From US 64 in Highlands, head east on Horse Cove Road (Main Street) and descend into Horse Cove. Horse Cove Road ends at 4.55 miles where Whiteside Cove Road (SR 1606) turns left and Bull Pen Road (FR 1178) goes straight. Turn left on the unpaved Whiteside Cove Road and proceed 0.5 mile to FR 2052, on the right.
To reach the trailhead from US 64 in Cashiers, drive 1.75 miles south on NC 107 and turn right on Whiteside Cove Road. Drive 7 miles to FR 2052, on the left. The road changes to gravel on the way.
Descend on FR 2052 from the gate. You’ll cross Cane Creek in just under 0.25 mile. In another 0.2 mile, the road makes a sharp right turn around a ridge. It descends gradually from this point. In less than 0.25 mile, you’ll need to turn left off the road and bushwhack down to the creek. There are no good indicators for the point to leave the road. It’s about 100 feet beyond a small section of exposed rock on the upslope side of the road. GPS for the point to leave the road is N35.03358, W-83.13705 .
It’s less than 200 yards from the road to the falls, but it’s a miserable bushwhack—it’s steep and has rhododendron tangles and dense dog hobble. You don’t want to come out too close to the falls because of the sheer rock walls on the river-right side. You’ll need to come out a distance downstream, then work your way back up. I discovered one of the largest mountain laurels I’ve ever seen on the way down. It’s diameter at breast height was easily 12 inches!
If you want to visit a pretty waterfall few people know about, Cane Creek Falls is a great choice. Although the bushwhack portion is tough, it’s more than worth it for those able to make the hike. You can visit the waterfall as part of a longer hike that includes Chattooga River Trail. Continue on FR 2052 from the falls for 0.25 mile to a side path on the left. Take this path and cross Cane Creek in about 0.1 mile. From the creek, it’s a little more than 0.1 mile to a T junction at Chattooga River Trail. To the left is the Chattooga River trailhead on Whiteside Cove Road. To the right is the lower trailhead at Iron Bridge on Bull Pen Road. Several opportunities exist here for nice day hikes if you utilize a second vehicle as a shuttle.