What does The Last Of The Mohicans & The Hunger Games have in common? This was a question we sent out through our various social media outlets on January 17th. The answer was location. The location? DuPont State Forest. And we, of course, had to explore it.
The official name is the DuPont State Recreational Forest. It is over 10,400 acres in size and is in the Blue Ridge Mountain section of the Appalachian Mountain Range in Western North Carolina. The Little River runs through the State Forest and it has 6 waterfalls. The State Forest has 5 lakes in its borders. The largest is almost 100 acres big named Lake Julia. And the State Park has over 80 miles of roads and trails as well.
The total planned route would have us hiking between 6 and 7 miles up mountains, down slopes and along riversides. It would take us by 4 of the 6 waterfalls and alongside the largest lake in the forest. It would also allow us to view locations that were used in The Hunger Games and Last of the Mohicans movies. Let the adventure begin.
As stated, we started at the Hooker Falls parking lot. One piece of advice before you begin your hike into the Forest. There is a map of the area just off of the parking area. You can’t miss it. You have to walk by it in order to go to Hooker Falls or see any other parts of the park. I suggest that you snap a picture of it with your digital camera or smartphone. There are signs along each trail. However, this snapshot helped us navigate our way more effectively.
This is an advisory during warm weather times. A natural hazard of the DuPont State Forest is the rattlesnake. We are visiting during winter. So it is not a concern. However, for those of you visiting during warmer times, please be mindful and prepare accordingly.
Hooker Falls was not a far trek, at about 1/4 mile or so from the parking lot. Because it was the easiest falls to get to, it was also the most crowded. Be aware of this if you visit and either want peace and quiet or uninterrupted photo opportunities. Hooker Falls, known for Edmund Hooker who operated a mill below the falls in the late 1800s, is a 14 foot waterfall located on the Little River.
One point of note as you view the pictures, the waterfalls seem to look smaller in the images than they do in real life. When we can, we try to take pictures that show you the scale of things.
As we came to the other side of the bridge, we saw a group of people fly fishing in the river. We walked the trail for a bit and then decided to go off trail and explore the river bank for a while. Once we got back on trail, our next stop was Triple Falls.
Please take heed, the current is very strong and the wet rocks can be extremely slippery. Do not go bounding out onto wet rocks like someone who is invincible. If you slip, the current can and will carry you to the bottom while introducing you to a rock or two along the way. The Nomads always advocate for safety first.
We departed back up the many flights of stairs and got back on the trail. Our next stop was the third waterfall on our agenda, High Falls. Something worth noting, if you are not interested in seeing the waterfalls and hiking the trails like we did, you can actually park at Hooker Falls parking lot to explore Hooker and Triple Falls. Then you can go back, get in your car and drive to the High Falls parking lot to explore High Falls, the Covered Bridge, Lake Julia and Bridal Veil Falls.
As we got closer to High Falls, there were two paths. One led to the base of High Falls and the other to the top viewing area. We are not either or type people, we like both. So, that is what we did. Next stop was the base of High Falls. Along the way, we deviated off trail again and hiked along the water line of the river for a while. We eventually went back on trail and arrived at the viewing area at the base of High Falls.
High Falls is just as tall as Triple Falls is, at 125 feet tall, and is also on the Little River. However, High Falls is one continuous waterfall drop instead of three separate ones. This actually, in person, makes High Falls seem much taller. We came upon the “official” viewing area and continued right on past it walking along dry patches of bedrock, climbing over logs, climbing under other logs and slogging through some wet ground and mud.
We departed the covered bridge to our final destination, Bridal Veil Falls. It was about a mile and a half away. We pulled up our boots, got the walking sticks ready and headed on. As we wandered up and down hills and around various curves, we came upon a large embankment on the left side of the road. No one paid it any attention. But I could not pass it by. I told everyone to keep walking and I would catch up. I ran up the embankment, about 65 feet up or so, and came upon a treasure.
As I crested the top of the embankment, the view took my breath away and I was speechless. It was Lake Julia. I have been to many lakes in my life. I have even been to ones in the mountains and in forests. This one just struck me as one of the most beautiful lake views I had seen. It could be because it was unexpected. However, I honestly do not think so. It was calm, serene and picturesque. That was, until I broke the serenity by bellowing out for The Nomads to come join me. But I could not let them miss it.
This was the furthest set of falls to reach so, consequently, there were very few people there. No one was around when we arrived and only a few people showed while we were there. Bridal Veil Falls is a 120 foot cascade style waterfall. The only real drop is at the top where it seems to have a 10 foot or so drop. There is a cave-like curvature behind the water which makes the water resemble, you guessed it, a bridal veil.
After the initial 10 foot drop, the water forms a rushing river that quickly moves down the remaining 110 feet of granite. This, to me, seemed like the most dangerous of the falls. My reasoning is multi-pronged. First, at the bottom of the granite face of the rock were big, jagged rocks. The water very swiftly and with strong current went partially under them and then exited to Little River. At the top of the granite face, by the bridal veil, the parts of the rock that are wet are extremely slippery. And, finally, the area behind the veil has the most appeal for adventurers to try to reach and explore behind.
So, if you try to get to the veil and you slip, you will be whisked away with rapidly moving water down a 110 foot slope and crash into huge, jagged boulders at the bottom. Definitely not my idea of a fun day. With that being said, I left strict instructions for the rest of The Nomads to wait at the base of the falls. Which, is another filming location for The Hunger Games (at the base on the left side where the water pools).
I, very carefully, hiked up the left side of the bedrock. The right side is where the rushing river cascades down. Some water still comes down the left side, but it is more of a trickle. Even then, the trickling water froze and created ice patches and made non-frozen wet areas extremely slippery. I double backed more than once in order to assure that I was constantly on dry rock. I made it to the top of the cascading falls but stopped short of being able to explore behind the veil. I saw no safe way to explore it. The one and only avenue of approach that could have been potentially safe was from private property that ran along side the river and the falls. So I made the smart choice and did not go any further. I let my camera get the close-ups for me from the safety of dry rock.
After hiking back down the face of the bedrock, I reconnected with the rest of The Nomads. They could not see me from the bottom of the falls. So, they were actually a little concerned as I was gone for about 15 minutes. Mama Nomad said one of our boys voiced concern about not knowing if I was okay or not. I told her, “If I wasn’t okay, you would know it.” She looked at me with the inquisitive look of “How?” I explained, you would see me come flying down the water falls. She was not amused. However, I promised her and I relay to all of you, I exercised extreme caution in my hiking. I have been on advanced mountaineering hikes and knew what I could and could not do. Again, safety always comes first.
That covers it folks. We gathered ourselves together and plotted the most direct route back to Ebony. It was about a 3.5 mile hike to get back to the parking lot. We made it just as the sun was setting and the moon was rising. There were only two cars left besides ours.
If you’re within 100 miles of DuPont State Forest and you like to hike and explore rivers, trails and waterfalls, I suggest that you make a plan to visit this place. It is filled with a variety of natural beauty and will give you a day full of exercise at the same time. Safe Travels.