Middle Prong Falls & Little Beartrap Falls Hike Route Map

Middle Prong & Little Beartrap Falls (10-6-18)

Even the simplest of hikes don’t always go as planned. So it was on this particular trek into the Middle Prong area of Pisgah National Forest. My original intention was to visit a trifecta of waterfalls located along the lower end of the Haywood Gap Trail. As you can tell by the title of the album, however, I only made it to two. It wasn’t due to the difficulty of the hike, just poor planning on my part as I had failed to adequately charge my camera before setting out. Therefore what you will find in this album is a very short hike to a pair rather than a trio of waterfalls. I doubt you’ll feel short-changed, though, if you follow along with me…I certainly didn’t at the time. The two waterfalls in question, Little Beartrap and Middle Prong, are wonderful places to visit. Neither is particularly easy to get to, despite their short distance from a trailhead, and each has its own unique feel which makes for pleasant variety. This means that a hike to these two cascades is fairly quick but requires just enough effort to make it feel like you’ve been on a bit of an adventure.

The starting point for this hike, the northern terminus of the Haywood Gap Trail, is fairly remote but ultimately quite accessible if you know where you’re looking. It begins at a point along Forest Road 97 about 1.8-miles up from where it leaves NC-215. The trail starts on the outside of a sharp right-hand curve where a small brown sign marks the gated FR-97H. The trail begins beyond the gate. Within a tenth of mile the wide level trail reaches a crossing of Little Beartrap Branch where a pretty ten foot waterfall drops almost right down onto the trail. Though a scenic little cascade, the true Little Beartrap Falls is unseen a short distance upstream from this point. There’s no trail to Little Beartrap, getting to it requires a combination of scrambling, rock-hopping, and creek walking. I wouldn’t recommend it for the average visitor but if you’re comfortable with steep off-trail travel I doubt you’ll have much of a problem. The waterfall itself is quite pretty though not overly large, with the top-most thirty feet being the most scenic as the narrow creek fans out across a series of slanted ledges.

To continue onto Middle Prong Falls one keeps walking past Little Beartrap branch via the Haywood Gap Trail. In another minute Berry Branch is crossed and, about a tenth of a mile later the path passes through the first of four old road cuts you’ll need to take note of. The second is in another quarter-mile on a sharp bend. About a tenth of a mile past this second cut are the third and fourth cuts, which are located a couple hundred feet apart on a straight stretch of trail. In between the third and fourth cuts the faint spur path down to Middle Prong Falls can be found on the left. This spur path is STEEP. Frequent use of hand-holds and a close watch on your footsteps are a necessity to reach the river safely. With care, though, you should make it just fine and you’ll arrive along the river in rugged chasm just below Middle Prong Falls. The setting is spectacular as it is wild. The river is impressively forceful as it crashes over the falls and all around dark rock walls rise above. Just below the river disappears over yet another cascade which, due to the wet conditions, I wasn’t able to explore further. It’s a fantastically wild place…you certainly feel like you’re in a spot much further from your car than the short three-quarters of a mile you walked to get here.

As I said earlier my original intent was to get back up on the Haywood Gap Trail and keep heading south a bit longer to seek out Big Beartrap Falls as well. With a dead camera, however, I decided to save it for another trip. I could hardly feel short-changed, however, as you’ll see considering the two wonderful cascades I was able to visit this day. Overall this was a pleasant, if very short hike. I wouldn’t say it’s suitable for just anyone but if you’ve had experience visiting moderately difficult waterfalls before you’ll likely be ok. With that said, come on along with me on a quick waterfall hike to two lesser-visited cascades of Pisgah National Forest…and, as always…ENJOY!!!


Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.356860, -82.945553


Route Type:  Out-and-back + spur

Difficulty:  MODERATE  (Petzoldt Rating:  2.88 )

Hike Length:  2.2 miles                Hike Duration:  1:45

Trailhead Temp:  75'F                  Trail Traffic:  1-5 people

Min. Elevation:  3,550'                  Max. Elevation:  3,750'

Total Vertical Gain:  340'             Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile:  155'


Trails Used (Blaze Color):

Haywood Gap (unblazed), Middle Prong Falls Spur (unblazed)



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