The trailhead is at Haywood Gap at Milepost 426.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Haywood Gap is about 3.3 miles south of Beech Gap, where NC 215 goes under the parkway.
Mountains-to-Sea Trail crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway at Haywood Gap. Follow the trail on the east side of the gap. This is the right side of the road, if you’re traveling south on the parkway from Beech Gap. After 200 feet, you’ll come to a trail junction. MST goes to the right. Turn left onto Haywood Gap Trail. There may not be a trail sign here.
Haywood Gap Trail descends steeply in places for about 1.3 miles to a crossing of Middle Prong. From this point, the best route to the falls is to walk in the creek. Head upstream for about 100 yards to the junction with Buckeye Creek, which comes in from the left. (Haywood Gap Stream continues straight ahead. The river becomes Middle Prong at the confluence of these two streams.) Follow Buckeye Creek upstream less than 0.2 mile to the falls.
As you walk up Buckeye Creek, you’ll first come to a small series of scenic cascades. The main falls is up ahead. From a point downstream, you can see just about all of the falls at once. While the overall view is nice, the most rewarding experience comes from viewing and photographing isolated sections of the cascades. Buckeye Falls is a long series of high cascades and short drops. Everything is covered in lush green moss. If you visit when it’s raining, which is my favorite time, you’ll think you’re in a tropical rain forest. Each of the three main sections is about 15 to 18 feet high. Great photo opportunities exist at the base of each section, but you’ll need to exercise caution getting into position.
If you like to mix a few wildflowers with your waterfalls, I highly recommend you make this hike around the first week of May. Up around Haywood Gap, the forest floor is a carpet of trillium, foamflower, Mayapple, toothwort, and several other wildflower species. Down at the falls, tree leaves are just starting to come out in early May, showing off that vibrant spring-green color. There are few places I’d rather be on a rainy spring day.
As enticing as I’ve made it sound, you should think hard before you make this hike. Haywood Gap Trail is steep and probably not something the average person will want to tackle. And that doesn’t even consider the nearly 0.25 mile of creek walking, which is definitely not a stroll in the park.
Haywood Gap Trail continues following Middle Prong downstream, eventually coming out on FR 97. Along the way, it passes the accesses for Big Beartrap Falls and Middle Prong Falls and goes right over Little Beartrap Falls.
Buckeye Falls is located in Middle Prong Wilderness.