Courthouse Falls Highly recommended waterfall for everyone!

Courthouse Falls

Nikon D2X, Nikon 12-24mm lens at 24mm, f/16, 8 seconds, ISO 100.

Beauty Rating:
Courthouse Creek
River Basin:
French Broad
3,360 feet
Type and Height:
Steep slide with a main drop about 35 feet high
Pisgah National Forest, Pisgah Ranger District
Sam Knob
Hike Distance:
A little less than 0.4 mile
Hike Difficulty:
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 6.65 miles and turn left on the gravel FR 140 (Courthouse Creek Road). FR 140 is 10.4 miles north of US 64. Follow the road for 3 miles, passing the trailheads for Kiesee Falls and Chestnut Falls. Park on the right just beyond the bridge over Courthouse Creek.

Hike Description

The trail begins across the road and follows an old logging railroad grade down the river-right side of the creek. After about 0.3 mile, it starts to swing right and passes an obvious side path on the left. The side path leads to the base of the falls.


Courthouse Falls is a narrow chute at the head of a small amphitheater carved out of solid rock. The deep plunge pool makes an inviting swimming hole, but it’s not safe to swim close to the falls, due to the strong undercurrents created by the plunging water. Watch the kids closely here, and don’t let them get in the deep water.

The headwaters of Courthouse Creek spring from the west slope of Devils Courthouse, a 5,720-foot rocky summit accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway. According to modern accounts of Cherokee folklore, a cave in the mountain was the courtroom where the fabled and feared Judaculla held his judgment sessions. James Mooney, the renowned ethnologist who lived among and studied the Cherokees, placed the home of the giant on nearby Tanasee Bald. Neither mountain has an actual cave, but the large rock outcrop on the summit of Devils Courthouse likely has some small grottos created by overhanging rocks.

This is a popular waterfall among photographers, and I expect some will argue with my photo rating. But in the dozens of times I’ve been here, I’ve never been able to make a photo that is better than average, so it gets an average rating. Often, the problem is fallen trees in the pool, though it was clear on my last visit. For several years, I’ve been watching a branch from a yellow birch tree growing out over the pool. It has now reached the stage of being a serious distraction in some of the wide-angle views I’d like to shoot of the falls.