I’m sure that those of you who keep up with changes in Western North Carolina trails know that the trailhead to Horsepasture River has changed. My first hiking guide, Hiking the Carolina Mountains, is being reprinted again and I have to update this hike.
So I checked it out. Gorges State Park is getting a new visitor center soon and has a new loop road.
Now onto the hike.
Previously, hikers parked at Gorges State Park and walked on the road to the entrance to Nantahala National Forest.
Now, there’s a brand new trailhead in Gorges, Grassy Ridge. Like all state parks, this trail is immaculate. It’s lined with pebbles, for less erosion.
We hit four waterfalls.
Rainbow Falls and Turtleback (see the top photo) are the most popular because they’re right on the trail. At the far end of the trail, you can only look at Drift Falls through a screen of Private Property signs. And if you keep a sharp eye out for a trail wand, you’ll find a sign to Stairway Falls – see the picture to the left.
The most difficult one to reach, Windy Falls, is down a trail in Nantahala Forest that is no longer maintained. It’s a 1,000 feet down, which means a 1,000 feet back up. Several blowdowns block the trail. A couple of people died when they slid down the rocks. So this waterfall is not recommended.
But you have four beautiful waterfalls all in 5.1 miles and 1,000 easy feet of ascent. You can’t ask for anything more.