Recently, I ventured out on a beautiful Saturday morning for what Google promised to be an easy hike to Catawba Falls. It’s a 30 minute drive east from Asheville, between Black Mountain and Old Fort. The hike was off to a great start when I arrived at a clearly marked parking lot complete with a restroom. By now you have come to realize how important those are to me.
Sometimes in life, my timing is impeccable. This area has only been officially open to the public for about a year. In the early 1900s there was a dam that provided hydroelectric power to Old Fort. By the late 1980s, the US Forest Service owned the land around the falls, but not the right of ways to get to the falls. Between 2005-09 several parcels of land were finally acquired to allow public access to these falls, but the trails were a mess. In 2012, a huge parking lot and trail improvements were completed to create permanent public access to the falls. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans and the area had to be closed for nearly a year after the ancient bridge leading to it was damaged by a flood. In 2016, two new bridges were finally completed – the one to the parking lot and another one where the hiking trail crosses the river, since this part of the trail was impassible during high water.
So now with all the necessary improvements in place, I headed out with confidence. As I began the hike, a couple was jogging down the trail, which is always an excellent sign that the path will be nice. I was not disappointed. The trail was wide and well maintained. Still, I was glad to have my hiking boots on, since I have been known to trip even on the best trail. Truth be known, I’ve been known to trip on level city sidewalks (often).
My trusty Fitbit ( may she rest in peace – but that’s another story) recorded 1.1 miles up and 1.2 down with a total elevation change of 28 flights of stairs which is close to 280 feet of elevation gain. It may have been too much for my Fitbit, but I survived!
It was definitely a steady uphill trek, but nothing strenuous. Plus the entire trail follows the river, so I was treated to the sound of the rushing river, birds singing and surrounded by the beautiful, lush forest. I arrived at the lower falls, which were quite impressive. There was a large pool of water, about knee deep that was perfect for wading in. The upper falls trail was clearly marked as closed, and I think they are working to get that opened soon. I heeded the warning and stayed out.
After completing the hike, since it was Saturday morning, I headed straight to the Black Mountain tailgate which is open until noon. There I was greeted with live music, fresh coffee and pastries…oh and the healthy farm-fresh produce too. This was a fantastic way to start the weekend!