From US 19E in Burnsville, get on NC 197 heading south and set your odometer to 0. In the community of Murchison, NC 197 turns right and crosses Cane River. Do not turn right. Continue straight on what is now Ewart Wilson Road. At 12.1 miles from US 19E, you’ll reach an old gated road on the left. (A short distance farther down the road is a swinging bridge over Cane River that looks like something out of an Indiana Jones movie.) Park at the gate.
I have not measured trail distances, so everything is just a ballpark estimate. The dirt road leads beyond the gate, passes through an old homesite, and parallels Ewart Wilson Road for a short distance before turning away and following Falling Water Branch upstream. In about 0.3 mile, the road crosses the branch and follows upstream on the river-left side. You’ll soon come to another old road cutting sharply to the right. Continue heading upstream and in a short distance you’ll come to another crossing.
The waterfall is several hundred feet upstream from this crossing. The forest is open and it’s relatively easy to bushwhack up to the falls. That’s how I went, but I believe you could access the falls easier by staying on the old road, which swings away from the creek at this point. I suspect it goes to a switchback and comes back around on a parallel course of the creek and leads to a point very close to the falls where only a short climb down the bank would be required. However, I did not investigate this option, so you’re on your own if you try it.
It has come to my attention that as of 9/6/20 the state park has not yet put up their boundary signs and that private property signs remain. If you hike to the falls at this time you may encounter private property owners or local law enforcement. I recommend that you wait until the park’s signs are in place before visiting. I will let you know when that occurs. If you are working on a waterfalls challenge, you can use one of the alternatives.
Mount Mitchell State Park turned 100 years old in 2016. It couldn’t have received a better birthday present than to double in size. The Conservation Fund announced in 2016 that it was acquiring two tracts of land totaling over 2,700 acres on the western slopes of the Black Range and would transfer the property to the state park, which it did in 2019.
On one of the new tracts is Cattail Peak along the crest of the Black Mountains. At 6,584 feet (only 100 feet lower than Mount Mitchell), it is the highest privately owned mountain in the East.
The new land also includes nearly the entire watershed of Falling Water Branch. The small stream tumbles through a scenic and mostly open forest that provides excellent wildflower habitat. Falling Water Branch Falls is the highlight of the forest and is sure to become a popular destination for waterfallers.