From downtown Hayesville, get on Tusquitee Road (SR 1307) and drive 10.3 miles to the end of the pavement. Continue on the rough dirt road. If you have a high-clearance vehicle, you can make it without four-wheel drive, but there are a few spots where you’ll probably wish you had it. Do not attempt it with low clearance.
At 3.25 miles, you’ll ford Clear Creek, which isn’t a problem unless it’s right after heavy rains. A short distance farther, you’ll come to a surprising open area with an old house and several RV’s scattered about. Just beyond, you’ll ford another, much smaller stream. A quarter mile from the ford is the trailhead. Look for a gated road cutting back to the right, just before a tiny branch crossing the road. On the left is a parking space for a single vehicle.
Take the old road beyond the gate and cross Stephens Branch in 40 feet. You’ll soon meet up with Clear Creek and follow it down to the falls, sometimes close, sometimes out of earshot. In about 0.5 mile, you’ll reach an open field on the right, while the road you’ve been followings goes left. Walk through the field. You should be able to follow a path that skirts it on the left side.
You’ll renter the woods in about 180 yards. At this point it may be a little difficult to discern the route. Walk a short distance to an open area with a campsite, then swing to the left. There is a path of sorts that you should be able to follow if you look closely. In a short distance you’ll connect with another old road. Follow this road to a junction where the road makes a sharp swing to the left, while a path cuts off to the right. This junction is less than 0.2 mile from the field. You can easily hear Clear Creek from this point.
Take the path toward the creek. You’ll pass close by a small waterfall, then continue downstream to Clear Creek Falls. Getting to this point is a piece of cake, but the descent to the base is very steep, hence the 9 rating.
In my book I don’t describe the hike to Clear Creek Falls. I talk about accessing the falls from Nantahala Lake. When I was researching the waterfall, I did investigate the possibility of an upper hiking access, but I ran into a snag on that trip and then ran out of time to go back. Fortunately, Stephanie Leigh checked it out and let me know the scoop so I could share it here. If you have four-wheel drive or a high clearance 2-by you don’t mind banging up a little, the upper access is a great way to see the waterfall.
That said, my favorite way to see Clear Creek Falls remains the lake access. Nantahala Lake is a place to float in a canoe or kayak. You can put in at the Rocky Branch public boat ramp, off Wayah Road (SR 1310). You can also rent a canoe or powerboat from Lakes End Marina, also on Wayah Road. Make sure you have a good map before you hit the water though, as it can be difficult finding the Clear Creek cove. A path on river right leads a little over 0.1 mile from the lake to the falls.