Nellies Falls

Nellies Falls

Nikon D800, Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 lens at 20mm, f/11, 0.5 second, ISO 200, polarizing filter.

Beauty Rating:
Flat Creek
River Basin:
Little Tennessee
3,360 feet
Type and Height:
Steep cascades and free falls, about 25 feet high for the main portion
Nantahala National Forest, Nantahala Ranger District
Big Ridge
Hike Distance:
About 0.8 mile
Hike Difficulty:
5, with two creek crossings
Photo Rating:
Waterfall GPS:
Trailhead GPS:
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Driving Directions

From the junction of US 64 and NC 281, east of Lake Toxaway, drive north on NC 281 for 9.2 miles and turn left on the unpaved Rock Bridge Road (SR 1140). This is 15.9 miles from NC 107. Follow Rock Bridge Road for 1.7 miles to a fork. Go right on FR 4662 and follow it 2.15 miles to the end. This is the same trailhead as Flat Creek Falls.

Hike Description

FR 4662 continues from the trailhead at the ford of Flat Creek.  Don’t get any ideas about driving across the ford, though. You won’t get far. Wade the ford or cross on the old logs spanning the creek. Swing to the right, and in a little over 100 feet, turn left on the obvious old logging grade, which starts on dirt mounds. Follow the grade for about 0.25 mile to a fork. Go left. In about 0.15 mile, an obvious path turns to the left. Continue straight. In another 0.3 mile or so, the old logging grade you’re on swings to the right and seems to peter out, while a side path turns left. Take the side path. The path is narrow, but should be obvious. It leads 0.1 mile to a small, scenic cascade. Cross the creek and follow it upstream a few yards to the base of falls.

To see the upper portion of the falls, it’s easier to go up the river left side. Follow the path back out and at a point where you’ve bypassed the steepest part of the slope, work your way up. You may be able to pick up a semblance of a path.


Considering the long and out-of-the-way drive to the trailhead, you might think of Nellies Falls as just a bonus falls to see on the same trip to Flat Creek Falls. But I encourage you to think otherwise. This is a really nice little waterfall. And it’s relatively easy to hike to. Photographers will love it.

The upper section of the falls is just as scenic as the portion you can see from the base. The only drawback is that the best way up there is on the river left side, but the best view once you get there is on the river right side. Getting to the other side without a nasty rhododendron crawl requires hopping the creek above a 5-foot cascade, which is just above the main drop. Sure-footed waterfallers shouldn’t have any trouble, but if you slip, you could go over the falls. And just for the record, I’ve seen sure-footed waterfallers slip before.

The path you followed down from the logging grade comes courtesy of waterfall guru Bernie Boyer. Bernie discovered the falls several years ago and made sure that it would not be hidden from the rest of us. On one trip in the area, he happened to meet an elder lady who was born and raised in the area. She once lived in a house that stood at the present trailhead. She called the waterfall Nellies Falls, and so shall I.

The upper section. Nikon D800, Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 lens at 17mm, f/8, 1/10 second, ISO 200, polarizing filter.