Bird Rock Falls Highly recommended waterfall for everyone!

Cathedral Falls

Bird Rock Falls

Photographed at night during a full moon. Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm lens at 14mm, f/4, 20 seconds, ISO 1250.

Beauty Rating:
North Fork French Broad River
River Basin:
French Broad
2,720 feet
Type and Height:
Steep, sliding cascade about 20 feet high
Hike Distance:
0.2 mile
Hike Difficulty:
3 (with a few steps)
Photo Rating:
Waterfall GPS:
Trailhead GPS:
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Driving Directions

From Beech Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway, head south on NC 215 for 9.35 miles. Park on the narrow shoulder on the right (west) side of the road just south of Living Waters Ministry. This is 7.7 miles north of US 64.

Hike Description

Walk toward the small red house on the south side of the ministry complex. Enter the woods just before the house. A short path leads to the river below Mill Shoals Falls. From Mill Shoals Falls, an obvious path leads downstream to Bird Rock Falls, passing some nice cascades along the way. You’ll know you’re at Bird Rock when you see the huge rock cliff towering above. The trail comes out on a sloping rock at the base of the falls. The rock is extremely slippery when wet, as it often is. It’s treacherous when icy or covered in snow.

You’ll pass a couple of small falls on the way to Bird Rock Falls. Short side paths lead down to them. They’re worth a look, but exercise caution, especially at the one farther downstream. I’ve witnessed several people spending part of that short hike on their butts.


Bird Rock Falls isn’t high, but it has attributes that make it among my favorites. A massive rock bluff overhangs the river above the falls. When the water flow is up, this is an awesome, powerful scene. When it’s low, the waterfall takes on a more subtle character.

In The Land of Waterfalls, Jim Bob Tinsley says that purple martins once nested on the rock, giving the waterfall its name. I’ve heard another account that attributes the name to the shape of the bluff, which supposedly resembles a bird’s head. I can’t see the resemblance, but I have witnessed birds nesting on the rock.

A short distance before the trail reaches the base of the falls, a side path descends to the top. As long as you stay away from the river and any wet rocks, it’s just as safe there as on the sloping rock at the base. Nice photo opportunities are available at the top and at the base. Taking all of the photo possibilities into consideration, this little waterfall is about as good as it gets.