Alarka Falls

Trip Start Aug 19, 2012
Trip End Dec 30, 2013

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Where I stayed
Appletree Group Campground
What I did
Alarka Falls

Flag of United States  , North Carolina
Friday, May 24, 2013

For the Memorial Day long weekend, we headed to the mountains for a weekend of whitewater fun!  We headed out from the Triangle early Friday morning and made our way out towards the mountains.  It's a long drive out to the Nantahala Gorge area, so before reaching the gorge, we stopped to see a waterfall.  Taking exit 64 off US-74 at Bryson City, we headed down Alarka Road away from town.  After a ways, the road turned to gravel and shortly after this, we saw a dog barking furiously at something on the side of the road.  We stopped to look and it was a groundhog!  We shooed the dog away and took a couple pictures of the groundhog before driving to the end of the road and parking.  From the parking area, it was a short climb up to Alarka Falls.  The trail is not well-maintained, with several downed trees over the trail and a bit of bushwhacking in places.  But it's a short trail, not too steep or overgrown, and we made it to the falls quickly.  Alarka Falls is one of the "hidden gems" of North Carolina waterfalls.  It's very scenic and fairly easy to get to from Bryson City, but it's rare to ever see anyone else here.  Having the falls to ourselves makes it that much better.  Alarka Falls is a very tall cascading waterfall and it is not possible to view the entire waterfall from any one point.  And there are several cascades along Alarka Creek, so there isn't really a clear bottom of the falls.  We first stopped at the base to enjoy the view and take a few pictures then tried to head up further.  We got stuck at a point with a tricky creek crossing and decided not to try and go up further to the top of the falls.  It is possible to get to the top from here, but seemed a little tough today, so we decided not to to bother.  It is also possible to drive around near the top at Alarka Laurel Preserve and get to it that way, but we wanted to get to camp soon, so we that will have to wait for another trip.  We headed back to the car and made our way back to the main road and took US-19 into Nantahala Gorge.  About 10 miles past the Nantahala Outdoor Center, we turned on Wayah Road and then onto the gravel Old River Road, which follows the Nantahala River.  Old River Road ends right at the entrance to the Appletree Group Campground in Nantahala National Forest.  We were in Group Site D, a really nice campground that was a little further away from the other sites and the Bartram Trail ran right past our campsite.  After setting up camp, we built a nice campfire to stay warm.  The temperature was dipping into the 30s overnight, unseasonably cold for Memorial Day weekend, so the warmth from the fire felt great.  We headed to bed fairly early this night after a long drive out to the mountains.  But over the course of the night, everyone in group arrived, the latest arriving some time after 1.
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