From the junction of US 25/70 and NC 208 northeast of Hot Springs, head north on NC 208 for 3.45 miles. Turn right on NC 212, drive 6.9 miles alongside Shelton Laurel Creek, and turn left on the gravel Hickey’s Fork Road (SR 1310), which becomes FR 465. It is 1.1 miles to a parking area on the right just before the gate. Park here if the gate is closed, as it usually is.
From the gate, walk 40 yards up FR 465 and drop off to the left on Hickey Fork Trail. The trail goes down steps to a couple of foot logs over East Prong Hickey Fork. Beyond the crossing, the trail follows the creek upstream a short distance, turns, climbs to a ridge, descends the other side, crosses a small stream, follows it downstream a short distance, then swings sharply right into the West Prong Hickey Fork drainage. You’ll soon cross the creek and go upstream on the river-right side. After 0.3 mile from the crossing, you’ll pass a long, sliding waterfall that would be really nice if there were any point from which to view it well. In another 75 yards, you’ll come to a side path leading to the base of West Prong Hickey Fork Falls. It’s a short but steep scramble to the base.
This waterfall is not one you’ll just happen by on your way somewhere else. People coming to the Shelton Laurel region of Pisgah National Forest do so for one of three reasons: they’re hopelessly lost; they’re insatiably curious; or they know this is a great place to experience rural western North Carolina and find solitude.
Hickey Fork Trail continues from the waterfall. After two more trail connections, the route eventually ends up on the Appalachian Trail at Camp Creek Bald. Using the AT and its side trails, you can plan numerous routes for day hiking and backpacking, including some great loop and shuttle options.