Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

A Trip to North Carolina - Deep Creek

Tuesday August 7, 2018                                                                 Most Recent Posts:
Deep Creek                                                                                     The Highest Spot in the Park and Andrews Bald
Great Smoky Mountains National Park                                            Surprising Neighbors & a Favorite Hike
North Carolina



IMG_0626Today’s hikes were probably the farthest away that I will go.  The Deep Creek Entrance to the park is just outside of Bryson City North Carolina and was a two hour drive for me.  But I really wanted to see the three waterfalls there and the campground.  So I left before dawn and caught the sunrise on my way up Little River Gorge Road inside the park in Tennessee.    Not sure about those early ominous looking skies. 

Most of my drive was in the park including going up and over Newfound Gap and down the other side.


I left home at 6:30 and I was on the trail at Deep Creek by 8:30 after driving through Bryson City North Carolina.  The Deep Creek area is sweet and had WAY fewer people than the Tennessee side of the park.  The creek itself was up of course.  A wonderful thing for August.


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Shortly up the wide trail path, I come to the 80 foot Tom Branch Falls which has a number of benches facing it so you can stay a while.  I did.  This is the first of the three waterfalls I’ve come here to see.  The Deep Creek Trail is one of the initial trails constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the early 1930’s.  I understsand that in the spring the trail is a wildflower lovers paradise.


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Tom Branch Falls flows gracefully down the rock faces.

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Further on I come to the Indian Creek Trail Junction.  I head across the bridge to hike up to those falls. 

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It’s up, up the trail and then down the steps to the falls.  At the end of the day I was seriously disappointed with myself that I did not film these beautiful falls and their lovely sounds as I had them all to myself for over half an hour.   But by that time I was too tired to hike back up for a revisit.

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In order to see the top of the falls I climb back up the steps and continue on along the trail heading up the mountain.   From this view, Indian Creek Falls looks like more of a water slide than a typical falls.

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At the top.

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I continue on the trail until I come to a bridge crossing Indian Creek and the trail heads up up again.  I was thinking maybe I’ll walk on but checking my map shows it would add too many miles to my intention for today which is now to see Juney Whank Falls.  What a name, but more on that later.

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I turn around and back track to the main Deep Creek Trail where there is a fork and I take it.

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The trail narrows and crosses a one log bridge.

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I’m now walking along a small tributary of Deep Creek with lovely small cascades of its own.

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Judging from the size of the early part of both Deep Creek and Indian Falls Trails as well as the sizes of the bridges, I assumed horses were welcome.  I have a hard time passing up a cemetery sign in a National park so I start up the trail wondering why horses are prohibited here.  I guessed because it is such a small trail.  I wonder why they don’t say how far the cemetery is but since they don’t I assume it isn’t far.


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As I climb up, I keep thinking that over each little knoll I’ll find it.

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Or maybe around the bend.  It’s a pretty trail but good grief, how far?  I also come to see why horses are not permitted.  The trail isn’t wide enough for flat enough.

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I pass through rhododendron tunnels and some spots where it is so steep I have to hold on to the trees to keep climbing up.  I say to myself – actually out loud since there’s no one anywhere around here….

You should turn around . 
But you’ve come so far, it can’t be THAT much further, can it?




Finally after what turns out to be one of the steepest 3/4 of a mile I’ve ever hiked including in Rocky Mountain National Park, I come to the cemetery which holds 3 graves belonging to Violet, Theodore and Guy Wiggins. 


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What appear to be the older headstones or footstones are fallen over and these new ones have replaced them.  I’m wondering to myself, 

How in the world did anyone get these heavy headstones up here?
And who keeps this ground cleared of bushes and trees?

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No indication of birth or death dates on any of the three.  Just their names.

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They definitely have a seculded and peaceful place for their eternal rest.

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I head back down the trail which is actually lovely going down but in those same REALLY steep parts, it’s as tricky going down as up.  So glad I have my hiking stick.


I take a few more pictures of the trail going down including the muddy sections.

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Here’s some of the gallery of mushrooms I saw on my way down when I was watching my footing so I didn’t fall down the steep hill.  On the way up I’d been too preoccupied with the trail getting steeper and steeper and thinking

How far can it be?
How did they ever get these folks up here to bury them?
Who could come and visit them now?
Well, me I guess



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As I approach the main trail I realize that I’m supposed to turn right and continue on UP HILL to find the next falls.   I am NOT so much into uphill after this adventure and I know I saw another shorter path nearer the head of the trail so I continue down on a wide gravel trail.  Ahhhhhh……down.


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Walking down the main trail I see a sign that says take this trail to Juney Whank Falls.  It’s not the one near the parking lot but it’s closer.

So I take it.  It turns out to be what looks like a water diversion trench which thankfully is only a quarter of a mile STRAIGHT UP HILL.   What a riot!  The thing running down the middle is a wooden rail.  For what?  Sure glad it seems to have dried out and no rain is predicted. 


I finally hook up with the trail I would have been on if I’d turned right at the bottom of the cemetery trail.   I arrive at the falls.  From this distance it looks like I have it all to myself.  WOW, by this time, it’s 11:00 in the morning.  

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When I get beyond the tree I see the truth.  The water is so loud I didn’t hear them.  I like the first picture better, bt this is reality.  A bridge goes right across the bottom of the falls and the water runs under the bridge.  There are some benches for you to sit if you like.

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I walk across the bridge.  The picture angle is better over here.  I can see the falls running right under the bridge and on down the hill. 

There isn’t an agreement on how the name Juney Whank came to be.  Here are the two stories I read.  It’s a Cherokee phrase meaning “where the bear passes”.  Seems the local Cherokee who still teach their language in their schools, might be able to confirm that.  2nd story, it’s named after a local man Junaluska “Juney” Whank.  Who he was, I have no clue.



Despite its strange name, it’s a really beautiful falls that’s nearly impossible to photograph straight on.  There is only so far you can back up on the bridge.



As I leave the falls on my way back to the car I meet up with my favorite wildlife of the day.  This little girl was 3 years old and hiking up the hill to the falls with her walking stick right along with her parents. She was having a great time.  So cute!  Can’t wait to bring Celia hiking with me again.


Once I got back down to the Deep Creek Trail I found this little encampment.  Hmmm – they don’t look like emergency vehicles but right next to the river is certainly a great place for a hammock.

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By this time it’s near noon and although this picture doesn’t show the action I photographed from this bridge, the next few do.

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What a great way to spend a warm Tuesday afternoon although that water is mighty cold.

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Obviously, at this point at least, Deep Creek isn’t very deep.

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But everyone is having a great time.  It flashed me back to when we lived near the James River in Scottsville, Virginia and could go tubing every week-end.   Well that is when the river wasn’t too shallow as was often the case in the heat of late summer.

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There were three cars in this lot when I arrived and it’s pretty clear that as I leave, most of the folks coming in have tubes in their hands and strapped on their cars.

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As I drive past the cars, I spot this front license plate.   This one is for you Bill!  Heed the warning!!


I didn’t take the time to check out the campground at Deep Creek because it so far on the edge of the park that I doubt I would ever stay here. 
But if you are in the National Park on the North Carolina side, don’t miss Deep Creek.  
Come in the spring for the wildflowers or in the summer and bring a tube!