South Harper Creek Falls, Avery County (3-25-17) - dwhike
South Harper Creek Falls

South Harper Creek is one of the highest waterfalls in the Grandfather Ranger District and I am at a loss as to explain why it has taken me so long to visit.  It's a beauty, and one I'm going to need to go back to for reasons I'll explain in a bit.  The falls itself is a steep two-tiered sliding cascade which has to be nearly 150-feet in height.  Surrounded by massive rock cliffs the setting is about as equally magnificent as the falls themselves.  All this and its a fairly easy hike to boot.

The falls sit deep within the Harper Creek area of the Grandfather Ranger District not far from the remote mountain community of Kanawha.  From the trailhead along Forest Road 58 the Harper Creek Trail follows a leisurely ridge-top route for the first mile-and-a-half all the way to South Harper Creek.  Once reaching the stream the Harper Creek Trail is met by the Raider Camp Trail coming in from the right.  Here, you have a choice.  You can either see the falls from above or from below...I highly recommend doing both, and that was my intent.  Unfortunately I was running short on time and only ended up getting to the overlook above.  Turning right on the Raider Camp Trail I crossed the creek and started climbing the ridge on the far side.  A half-mile later I was standing atop a precarious rock ledge staring down at South Harper Creek Falls itself.  What a spot this is!  Despite the relatively distant view the size and majesty of the falls is still an incredible sight to see from this high vantage point.  My biggest complaint on this afternoon was the lack of clouds which prevented me from getting as nice a collection of pictures as I wanted.  No complaints though, it was still an amazing spot.

After the overlook it was my original intent to return to the Harper Creek Trail and continue down to the base of the falls and see them from below, which I had read and been told was even more amazing than seeing them from above.  Time was not on my side, however, and I reluctantly had to satisfy myself with only a brief stop at the upper brink of the falls.  Vowing to return another day, I made the pleasant trek back to the car.  As you can tell this is a hike I definitely enjoyed and would highly recommend.  I can't say I'd trust to taking young children on it, however...there are just too many places things could go terribly wrong near the falls and/or atop the cliff.  Otherwise, GO! This is a good one!  So, without further adieu, come on along with me and let the pictures do the talking...as always, ENJOY!


Trailhead GPS Coordinates:  35.988369, -81.824838


Mileage Hiked:  3.9 miles                    Hike Duration:  1:45

Trailhead Temp:  65'F                         Trail Traffic:  1-5 people

Min. Elevation:  2,180'                          Max. Elevation:  2,500'

Total Vertical Gain:  450'                    Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile:  115'