Stillhouse Falls

Stillhouse Falls

The lower main drop. Nikon D800, Nikon 17-35mm lens at 17mm, f/11, 0.4 second, ISO 100, polarizing filter. Shot during rain.

Beauty Rating:
Trail and bushwhack
Stillhouse Branch
River Basin:
Very small
1,960 feet
Type and Height:
Steep slide ending in a 22-foot drop over mini-ledges
Pisgah National Forest, Grandfather Ranger District
Hike Distance:
Approximately 1.75 miles
Hike Difficulty:
Photo Rating:
Waterfall GPS:
Trailhead GPS:
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Driving Directions

The trailhead is on Kistler Memorial Highway (Old NC 105) at a dip in the road. It is located 7.4 miles south of NC 183 (3.5 miles south of the road to Wisemans View), and 8.1 miles north of NC 126. There are small pullouts on both sides of the road. This point is marked with “X” and “3352” on the topo map. The trail begins on the west side, directly at the pullout.

Hike Description

I strongly recommend that you bring a topo map or GPS unit on this hike. Even though you’re basically following a stream, the easiest route keeps you away from the stream for much of the distance and it’s easy to lose your way.

An obvious path starts directly from the pullout on the west side of the road. It’s not graded, but easily followed if you pay attention. It descends for about 0.4 mile to a flattish saddle. From this point until you get close to the falls, there is no trail. You need to turn left (south) and follow along the ridge all the way down to the creek. It’ll be close to a mile down, but could vary depending on the exact route you take. Try to stay on the ridge spine as much as possible. In some places, the ridge is narrow, but most of the time it is very broad and you could wander a lot if you don’t stay focused. You may see an occasional piece of flagging tape. Don’t get excited about it; you’ll waste time and energy trying to follow it. Just stay on the ridge.

Look on the topo map at the point where a little drainage on the river-right side enters Stillhouse Branch at the 2,080-foot elevation. Your goal is to drop down off the ridge at a point as close to this drainage as possible. If you hit the creek farther upstream, you’ll have to do some extra rhodo crawling along the creek. You might hear some cascades in the 2,200- to 2,400-foot elevation range of the creek that tempt you to investigate. Trust me, they aren’t worth it. Stay on the ridge.

From the 2,080-foot elevation of the creek, it’s best to cross over to the river-left side for a short distance to avoid some steep areas. If you follow the path of least resistance, you’ll likely decide to cross back over to river right at a point where an obvious old path begins. It’s heavily overgrown, but reasonably easy to follow. It leads to a very obvious trail. To the right, the trail leads downstream to private property. You want to turn sharply left and follow the trail to the creek. It leads down pass the top of the falls and on to the base.


I learned about this waterfall from seeing a photo on the Internet, but I didn’t know the best way to get there until reading about it in Allen T. Hyde’s excellent book The Linville Gorge and Wilson Creek Hiker’s Guide. Actually, I’m still not sure about the best way to get there. It seems that much has changed since Allen visited the falls. As best as I can determine, I’ve presented the easiest route to the falls, but I encourage you to read Allen’s book and do some additional exploring.

Of particular note, Allen describes a second trailhead located about 0.4 mile south on Kistler Memorial Highway (GPS N35.8571, W-81.91779 ) There is a small water-diversion ditch on the west side of the road that marks, according to Allen, the beginning of the Stillhouse Branch Trail. The trail follows the contour for a few feet, and then drops down the slope to the creek at an old still site. I couldn’t find this trail, but I didn’t spend a great deal of time and may have just missed it.

In low water, Stillhouse Falls might be a disappointment after the arduous hike. But with a good flow, it’s very scenic. You can’t see the upper slide portion from the base of the falls, but it’s easy to get a good view of it by itself. Just be careful. The rocks here are very slippery when wet, as are those at the base of the falls.

A small stream enters Stillhouse Branch from the river-left side, directly at the top of the main drop of Stillhouse Falls. On it is a small waterfall, right at the confluence. A short distance downstream from Stillhouse Falls, Stillhouse Branch flows under a huge bluff. Immediately downstream from the bluff is nice cascade.

Stillhouse Falls

The lower main drop. Nikon D800, Nikon 17-35mm lens at 24mm, f/13, 0.5 second, ISO 100, polarizing filter. Shot during rain.

The upper section. Nikon D800, Nikon 17-35mm lens at 17mm, f/11, 0.4 second, ISO 100, polarizing filter. Shot during rain.