A "secret" waterfall in Dupont State Forest

Upper Grassy Creek Falls - 3
I've been to Dupont State Forest several times over the years to visit its lovely waterfalls. All but one that is, Wintergreen Falls. And then recently I heard about an undocumented waterfall in Dupont State Forest, and that increased my interest in return visit even more. But first I had to locate this undocumented waterfall!

I first heard about this waterfall on the Facebook group North Carolina Waterfalls. Those posting their photos of this waterfall were coy about its exact location, and asking them for more information would have been a waste of time. To get its exact location, I would have to find out on my own.

My first step was to view a few photos of the waterfall to get familiar with what it looked like. A panoramic photo of the waterfall by Christopher Cockfield and a photo by Dan Goodwin both showed a sandy beach area on the left side in front of the waterfall. (Note: I tried to embed these two photos, without success. Sorry!)

I was prepared to pore over a topo map of the area to identify possible locations, but it turns out I didn't even have to do that. I remembered the website WNCWaterfalls.info has a nifty interactive map explorer feature, and I decided to try using that map first.
The logical first place to look (at least to me) were the areas where the major known waterfalls were not. If this waterfall was in a well visited area, I would have been heard about it much sooner.

The map represented known locations with a darker green marker that, when clicked, pops up several tabs of information about the waterfall (including GPS downloads of the location). Lighter green markers are used for suspected or unconfirmed locations of waterfall.

Zooming in to an area of the park I already suspected showed promise.
Switching over to the NC OneMap Aerial satellite view and zooming in produces this view:
The sandy beach area in those Facebook photos matches up well with the view shown here. Waterfall found! Now to schedule some vacation time for a visit.

Yesterday was unusually mild, a perfect day to be outdoors. I picked a good time to take some vacation for a welcome change.

The nearest parking access to this waterfall I knew of was Guion Farms Access Area in the northeastern part of Dupont State Forest. This parking area is off Sky Valley Road in Henderson County, and is paved when coming in from Dupont Road until it passes Old CCC Road, then is unpaved for the rest of the way.
Guion Farm Access Area
Several bicyclists were chatting when I arrived. They headed out while I was getting ready. A sign directs those with horse trailers to park on the right and everyone else on the left.
Parking lot signs
I headed down a short connector trail to Tarkin Branch Road. Like most of the road trails I've encountered in Dupont, they are wide and easy to follow.
Tarkin Branch Road - 1
While I didn't see any horse trailers, or horses today, I did see some horse poop.
Horse poop on the trail
Nice.

The path I selected took me from Tarkin Branch Road to Wintergreen Falls Trail.
Wintergreen Falls Trail turnoff
Wintergreen Falls Trail wasn't as wide as Tarkin Branch Road, but I could still move along at a good clip.
Wintergreen Falls Trail - 3
The trail took a left turn at the intersection with Sandy Trail.
Sandy Trail intersection
A short distance after the left turn is another intersection:
Two waterfall trails
The trail to the left continues on the waterfall WNCWaterfalls.info unofficially names "Upper Wintergreen Falls", but is actually named Upper Grassy Falls [source],  the right fork continues on the Wintergreen Falls. I'll visit Wintergreen Falls first, taking the right trail. This trail narrows and becomes bumpy.
Wintergreen Falls Trail - 6 Wintergreen Falls Trail - 7
Wintergreen Falls is a nice, small waterfall, and doesn't attract as many visitors as High Falls, Triple Falls, and Hooker Falls. Too bad, because it is quite nice, but I can also understand why it isn't as popular.
Wintergreen Falls - 8
Unfortunately, while taking a photo with my tripod, my camera's shutter got stuck, and the camera just displayed "camera error". This is actually an odd problem with my camera, a Sony a55, I've had once before. The problem happens using a Sony battery, but not with third party batteries. The first time it happened, I had to let it set for a few weeks while the rechargeable internal battery completely discharged. Then the camera wouldn't work with my Sony batteries, but would with third party batteries. I foolishly used one of these Sony batteries instead of my usual third party ones, and the camera faulted. I'll be considering my options if I can't revive it this time.

However, I was determined to press on. I still had the camera from my GPS tracker, a Moto E 2015. The camera wouldn't be in the same class quality wise, but at least I'd leave with something to show for it.

I backtracked to the trail to Upper Grassy Falls. This trail was narrow and sometimes windy, yet surprisingly easy to follow. In a just few minutes, I had found my target. To my surprise though, a group of three people were already there, having arrived from a different path. Perhaps this waterfall isn't much of a secret after all?

They took turns with their cameras taking photos from various angles.
Upper Grassy Creek Falls - 1
I did the same, but with my Moto E. Not my best work, but they were much better than nothing, and at least I used landscape mode. Even with the cheap cellphone level image quality, this waterfall looks beautiful.
Upper Grassy Creek Falls - 3 Upper Grassy Creek Falls - 4
Blogger "RAT" visited here back in 2013 and took the same path, except he continued on to other waterfalls afterwards. I had planned to visit Grassy Creek Falls, but with my trusty camera not working I just didn't feel like it.

I was curious, though, which way those other photographers came from. When I left the Guion Fark Access Area, I heading down Sky Valley Road to play a hunch. Beside where Grassy Dam Trail meets the road is a small parking area, enough for three cars, and two cars were parked there. I suspect that's where those people came from. When I get a working camera again, I'll have to come back and investigate this path some other time. It looks shorter, but potentially more strenuous.

I made a Google Map of my trip, with the parking areas and waterfall locations labeled.

I also made the same map with uMap because why not?.
I've shared my trip photos to an album on Flickr and an album on Google Photos.

Comments

  1. Looks like a great hike! How long did it take you? Miles? I'll be looking to get some friends together for a hike real soon :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This route was about 1.5 miles to Wintergreen Falls from the parking area, then about 0.3 more miles to "Upper Grassy Creek Falls" (following the unofficial trail).

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