the falls.
Section 1: To Triple Falls (Easy, 0.6 mile, 120 ft. climb)
Begin by crossing the new wood and steel trail bridge over the Little River, which was added in July 2013 so hikers don't have to cross on the highway bridge anymore. On the other side, turn left and go under the highway bridge on the Triple Falls trail, which follows the Little River upstream into the forest.
Soon, you'll begin a short but quite steep climb up to the viewing area for Triple Falls, which is on the left directly beside the trail. This is one of the best overlooks for the falls.
There are two points of interest past the overlook you might also want to check out: the picnic shelter and the trail to the close-up view of the falls.
First, on the right, is a short path leading to a picnic shelter with another excellent view of the falls - a great spot for a family lunch stop. Bring a picnic!
Next, on the left, is a path leading down to the middle of the falls, via a long set of steps. Hear the roar of the river as it plunges from two tiers above you to a swirling pool at your level, and feel the ample wind and mist from the middle falls. You can explore the falls up-close from there, but stay on the large, dry, flat rock areas above where the lower cascade drops to the riverbed below.
Do NOT climb the rocks or go into the water. It's illegal, and people have been severely injured doing that here! Rocks that stay wet with spray can get slimy and very slippery, so stay on the dry areas.
Once you're done exploring Triple Falls, continuing on to High Falls is highly recommended. However, you may turn around here and return to your vehicle for an easy overall hike.
Section 2: To High Falls (Easy to Moderate, 2.0 miles, 180 - 240 ft. climb)
High Falls is a spectacular sight. The water slides down a 150' high dome of exposed rock almost as wide; at several points, rooster tails launch streams of water into the air. To get to it, starting from the Triple Falls picnic shelter, go uphill on the gravel road and take a left onto the High Falls trail.
This trail is mostly level, smooth and wide, with a few wet spots and a few rocks. The trail follows the Little River closely and it is amazing how calm and level it is between the two falls. At the next intersection, with the River Bend trail, bear left to get to the base of High Falls. This is the only way to reach the base now, so we recommend checking it out before climbing to the upper overlook. The path starts out wide and level as it goes along the river, but gets a bit rockier and narrower as it comes out on the rocks around the pool at the base of the falls.
Don't try to climb the rocks near the falls - there are plenty of safe places to enjoy the view. Use extreme caution if you decide to get in the water as many people do - the currents can be significant. When you're done exploring, return down the River Bend trail to the High Falls trail intersection.
You could return to your vehicle from here to keep this an easy hike; or, turn left on the High Falls trail to begin a moderate climb up to the High Falls overlook. Proceed past the overlook and you can take the set of steps and a path uphill to the right to reach another picnic shelter, again with a great view.
If you are turning around here, head back on the High Falls trail to the Triple Falls trail. Turn right and follow the Little River back to the road bridge and your vehicle.
Section 3: to the Covered Bridge over the Little River
To get to the Covered Bridge or beyond, continue to follow either of the trails from the overlook or the picnic shelter uphill. Both trails join together as a continuation of the High Falls trail on a gently climbing gravel road. Follow that up to the Covered Bridge trail, and turn left. Go down a hill, and then turn left again onto the wide Buck Forest road to reach the covered bridge at the top of High Falls. On the right, you get a view of the calm, smooth river above the falls. On the left, you can see the river as it spills over the brink of High Falls.
Section 4: To Lake Dense (Moderate)
The way to Lake Dense - called Conservation Road - was also planned to be a main road. If you returned to the bridge from Grassy Creek Falls, turn left on Conservation Road. If you're just coming from High Falls, it will be a right turn onto Conservation Road. The road is mostly level, with one noticeable hill, and travels along the river. At the intersection with Joanna Road, turn left and head uphill slightly.
After just a few dozen yards, turn right onto the newly-renamed Three Lakes trail (formerly the Lake Dense Trail), which is another old gravel road. It goes downhill. You'll emerge at the mountain lake at its dam. The lake is a real gem. The water is crystal-clear, and Joanna Mountain looming above the lake in the background makes for a spectacular scene. Bring your bathing suit - swimming is allowed and very inviting on a hot day! Hang out on the docks or perhaps enjoy a snack in the picnic shelter.
You may also continue along the same trail, across the dam, and through through the pines for another 0.1 mile to reach Lake Alford. This tiny pond is spring-fed and you can see right through its waters to the small fish which live in it.
Section 5: To Bridal Veil Falls (Moderate)
There is one more waterfall in the hart of DuPont: Bridal Veil Falls. To see it, return to Conservation Road and turn left. Continue following Conservation Road up along the Little River. You'll cross a bridge over Reasonover Creek; the Lake Julia dam is up to your left. Past the dam, you'll reach an intersection with the Bridal Veil Falls trail - another gravel road - and the horse barn area. Turn right. It's just over 1/2 miles to the falls; the road ends in a roundabout and an easy gravel path descends to the base.
After you've seen enough - or you're forced to leave because of the time, like I always am - head back to the covered bridge, and then back to your car on the same trails you hiked in on.
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