Buckeye Falls (7-3-17)
Buckeye Falls is a small but scenic waterfall hidden deep within the Middle Prong Wilderness of Pisgah National Forest. At about 60' in total height, the falls themselves are comprised of a long series of cascades rather than one dramatic drop which, in my opinion, only adds to the overall beauty of the scene. That, and the surrounding rocks which are covered in a thick carpet of moss almost create a tropical-like atmosphere. This is a fantastic little waterfall to visit, that is if you care to take the considerable effort required to reach them.
The route to the falls begins off the Blue Ridge Parkway at the point where the Mountains-to-Sea Trail crosses it at Haywood Gap (MP 426.5) a few miles south of Highway 215. The hike begins by following the MST into the woods to the south where, after only a few hundred feet the trail reaches a signed intersection. Here, the MST takes a right (east) while the lightly traveled Haywood Gap Trail goes left. When I visited in July the HGT was noticeable but heavily overgrown, at least at the start. Starting down the Haywood Gap Trail the path begins its descent of the ridge through a beautifully open high-elevation cove forest. As the trail descends, however, the valley narrows and becomes progressively steeper and more rugged. Perhaps a half-mile in the path begins to follow alongside the scenic waters of Haywood Gap Stream. Mostly, the trail stays above it but, on occasion, pulls right alongside the stream and passes a number of scenic little unnamed cascades. About halfway down the ridge the valley narrows to a point where the trail is, at times, forced up away from the river over a series of short but steep climbs and then descents. At the 1.3-mile mark the Haywood Gap Trail reaches the Middle Prong West Fork Pigeon River. This is where the fun begins.
Upon reaching Middle Prong the route to Buckeye Falls leaves the trail and heads upstream via the river itself. If the water is low its an easy rock-hop a few hundred yards upstream to where Buckeye Creek comes in from the left, joining with Haywood Gap Stream to form Middle Prong. The crossing here is a bit tricky as the two streams cascade down swift narrow channels down a steep mossy ledge. Careful scrambling is required. Once across to Buckeye Creek its a 0.2-mile ascent of the stream to the falls themselves. Unfortunately, Buckeye Creek is a bit more than a simple rock-hop. The streambed is narrow and the rocks are large and slick. Deadfall also blocks the route initially. A short distance upstream you'll encounter a series of three scenic cascades. Don't be tricked into thinking this is the falls, they're a short distance further upstream yet. Also, while pretty, these three cascades pose more difficulties. Getting up and around each of them requires ascending slick, moss-covered ledges or gnarly bushwhacks up the surrounding hillsides to pass. This is the most difficult part of the entire hike. Once you get past the cascades, though, the stream levels out and you'll soon see Buckeye Falls cascading from the forested valley ahead.
Like I stated earlier, the falls themselves are not comprised of a single drop but a series of them as the waters of Buckeye Creek tumble from numerous ledges of varying size. There's endless opportunities for photographs here as each individual cascade is a worthy photo subject in itself. Also, the surrounding ledges are all covered in a dense blanket of green moss which only highlights the beauty of the scene. If you've managed to make it, you'll find Buckeye Falls worth the effort to find. So, without further adieu, I present to you the wild and wonderful Buckeye Falls...as always, ENJOY!!!
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.313506, -82.953973
Route Type: Out-and-back Difficulty: HARD
Mileage Hiked: 3.6 miles Hike Duration: 3:00
Trailhead Temp: 65'F Trail Traffic: None!
Min. Elevation: 4,250' Max. Elevation: 5,225'
Total Vertical Gain: 1,050' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 292'
Trails Used (Blaze Color):
Mountains-to-Sea (white), Haywood Gap (unblazed)