Boxcar Falls Hike Route Map

Boxcar Falls

Boxcar Falls probably won’t be near the top of anyone’s “must-do” list of North Carolina waterfalls. At barely 15-feet in height (though immensely powerful) the combination of steep trail, ill-defined route, and a potentially dangerous ford will weed out all but the more determined waterfall enthusiasts. Even so, there’s a lot to like about this little cascade. First, it’s not all that long a hike at just over two miles…and the terrain isn’t anything unusually wild for the southern mountains. Secondly, while some may consider the trio of difficulties listed above a detriment, many will consider them to add an enjoyable sense of adventure to an otherwise short and ho-hum hike. Lastly, Boxcar Falls offers solitude. There’s enough visitation of the falls to keep the route mostly clear but I would seriously doubt it attracts anything approaching a crowd. This means that you’ll likely have this beautiful stretch of the North Fork French Broad River all to yourself…complete with its myriad of minor cascades and handful of picture perfect swimming holes. Visiting Boxcar Falls is certainly more about the journey than the destination.

The hike begins from a large pull-off on the outside of a tight curve along Highway NC-215 about 4.1-miles north of U.S. 64. A large boulder sits at the edge of the gravel with two paths departing beyond it. The route to Boxcar follows the one on the left, which immediately begins the steep descent into the North Fork gorge. The first quarter-mile is the most strenuous part of the hike, coming or going. In barely over a quarter-mile the trail loses over 300-feet of elevation. Keep in mind when you’re descending…you have to re-climb this on the return. The path bottoms out along the river beside a large backcountry campsite. The route turns upstream from this spot…the path should still be obvious. You’ll now embark on a 4/10-mile journey along the edge, sometimes quite literally, of the North Fork Pigeon River. Most of the way the route remains obvious, though it does tend to get a bit narrower and more overgrown the farther from the campsite you get. A number of pretty cascades are seen along this stretch as well as at least one fantastic swimming hole, with a gigantic boulder at its upper end. Now you have a ford to make.

Judge the crossing carefully, the North Fork is no joke. I made the crossing at average water flow and the current was still surprisingly strong, and it was knee to thigh deep all the way across.  There's no way you would want to attempt it after a good rain.  Beyond the crossing you'll emerge next to a small sand beach which would offer a nice campsite as long as the river doesn't rise on you.  The trail gets a bit rougher also.  You can tell the ford weeds out a lot of potential visitors.  It's only a quarter-mile to the falls though so it goes fairly quick.  Boxcar Falls is located at the upper end of a huge pool just upstream from a small island.  The only good way to see them is to pick one of the large sloping rocks at the lower end of the pool and get as far out as you can.  The falls isn't super impressive from this distance but their power is unmistakable as the entire North Fork is squeezed through a rocky cleft barely ten feet wide.  That and the huge, rock-lined pool of clear mountain water lying beneath it makes for a stunningly wild scene.  Enjoy it...you'll likely have it all to yourself.  To return, just retrace your steps!

There's not much else I can say regarding Boxcar Falls.  It's an adventure, but nothing overwhelming to the seasoned mountain waterfaller.  It's not for the rookie, however...you need experience on this one despite the short distance.  That said, it's my pleasure to share with you my hike to Boxcar Falls on the North Fork Pigeon River...as always, ENJOY!!


Trailhead GPS Coordinates:  35.184166, -82.848273


Route Type:  Out-and-back       Difficulty:  MODERATE  (Petzoldt Rating:  3.20 )

Hike Length:  2.2 miles                Hike Duration:  1:30

Trailhead Temp:  75'F                 Trail Traffic:  NONE!!

Min. Elevation:  2,360'                  Max. Elevation:  2,700'

Total Vertical Gain:  500'             Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile:  227'


Trails Used (blaze color):  Boxcar Falls/Rail Grade Path (unblazed)


6-25-20

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