Paradise & Upper Sol's Creek Falls (6-4-15)
Paradise and Upper Sol's Creek Falls are two fantastic cascades located just off NC-281 between Lake Toxaway and Tuckasegee. Neither involves a lengthy hike but neither offer official marked trails to see them either, requiring good directions to find the trailheads. Rather than explain it here I'd advise you to pick up Kevin Adam's guide which has the best driving and trail directions I've found to either of the falls. I had intended to visit these two for a while but, with one hike (to Paradise) reportedly being quite strenuous despite the short length and the other (Upper Sol's) being a quasi-bushwhack, I wanted just the right day to undertake the rigors each offered.
First up was Paradise Falls. At 100-feet tall and located where tiny Wolf Creek makes a dramatic plunge into a towering slot canyon, this falls is a popular place to visit so if you find the trailhead the path isn't a hard one to follow. The terrain you have to cross is another thing altogether though. Halfway in you have to cross Wolf Creek on a rock hop which would be dangerous in high water. Then, the second half of the hike involves a steep and muddy plunge into the gorge beneath the falls. It's worth the effort though as you'll see. As is my M.O. I did wander around a bit once I reached the falls but I wouldn't recommend trying to get where I went unless you're a bit of a seasoned hiker (read: waterfall masochist). Paradise Falls is a true wonder and, as did Kevin Adams in his book, I found myself wondering what kind of spectacle this cascade must have been before Wolf Creek Dam was constructed upstream restricting its flow. The smoothly sculpted cliffs and massive potholes at its base provide good visual evidence of the monster it once was.
Upper Sol's Creek Falls requires a completely different kind of hike. Though located within Nantahala National Forest the only access is through a small piece of private property which, as of the time of this hike, the owner does permit. Please just be respectful. It only takes one idiot and this amazing wonder could be blocked off from everyone else. The first half of the 3/4 mile hike to the falls followed a heavily overgrown path down an old roadbed. When I visited, though overgrown, the 'path' was fairly obvious but don't necessarily count on it to be that way when you visit! The second half of the hike involves at minimum three stream crossings, one of which you will get wet on without high-topped waterproof boots. In high water you might as well forget trying. Winding up and along the increasingly steep stream bank you are eventually deposited directly into the stream bed for the final 100-yard walk to the base of the falls. Everything comes together just right at this falls. A shear drop combined with a multi-tiered slide...the solitude...the overhanging and (when I visited) flowering rhododendron. It was an almost magical setting. So, enough of my rambling...come on along with me and see what I discovered...
Paradise Falls Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.225551, -83.003568
Upper Sols Creek Falls Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.258986, -83.022235
Hike Length: ~1.5 miles (total) Hike Duration: 2:00 (total)
Trailhead Temp: 70'F
Min. Elevation: 2,700' Max. Elevation: 3,500'
Total Vertical Gain: ~400' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 230'
Trails Used (blaze color): Paradise Falls Trail (unblazed), Upper Sols Creek Falls Path (unblazed/unofficial)