I am usually unable to hike on weekdays due to my having to work nights but ever since our last trip to the Upper Wilderness Falls in Feb. 2012, our waterfall crazy friend Dave Aldridge has been wanting us to take him there not only to see them but so he could measure their height as well. The opportunity for this came on Thursday, April 25, 2012. After meeting up with Dave and Bol’Dar at Hairnt Quarters around 9 am, we were at the Longarm Branch trail head and hiking past the Lower Longarm Branch Falls by 10 am. It was a cloudy day to start out but we knew from the forecast that this would soon burn off and become too sunny for any quality waterfall photo`s but I was glad to be out enjoying Nature anyway and besides, I got some fair shots on our last trip here and I am sure we will be coming back here again in the future as it is such an awesome place. The water levels were surprisingly high so we were excited as we passed the lower falls and made our way to the first of many creek crossings. The numerous small falls and cascades found along the Longarm Branch were as beautiful as ever as we made our way up the rocky hill towards our first stop which would be the Upper Longarm Branch Falls.
We could not resist stopping to enjoy and attempt to photograph some of the many small falls and cascades along the way but I tried to get up the mountain as quickly as possible in hopes of at least reaching the Upper Longarm Branch Falls before the bright sun came out, as I could see it was getting brighter with every passing minute.There was water flowing in from many feeder sources on each side as we continued up the long hill towards the upper falls. These do dry up in the warmer months but make for some nice cascades during the wet weather season. We reached what we call the ‘Buzzard Rock‘ within about an hour of hiking and knew we were not far from from the upper falls, only one more short but steep climb.We reached the Upper Longarm Branch Falls just in time to get a few shots before the sun burned through the clouds.
There has not been this much water coming off these falls the last few times we were here so we spent some time enjoying them and a snack break before moving on up the road to the top of the falls where we took another break to show Dave the really cool area at the top there. You can see that the falls really go much higher than can be seen from the bottom and it is one of my favorite spots to hang out at.
From there we continued on the old road for another mile or so until we finally reached the other old forest road that goes off to the left and dead ends on the ridge above the Upper Wilderness Falls. I decided to give Dave the full tour from the top down so we opted to continue further up and around the corner to the another old road on the left that leads down into the Devil Fork Valley. Bol’Dar was surprised by this action as it is harder going this way, but easily agreed so we continued that way until we reached the correct water source for the Wilderness Falls and proceeded to go off trail towards the top of the Upper Wilderness Falls. This seemed further than it did on our last trip here but for some odd reason it seemed easier to get through the blow-downs and growth that was much thicker this time. It did not take but a few minutes to reach the place where the creek starts dropping rapidly down to the steep drop off where the top of the falls are located.
These falls are very unique in that aspect as there is at least 40 feet or so that drops before reaching the top of the vertical part of the falls where it then drops about that much further. Of course the upper part can not be seen from the bottom nor can the bottom part be seen from the upper (unless you are standing right on the top of the vertical part) but each is rather awesome. The top begins as a cascade and then as it drops more sharply, becomes more of an actual falls as it plummets down cutting beneath some tall rock formations where it then crashes into a huge log about halfway down before continuing to fall that much farther where it gets even steeper before it goes over some other rock obstacles and levels out just before going over the edge of the more vertical part of the falls as seen from the bottom. I spent as much time here as I could as I think this is an amazing place and it is apparent that hardly anyone knows about it or ever comes here.
In order to get down from there to the bottom of the falls, one must climb down a rather steep and rocky cliff-like descent. It looks more intimidating than it actually is and if you take the right path you can make it down without much danger. You just need to be very careful and choose the right levels to be on. Since we had done this before, we showed Dave the proper procedure and soon he and Bol’Dar were standing at the bottom looking up at me and these magnificent falls. After taking a few pics of them and the falls from that angle I soon made my way down and joined them.
We hung out there for quite awhile soaking in the vast amount of beauty these falls have to offer before deciding to leave. Dave was eager to continue on down to the Middle Wilderness Falls and go down them and out the Wilderness Valley back to the road and I was almost stupid enough to go along with it but, Bol’Dar quickly brought both of us back to our senses as that is just too extreme for Dave’s ability (in our opinion). We opted instead to climb up the super steep hill from the bottom of the falls there to reach the top of the ridge where the old dead end forest road is located which would lead easily back to the Longarm Branch Trail where we were earlier. This was quite a climb, but taking our time and a few rest breaks ,,, (find Dave),,, and following some invisible switchbacks, we were on the spine of the ridge in a short time where the going became much easier and soon we were catching our breath near the top. The end of the old road is there where some wild Ladyslippers were growing.
It felt good to be back on level ground for a change and after a rest there I felt this urge to take the ridge back but we followed the old road the short distance back to the Longarm Ridge trail and followed it back the way we had came. I could not help but notice a ‘fireball‘ laying in the trail. On our last trip here I had found a wrapper for one and had wondered if perhaps,,,, but this time it had a fireball in it !!! I wonder,,,,hmmmm,, surely not,,,,,, Nahhh,,couldn’t be,,,!!! Going back was much quicker and after what seemed like only a few minutes we were looking over at the Upper Longarm Branch Falls again. The light was still bright but at a different angle so I managed to get a couple decent shots before we continued down the trail back towards the vehicle. Dave took a much needed rest here.
It was downhill all the way back and after completing all the creek crossings we soon found ourselves back at the last crossing and the Lower Longarm Branch Falls and then the vehicle. It was nowhere near dark and I was not exhausted so work would not be that bad. Anytime in the woods especially when waterfalls are involved is a good time and I can`t wait until the next trip.
To see more photo`s of these and many more waterfalls, please visit our Photo Gallery here.