Here’s the thing about waterfalls: people love them. So if a waterfall is at all worth seeing there will probably be a parking lot close-by and a great many people enjoying the view. And if you can actually swim at the base of the fall, then you can be sure there will be people there. But there is a way to see our waterfalls and also enjoy an afternoon of relative solitude surrounded only by clean, clear water and the natural beauty of Western North Carolina.
Dupont State Forest is located about one hour from our Asheville Bed and Breakfast. The first 30 minutes of the drive is nothing to speak of but the second half will take you past rich farmlands on a lovely rolling country road. James and I stopped at the intersection of Highway 64 and Crab Creek Road to pick up some of the best BBQ in North Carolina at Hawg Wild BBQ. On the weekend this restaurant is packed but if you are fortunate enough to be doing this on a weekday, it won’t take long to get some BBQ-to-go. And about 3 miles further down Crab Creek Road is a local farm stand replete with every type of local fruit and berry. We picked up some wonderfully succulent blackberries to complete our ad hoc picnic.
Dupont State Forest was created in 1996 through means of a bargain sale from the Dupont Corporation. This sale did not include the 2200 acres in the heart of the forest which encompass the six waterfalls for which the area is justly famous. That land was sold to Sterling Diagnostic Imaging which in turn put the land up for sale in 1999. And this was the beginning of a battle between Jim Anthony of the Cliff’s Communities, who bought the tract with the intent to create a large upscale development centered around the waterfalls, and local, state and national conservationist groups. It’s a complicated story with lots of implied scandal (and some out-right accusations) but it ended happily on December 17, 2000 when the state took possession of the land and it was opened to the public. The only remains of the development are a number of graded dirt roads which take the place of forest trails in this section of the park.
There are five falls situated closely together in this area, three of which can be considered world class and the other two which are of lesser interest. The best way to view the falls is to get there early and hike. Arriving at the Hooker Fall’s carpark around 9 or 10AM will put you at the base of Triple Falls well before most people having even thought of going there. It’s a short, easy hike after an initial heart-pounding ascent of a few hundred feet.
Triple Falls was originally well-known for its role in the 1992 film Last Of the Mohicans but has since claimed greater fame as the waterfall which Katniss runs across in The Hunger Games. The actress used planks and was firmly attached to safety wires. These waterfalls can be quite dangerous and every year people are injured through climbing unwisely on wet and slippery rocks. There are safe trails to pools and viewing spots and these are the best way (and only legal way) to access the falls.
A majority of people parked at Hooker Falls will make the ascent to Triple Falls but fewer will continue on up to the top of High Falls. There is a path at the base of this fall which
gives access to the base and most people turn off here to swim in the shallow pools and enjoy the mist coming off the fall. If you want to get close to the fall you will have to join them. But if you are looking for the secret quiet spot mentioned in the first paragraph you will have to continue on up. Stop for a moment at the viewing point and see if you can spot the “rooster tail” then continue on to the covered bridge at the top. Here you will continue on a dirt road, leaving the crowds (and the waterfalls behind).
It’s about a mile hike from the Covered Bridge to your destination: Lake Dense. This crystal clear lake is a well-kept secret (or at least it was!). Even on a Sunday, you may well be the only people there. A shaded picnic table sits at the end of a short pier which can be used for entering and leaving the water. James and I sat with our feet in the lake and were amused by the many fish who gathered around hoping for a fallen crumb. In the rafters above us a tiny baby bird chirped in a nest and was fed by the parents who didn’t seem particularly put off by our presence. As the afternoon grew late, the rumble of thunder in the distance sent us back down the trail.
Back at the car-park we took a quick detour to view Hooker Falls. This picture makes it look like no one else was there. Don’t be fooled! The large pool at the base is a favorite swimming hole for the locals. It was just a lucky shot for me!
And those llamas? I don’t know for sure but there are a number of llama treking companies in the area and this group was certainly from one of them. It’s just part of Asheville!