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Rock Creek Falls

Posted by on May 1, 2011

Upper Rock Creek Falls

One of my favorite places to visit is Rock Creek Park just outside of Erwin, TN.  This beautiful place with towering Hemlocks  was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s.  It’s a great place for many family activities… camping (with nice tent pads and restrooms), afternoon cookouts with  playgrounds, biking, swimming (in a concrete spring-fed pond also built by the CCC), or for different levels of hiking.  You can take a short, easy stroll around the park on the nicely maintained trails, or hike some of the more strenuous trails.  One very difficult trail named Rattlesnake Ridge will take you almost to the top of Unaka Mountain at the “Pleasant Garden” overlook, while some the other trails lead to beautiful waterfalls.

I decided for this trek to take Cherokee N.F. Trail #148… the Rock Creek Falls trail.  This is a beautiful and nicely maintained blue-blazed trail.  There are four (fairly easy) stream crossings on the way up, and you do ascend about 1200 feet in elevation, so I would classify this hike as moderately difficult.  There are three very pretty waterfalls… lower, middle, and upper Rock Creek Falls.  The most scenic in my opinion is the upper falls which is the terminus of the trail.  I only photographed the lower and upper on this hike as the middle falls are deep in the ravine and very difficult to get down to.

See the hike planner below for detailed info.  This hike can be 4.0 to 5.0 miles in length depending on where you park your vehicle inside the park.

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Overall
Recommendation:

Beautiful waterfall hike for those reasonably fit.

Outstanding
Features:

Waterfalls, CCC constructed park, towering Hemlocks.

Difficulty:
Difficult.

Driving:
From I-26 take the Erwin Main Street exit (#36), and turn toward town.  You will soon come to a stop light… take a left here on Highway 107.  Drive 0.5 mile, and turn left at the stop light onto Rock Creek Road (Rt. 395).  Continue for another 3.1 miles and turn left into the entrance of Rock Creek Park.  Depending on the time of year, the main gates to the upper sections of the park may be closed, and you will need to park near the playgrounds.  If so, walk up the road toward the bathhouse.  If the gates ARE open you can park near the bathhouse making your hike a little shorter.

Trails:
At the bathhouse, keep walking up the road for a few yards and you will see a trail on your left designated by signs (the Hemlock Trail).  Take this nicely maintained (graveled) trail for 0.4 miles until you come to a bridge.  Instead of taking the bridge, just keep going toward your right.  You will soon see the CNF Trail #148 sign (Rock Creek Falls).  This is a blue-blazed trail.  You will need to make four fords across the creek at various points, but rocks have been placed nicely across the stream to allow hopping without getting wet (unless you slip!).  After the 4th stream crossing you will make a steep climb and will soon see Lower Rock Creek Falls down in the ravine on your left.  There is a steep trail that is not overly difficult if you wish to climb down to get a more up-close look at the lower falls.  Continue on up the main trail for another couple tenths of a mile to see the middle falls down in the ravine, and to arrive at the upper falls.

Needed
Gear & Tips:

Bring trekking poles to help with the steep climb, descent, and for stability while crossing the streams.

Distance:
Approximately 4.0 miles round-trip.

Time
Allotment:

3-4 hours.

Type:
Out & Back.

Vista
Rating (1-5):

1.5 – Very limited elevated mountain views

Waterfall
Rating (based on a 1-50 scale):

Rock Creek Falls (LOWER): H(3) + F(5) + V(2) + W(1) + G(3+3+2) = 19

Upper Rock Creek Falls (UPPER):  H(5) + F(5) + V(4) + W(1) + G(3+5+7)=30

Water
Crossings (one way):

Four – moderate.  You should be able to stay dry if you use caution while rock hopping.

Scrambling/Climbing:
None.

Hazards:
Slippery slopes and steep areas.

Maps/GPS
info:

None.

More
Information:

 

 

 

2 Responses to Rock Creek Falls

  1. Ben Trotter

    The one time I hiked this was one cold winter day. Rock Creek Campground had barely a dusting of snow on the ground. About the time I got to the wilderness boundary…it was 6 inches. When I got to the top, I noticed my water bladder and lunch completely frozen through. About a foot when I reached the falls

    Going out was harder than coming in. I had to slide on my butt in a couple places because my yack-tracks had iced up.

    I came out completely covered in snow and my shoelaces had huge gobs of ice hanging on them.

    • Olivia Crick

      I have hiked this trail twice now. If you don’t want to get soaking wet, don’t go during the spring months, there is no such thing as rock hopping. The water is very high, strong, and freezing. It’s pretty much all uphill after the .5 mi marker which I have found to be the first water crossing.

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