Easy access and proximity to Asheville make this one of the best after-work getaways in the area. This also makes it a highly congested area, especially in the summer. This 1.5-mile trail is wide and well worn, climbing moderately to the base of a 100-foot cascade. For the adventurous, an unofficial trail leads up alongside the cascade to another, more secluded waterfall. Although these falls have attracted waterfall hunters since the late 1800s, official public access fluctuated until the Forest Service made a key land purchase in 2005 that ensured access for years to come.
Beginning at the trailhead, hikers will travel over a wide and level path until they reach a shallow stream crossing that is about 50 feet long. While it is relatively easy to keep your feet dry by rock hopping at low and moderate flows, it may be difficult or impossible to make the crossing without getting your feet wet when levels rise after rains.
Beyond the crossing, the ruins of an old hydroelectric power plant can be found on both sides of the trail. Built in 1920 to provide power for the town of Old Fort, the dam that diverted water to these buildings lies just upstream at the top of a small cascade. The remains of a smaller hydroelectric facility powered by water from the Chestnut Branch is located adjacent to the dam structure.
The trail becomes more rugged after the dam, but the massive cascade is just around the corner. Unlike many waterfalls, access to the base is unrestricted, and it is common to see people clambering around the boulder jumble just below. With this in mind, use caution because the rocks are often slick with mist and moss. Take a dip, drop a fishing line, and enjoy the cool spray.
An unofficial trail parallels the viewer's right side of the falls and leads to a more secluded waterfall and pool, but it is steep and perilous. It requires the use of ropes and has significant exposure, so it is not recommended. The Forest Service is seeking a sustainable trail route to access the upper falls, but it does not currently have an estimate on when trail construction will begin.