Sunday, March 31, 2019

Anniversary Weekend 2019 part 1: Deep Creek Waterfalls Loop

New Miles Completed: 2.5
Total Miles Hiked: 5.7
29 March 2019

Sarah and I try to get away for a weekend every year around our anniversary. We usually get a cabin somewhere around the Smokies and go for a hike or two. This year we chose to stay in Bryson City, NC at a really nice little cabin. On Saturday March 29th we did some trails around the Deep Creek area.

Deep Creek trails

The Deep Creek section in and around the campground are kind of a warren of trails connecting the main trails and the parking lots and the side trails... The trails traced in red are what we did, but there were at least a few other "trails" that we did to make sure we didn't miss anything important.

Started out at the horse parking lot at the Noland Divide trailhead near the entrance to Deep Creek campground. After just a 100 feet or so the Deep Creek Horse trail turns right (north).

Noland Divide trailhead at Deep Creek campground

Deep Creek Horse Trail beginning
Deep Creek Horse Trail parallels the road into Deep Creek Campground on the ridge to the west of, and above the road. In spite of being a horse trail, it's in pretty good shape. After just about a mile you reach the side trail to Juney Whank Falls. This is a really nice cascade with a neat wooden bridge that spans the creek at the falls, complete with wooden benches.

Juney Whank Falls
The trails kind of makes a circle around Juney Whank Falls: Deep Creek Horse Trail going above the falls, and meeting up with the Juney Whank Trail that goes down to the parking lot. So after walking the short trail at the falls, we went back up and did the trail above the falls. Then we did the trail down to the parking lot. Then we did the trail back up from the parking lot... A bunch of backtracking!

Some of the trail signs around the Deep Creek Horse Trail / Juney Whank Trail
After completing this somewhat confusing chunk, we headed on up the Deep Creek Horse trail. Near the northern end of the horse trail is a sign that says "Cemetery" and points up a manway along Hammer Creek. We figured "here we are, what the heck!" so we headed up the trail. And I do mean UP! The trail is not long (graffiti on the cemetery sign says 0.7 miles), but it is straight up hill! The cemetery at the top is called the Hammer Creek Cemetery or the Wiggins Cemetery and apparently contains the graves of 5 Wiggins children. Three of the graves are marked with recent stones, while the other two unmarked. Sad to imagine a family losing 5 children! Needless to say, the hike back down went much faster than the hike up...

Side trail to Hammer Branch cemetery

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) - one of the earliest spring wildflowers
Shortly after the cemetery side trail we reached the end of the Deep Creek Horse trail at its junction with the Deep Creek trail. This junction must have been an old home site - there was Forsythia and Flowering Quince growing here, both of which are non-native but oft-planted ornamentals. I had previously done Deep Creek all the way from Newfound Gap Road all the way down to the campground with the Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage.

Trail signs at the Deep Creek Horse trail / Deep Creek trail junction
 From here we headed back down toward the campground along the Deep Creek trail. At the junction with Indian Creek trail we turned east on to Indian Creek trail to see Indian Creek Falls. We followed this trail 0.5 miles til it reached the junction with Stone Pile Gap trail, and then turned around.

Deep Creek trail / Indian Creek trail junction

Indian Creek Falls
Indian Creek Falls was absolutely gorgeous! I was beginning to understand why this Deep Creek waterfall loop was so popular! And popular it was on this beautiful spring Saturday. LOTS of families out hiking, several of them with their dogs. Grrr. [pets are not allowed in the backcountry except on 2 trails: Gatlinburg trail and Oconaluftee River trail]. This trail is apparently one of the trails that allows bikes (it's an old gravel road), so there were many bikers out as well!

Deep Creek trail follows its namesake, which is a wide and beautiful creek. Along the way it passes the 3rd beautiful cascade - Tom Branch Falls, complete with wooden benches to sit and view the waterfall from.

Beautiful Deep Creek

Tom Branch Falls
 Shortly thereafter the trail empties out at the northern end of the Deep Creek Campground. It was a lovely day with sun and warm temperatures, and lots of really nice creeks and waterfalls to enjoy. The Deep Creek waterfall loop is definitely worth a visit, but do be prepared for crowds if the weather is good.

End of the line: Deep Creek trailhead at Deep Creek campground
Stay tuned for the next day's hike! Road to Nowhere.

Til next time, happy hiking!

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