DuPont State Forest - Upper Grassy Falls & Wintergreen Falls (10-14-18)
DuPont State Forest is certainly not a place I ever go expecting to be alone. Its extreme and, let’s be honest deserved, popularity results in crowds that make visiting the forest less than appealing to me most days. So you can imagine my surprise when recently I noticed a waterfall marked on one of my maps which I hadn’t heard of before at DuPont and, from what I could determine, had no official trail leading to them. Could it be I found an as-yet relatively undiscovered natural gem within DuPont. I immediately decided I needed to find out. The waterfall in question was labeled Upper Grassy Falls on my map and is located upstream from the more well-known Wintergreen Falls on Grassy Creek. Doing a bit of research I found out that there is indeed a path running to Upper Grassy but it’s not marked or maintained by the N.C. Forest Service. This was a good sign that, yes, this might just be a rarest-of-rare places in DuPont…a place I might get to be alone. The next day, I set out to see if I was right.
The trailhead, unsigned and unmarked, is located off Sky Valley Road. A simple cable gate and a small ‘foot travel only’ sign are the only indicators at the start of the route. The path enters the woods beyond the gate and within a minute breaks into the open at an old field. It’s not clear where to go at this point but the trail re-enters the woods directly opposite of where it reaches the field so just find your way around or across it the best way you can. Once back in the woods the trail is faint but it’s fairly obvious…at least it was when I visited as the forest floor was still green making the route more obvious. As the path seeks out the far side of the ridge it stays fairly level and passes some large open rock faces just uphill on the right. As it swings around the far side of the ridge it begins a gradual to moderate descent that gets steeper the closer to the river it gets. Along the way is crosses a couple small patches of bare rock which could be slippery when wet. Just before reaching the creek, with the waterfall now clearly heard below, the trail gets fairly steep before arriving at a split. Take a right. The trail continues steeply downward through the thick rhododendron. Watch for a side path that leads out onto the sloping open rocks beneath the upper drop of the falls. This is the first spot to enjoy a close-up look at Upper Grassy.
Be careful heading out onto the open rock…it was mossy and damp when I visited. Above the upper 15-foot drop of Upper Grassy Falls spreads out into a veil of water rushing down the rock face alongside you. Just below the bottom 15-foot drop of the cascade ends in a beautiful little swimming hole complete with a sandy beach. Pick up the trail again to get the rest of the way down to said beach, looking for another short scramble path on the left for access. You’ll notice in this album the beach was under knee-deep water but we had experienced fairly heavy rains the night before. I’m fairly confident in normal conditions one can visit the bottom of the falls and stay dry. Oh, and I was right…I was the only one there!! I had a DuPont State Forest waterfall to myself! Amazing! After getting the shots I wanted and drying my feet I decided to continue downstream as the path seemed to be leading in the direction of nearby Wintergreen Falls. It’s only about a quarter-mile between the two cascades and the trail continued to be fairly easy to follow. There are a few side paths along the way which lead down to the river but just stay right at these splits and you’ll stay in the correct route. The trail wanders up and down along the steep hillside and before long emerges at the official trail to Wintergreen Falls a short distance downstream from the cascade. Taking a left I was soon sitting on the rocks in front of Wintergreen Falls itself. For my return I’d simply retrace my steps.
Overall this was an enjoyable and short little hike which offers solitude the likes of which is absent in most parts of DuPont. At around two-miles in length it’s a fairly easy walk, though the climb back out is a bit steep…for this area, however, it still definitely qualifies as non-strenuous. I wouldn’t recommend this hike for just anyone however. The fact that the trail is un-maintained means that there are places where you need to pay close attention to stay on the right track, that and because you’ll likely be alone out there you need to be competent enough to get yourself there and back should trouble arise. If you go, though, you’ll find a beautiful little cascade that few others have the good fortune of visiting. That in itself makes this a gem of a waterfall. That said, come along with me as I visit a rare quiet corner of DuPont State Forest. As always…ENJOY!!
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.20067, -82.58204
Route Type: Out-and-back Difficulty: MODERATE
Hike Length: 2.0 miles Hike Duration: 1:30
Trailhead Temp: 60'F Trail Traffic: None!!!
Min. Elevation: 2,550' Max. Elevation: 2,950'
Total Vertical Gain: 400' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 400' (all on return)
Trails Used (blaze color): Upper Grassy Falls (unblazed), Wintergreen Falls (unblazed)