May, 2015 – The Blue Ridge Parkway is 469 miles long, and it creates a link between Great Smoky Mountains National Park down south in North Carolina with Shenandoah National Park up north in Virginia. It’s a very skinny road, and private land abuts it on both sides, so most of the attractions are just off of it to one side or the other.
There is so enormously much to see and do along this long stretch of road that we decided we’d shape our Blue Ridge Parkway adventures by having a theme: waterfalls.
We’d had a lot of fun exploring some of the waterfalls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so we started hunting for more waterfalls as we traveled northeast along the parkway. The first one we went to was Soco Falls. It’s fairly close to Cherokee, North Carolina, where we’d been staying for a while.
The hike down to Soco Falls is steep but quite short. There is a viewing platform partway down, but the real beauty of the falls lies well below that at the very bottom of the falls.
We had to scramble a little bit on the slick muddy trail to get down to the bottom. Luckily, there was a strong rope strung between some trees to give hikers a handhold in the steepest parts. Once we got down to the bottom, the view looking back up at the falls was spectacular.
A group of local kids was down at the bottom of the waterfall too, fishing. “Look, we’ve caught 8 fish!” one of them told Mark excitedly, holding up a small canvas bag in his grubby hand. Mark asked what they planned to do with them. “Eat them, of course!” the kid said, giving Mark a funny look.
The kid vanished lower down the falls, and then came back up again a little while later. “What are you doing?” he asked Mark as he stared at his camera and tripod. When Mark said he was taking pictures, the kid asked what for. “To look at, of course!” Mark said. This time he gave the kid a funny look!
Whether you come to these falls to fish or to take photos to look at later, they’re wonderful. The hike to the bottom is well worth the little bit of extra scrambling to get all the way down, even if it’s muddy.
DUGGERS CREEK FALLS
The next waterfalls we wanted to see were Linville Falls and Duggers Creek Falls which are both reached from the same trailhead parking area. At the Linville Falls Visitors Center, we saw a breathtaking photo of Duggers Creek Falls and decided to do that hike first.
The skies were getting dark, however, and we joked with the ranger that we really ought to buy two of the rain ponchos they had for sale, just in case. But we didn’t. In fact, Mark even left his rain jacket in the truck.
The hike to Duggers Creek Falls isn’t very long, and we had just gotten to the bridge down near the waterfall when the skies opened up. We hid out under a rock outcropping for a little bit, but the rain went from simply pouring to coming down in torrents. In no time, we were drenched, especially Mark without his jacket. We decided to make a run for it back to the visitors center.
As soon as we walked in the door of the visitors center, Mark grabbed two rain ponchos off the shelf and slapped them down next to the cash register. Water was dripping from his soaking wet hair right down his nose as he handed the clerk his credit card. How funny!
Of course, after about half an hour or so the sun came out. So, down the trail we went once again. This time we were not only both wearing our rain jackets but we had our nifty new rain ponchos tucked into our packs too. Surely, that guaranteed the sun would stay out!
We took the shortcut hike from the far end of the parking lot this time, and when we got down to the bridge, the view of the waterfall was lovely. But the falls are set far back from the bridge, and they weren’t nearly as dramatic as the photos we’d seen.
Then we realized that the best spot to see these falls was from under the bridge! Mark waded out into the water with his tripod.
He got some beautiful photos.
Suddenly, he jumped. “Ow!” He said. “I’m getting bitten!” He slapped something off his leg. It was a little lobster looking creature — a crayfish, or a crawdad thing with claws. It had crawled up his leg and nipped him! Yuck!! But the beautiful photos were worth it.
We were both playing with using long shutter speeds to make the water smooth, and soon we noticed that the foam and bubbles at the bottom of the waterfall were drifting downstream and making wonderful patterns on the surface of the water in our photos.
The foam streaked past us in all kinds of interesting lines and shapes. At one point it even flowed in a circle, and I just happened to catch that moment with my camera.
We ended up enjoying Duggers Creek Falls so much — and for so long — that we never made it to Linville Falls. Oh well. Next time!
The last waterfall we visited on the North Carolina end of the Blue Ridge Parkway was Crabtree Falls.
The hike down was pretty easy (although the return trip was a bit of a workout), and the waterfall was a fabulous and dramatically steep cascade over lots of big rocks.
A closeup of a tree in front of the falls made for a beautiful, mystical shot right out of a Tolkien fantasy.
While I had been busy getting my mystical closeup of the tree against the waterfall, I discovered that Mark had been busy taking photos of a cute blonde girl sitting on a rock with the waterfall as a backdrop. Hey! Granted, she’d asked him to take her pic, and sure, she was thrilled to get the photo for her facebook friends. But…
Soon she disappeared up the trail, and we posed ourselves on the same rock to get a nice selfie. How lucky we were to be enjoying another gorgeous waterfall!
There are dozens and dozens of waterfalls along the Blue Ridge Parkway, especially at the southern end. These three — Soco Falls, Duggers Creek Falls and Crabtree Falls — are all stunning waterfalls that are easy to reach.
If you take an RV roadtrip along the Blue Ridge Parkway — whether driving the RV directly on it or driving on the roads nearby — any one of these waterfalls makes for a really fun excursion.
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Here’s a little more about each waterfall:
- Soco Falls – Hiking info and Where it’s located
- Duggers Creek Falls – Hiking info and Where it’s located
- Crabtree Falls – Hiking info and Where it’s located
Other posts from this general area:
- Shenandoah National Park, Virginia – Climbs & Falls! 06/20/15
- Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia) – Waterfalls & Rhododendrons 06/18/15
- Blue Ridge Parkway Highlights (Virginia) – Mills, Music & Farms! 06/14/15
- New River Trail State Park – Galax, VA – Pizza, Beer and Biking! 06/12/15
- Blue Ridge Parkway (North Carolina) – Wildflowers Everywhere! 06/07/15
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We plan on touring that area this year… where did you stay near Cherokee?
We were at the casino
There is something to be said about a waterfall theme. It really gives you an opportunity to dial in the photography technique. All of these photos are all stunningly beautiful, but IMHO the shot with the foam circles is exceptional. Did you use a ND filter or were you blessed with perfect light? Thank you for sharing these photos. 🙂
I didn’t use an ND filter on that photo with the circling foam. The sun came and went every few minutes while we were there, and whenever it went behind a cloud we both jumped into action to try and get as many pics as we could before the sun came out again!