Catawba Falls Trail

Water. Water. Everywhere.

Author - Jim Williams

Difficulty Level - ModerateDifficulty level:


Mostly single track trails.  There will be moderate to difficult elevation gains.  Remember we live along and in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  They don’t call them mountains without a reason.  The distances will be a little longer and you’ll be carrying snacks and water.


Shoes: Light - Medium
A light to medium weight hiking boot that supports the ankle.

Difficulty: Moderate
Shoes:  A light to medium weight hiking boot that supports the ankle.  A waterproof  boot is preferable.  You’ll cross a couple of streams.  Depending on the time of year, they could be deep.
Time:  Expect to spend 1-2 hours on the trail if you plan to go to the falls and back.  You’ll find yourself wanting to stay at the base of the falls for a while.
Distance:  Total distance round trip is 2.5 miles.  Elevation gain is about 100’ to the falls. 
Safety:  The trail is dirt path all the way.  It is a little wider than a single track but full of roots and stones.  The route is generally uphill to the falls.  It drops off on one side so be careful not to wander out into space.  You’ll do some scrambling over the rocks at the falls.  Footing is a little dicey but I’ve seen hikers from 8 to 80 who have no problem.  It is important that you take hydration.  There are snakes in the area.  I’ve seen a few copperheads in the summer.  When you’re rock scrambling keep a lookout and keep your hands out of the crevices.
From Marion, take Interstate 40 to exit 73.  At the end of the ramp turn left.  Go under the freeway bridge then almost immediately, take the right toward Old Fort Recreation Park.  You’ll think you’re turning the wrong way on the Interstate but you’re not.  Make a left.  Again, you’ll see the sign to O F Rec. Park.  Go about 3 ½ miles until the road ends.
You can park along the road.  There are signs.  The bridge to the parking area was damaged during a flood so you’ll have to walk across.  Go through the parking area that is currently not used.  The trail head will be in sight.  There is a kiosk and working bathrooms there.
THE TRAIL:  From the parking lot it’s a simple trail to follow.  Good dirt path.  There will be at least one stream crossing.  Shoes will probably get a little wet.  Those who are balance challenged might get more than shoes wet.  If you’re in that group, you might want to give your camera to someone else.  It will keep the camera dry and they might get a shot to embarrass you with after the hike is over.
It’s a generally uphill but not unpleasant hike.  Lots to see.  There will be the remains of an old power plant up on the river and some great landscape to see.  When you get to the falls there will be plenty of places to pose and take pictures.  Take a snack.  Relax.
Just a thought:  This is a great hike for photographers when it snows.
While hiking and at the falls, watch your trash.  Pack it in.  Pack it out.
You’ll enjoy this one.

FACILITIES: Working bathrooms at the trailhead.