From US 221 near Linville Falls, drive south on the Blue Ridge Parkway for 4.5 miles to Milepost 322. About 200 feet north of the milepost there is a space on the left (east) side of the road for a single car to park. If you can’t squeeze in there, continue south on the parkway for 0.1 mile where you’ll find places on the left to pull over.
You should also read the hike description for English Falls. It will add more perspective and will be necessary if you wish to see both waterfalls on the same hike. Also, this hike description assumes you have read the directions for English Falls.
Follow the path to the creek. From this point, you have two options for reaching the base of Upper English Falls. You can simply follow the creek downstream by the path of least resistance, or you can cross the creek and climb up and away from the creek a bit, then descend through the cliff alongside the falls. If you know exactly where to go, the latter option might be a little easier, but there’s a good chance you’ll do a lot of unnecessary wandering if you go that route. It might be best just to follow the creek downstream.
If you follow the creek, you’ll first come to a six-foot drop. A little farther downstream, you’ll come to the upper drop of the waterfall, which is about six feet as well. Just below it is the middle drop, which is about seven feet, and right below it is the lower drop, which is about twelve feet high.
It’s easy enough to reach to the top of the lower drop (notwithstanding the fact that you’re bushwhacking along the creek and climbing down little waterfalls, hence the 10 difficulty rating), but to reach the bottom of the lower drop requires a level of difficulty a tad bit higher. You can do it two ways. One way is to walk along a narrow ledge on river left for a few feet, and then descend easily down the bank. The ledge is no problem if you are very careful, but the penalty for carelessness could be a broken bone or worse.
The other method, which is much more fun, is to crawl up through the keyhole that is on river left right beside the middle drop, and then descend along the bank. The photo below shows the view through this keyhole looking toward the falls.
A couple of people have told me that accessing these falls from the river-right side is easier, but I haven’t checked out that route.
From the base of Upper English Falls, you’re only a few yards away from the brink of English Falls. If you want to go to the base of English, you’ll need to climb back out and use one of the routes I describe in the English Falls listing. It is not safe, if even possible for some, to descend alongside the waterfall.
Depending on how you classify waterfalls, Upper English Falls is simply the upper portion of English Falls, a separate waterfall, or three separate waterfalls. Add the little six-foot drop above Upper English and some people might look at all of these as five distinct waterfalls. My recommendation is not to be concerned with classifications, but just to enjoy them! I decided to group the three drops together as a single waterfall since they are so close together.
While Upper English Falls isn’t remotely as impressive as English Falls, it has qualities that make it highly recommended. Each of the drops is scenic and photogenic. At the middle drop is a neat little passageway through the rocks on the river-left side. You’ll want to crawl through it to have the best experience.