Steels Creek Falls Route Map

Steels Creek Falls

Steels Creek Falls has been on my radar for quite some time now.  Flowing from the Blue Ridge east of Linville Gorge, the relentless and powerful waters of tiny Steels Creek have carved out some of the most dramatic potholes and pools contained at any waterfall in the region.  It looked, through other pics I'd seen, completely unlike any other cascade I'd ever visited.  I therefore wanted my first visit to this spectacular place to be on just the right day so I might capture it in a way I'd be happy with.  On this humid day in late June I finally got my chance.

The trail to Steels Creek Falls is a short one, but don't confuse that to mean its easy.  The trail starts from the end of Forest Road 228, off Highway 181 north of Morganton.  For the first quarter-mile or so the path is level and easy.  Then it reaches Steels Creek where you're forced to make a tricky ford of the stream.  Despite the plethora of rocks strewn across it, the crossing of the creek is trickier than it looks.  In high water it would be foolish to attempt it.  Once across though the trail soon links up with the Mountain-to-Sea-Trail, which continues to follow the creek upstream.  A steep climb and equally steep descent soon follow at which point the trail all but enters the creek for about a hundred feet before once again attacking the neighboring ridge.  This stretch is the most strenuous of the hike but it is thankfully short-lived.  Once atop the ridge the trail levels out a bit for the last quarter-mile to the falls.  Not long after the point where you can start hearing the roar of the falls ahead and below an unmarked spur trail breaks right down the steep slope towards the creek.  It's fairly obvious but it could be missed if one isn't paying attention.  The spur path is steep and muddy and emerges just below the falls.  The best views of the falls, however, are from the sloping rock ledge which extends from the bottom of the spur.  If you don't feel comfortable heading out on the rock, DON'T!  A fall here would almost certainly kill you.  The views of the falls from the ledge are good but certainly not worth risking your life over if you're not comfortable on this type of terrain.

The falls themselves are around 30-feet in total height as the river makes multiple drops from one huge pothole to the next in a twisting series of cascades quite unlike any other in the state.  Its a magnificent sight, its unique beauty a thing of wonder.  This one is an instant classic.  Steels Creek Falls was worth the wait...and I can't wait to go again.  So, without further adieu I present to you the wonderful Steels Creek always, ENJOY!

Trailhead GPS Coordinates:  35.912662, -81.839227

Route Type:  Out-and-back                Difficulty:  MODERATE  (Petzoldt Rating:  2.60 )

Mileage Hiked:  2.0 miles                     Hike Duration:  1:30

Trailhead Temp:  75'F                          Trail Traffic:  5-10 people

Min. Elevation:  1,450'                           Max. Elevation:  1,700'

Total Vertical Gain:  300'                     Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile:  150'

Trails Used (blaze color):  Mountains-to-Sea (white), Steels Creek (unblazed)


  • No Comments