White Owl Falls
From the junction of NC 281 and US 64 west of Lake Toxaway, drive 3.7 miles south on NC 281 and park in the pullout on the right; the pullout is less than 0.1 mile south of Brewer Road (SR 1189), which is the trailhead for High Falls, Simon Falls, Rich Falls, Big Falls, Standing Rock Falls, and Hidden Dome Falls.
Walk a little over 100 yards down the road and cross at the start of the guardrail. Step over the guardrail and pick up the faint path. It descends a concrete water chute, which you might want to bypass, as it can be slippery. From the base of the chute, the path runs along the base of the riprap piled on the road bank. You’ll have to scramble through some rocks. The path is not graded, but it should be obvious. It goes to the top of the falls and then down to the base.
Based on the feedback I get, the hike to White Owl Falls causes more confusion than most other waterfalls. I have no idea why. If you follow the directions precisely, you should have no trouble. You might have a little trouble at the start if the edge of the woods is overgrown, but if you poke around a little, you’re bound to find the concrete water chute. The path should be obvious from the base of the chute. Perhaps some people are looking for a wide, graded trail. That does not exist. This is a narrow, winding, scrambling path.
Countless tourists whiz over the Thompson River bridge on NC 281 without a clue that a scenic waterfall lies only a few dozen yards downstream. White Owl Falls exemplifies the fact that waterfalls don’t have to be high or powerful to be beautiful. For the best view, you’ll need to cross the river. It’s rarely low enough to rockhop, but it’s an easy wade. Wearing hiking boots, you might be able to stay dry.
See the Thompson River Basin introduction for general information about the river and its waterfalls.