Fern Creek

Photo by Bobbie Swan

 

"From the Visitor Center, turn right out of the parking lot and drive two-tenths of a mile. Make a very sharp right hand turn, and proceed downhill one-tenth of a mile to a junction with the Fayette Station Road. Turn left and go three-tenths of a mile to a pull-out on the right-hand shoulder of the road. This is the trailhead parking.

One path takes off from the shoulder of the road and heads straight downhill. But for an easier descent, take an old road that starts a few yards to the left. This is also a climber’s access trail, but it’s much easier to follow than the one to Craig Branch. You’ll cross a little stone bridge and pass a small, seasonal waterfall. Follow the path to the base of some sandstone cliffs, which are also a part of the Endless Wall. The trail is neither marked nor maintained, but it’s kept clear primarily by usage. Just remember to hug the cliffs whenever possible. The sandstones of the cliff face have been etched and sculptured by the slow-but-sure hand of Nature and are exquisitely stained in multiple tones of brown and red by the gentle brush strokes of weathering.

After hugging the cliffs for about 0.8 miles, you can depart from the trail to do some serious bushwhacking to the Middle Falls of Fern Creek. If you’re hiking in early spring when trees are bare, you should be able to spot the waterfall for the first time. It’ll be downhill and to the left. At this point, I’ve scratched two arrows on a boulder on the ground pointing downhill. The hunt begins here. The slope drops about 400 vertical feet in a 500-foot horizontal run. That’s a little less than a 45-degree angle, which is, needless to say, steep. So be forewarned. Fortunately there are no cliffs to scale or rhododendron thickets to negotiate. But the way is still tough.

 

Upper Fern Creek Falls When you return to the trail at the foot of the cliffs, it’s only another 0.2 miles to the Upper Falls of Fern Creek. Just turn right and continue on the trail at the base of the cliffs. The waterfall announces itself with a roar that echoes off the rock walls as you approach it. My jaw dropped the first time I saw this waterfall. It sits center-stage in a stone amphitheater enclosed on three sides. It’s high drama for sure. Most of the time the falls are confined to a vertical cleft cut in the cliffs. But at high water, the falls make a spectacular plunge off the cliff top and into a pool in the middle of the amphitheater. It’s clearly one of the best sights in the New River Gorge. The backtrack to the trailhead is about a mile. You might be a bit foot-weary, but if you’ve caught the thrill of discovery in the New River Gorge, you’ll be pondering your next waterfall hunt."**

 ** - http://www.blueridgeoutdoors.com/go-outside/hiking/hidden-treasures-of-the-new-river-gorge/

Needs photos.

"My only trip here so far. Someone......scared me off of this one talking about this being the breeding ground for all copperhead snakes in North America."    a quote from someone on Facebook.