Moore Cove Falls, Pisgah NF
Waterfall Week, our exploration of those dramatic contests between gravity and water, continues with one of the highlights of the Pisgah National Forest’s Cradle of Forestry area — Moore Cove Falls.
It is located just a short ways off US Route 276 not long after it clears the town of Brevard, but well before it intersects the Blue Ridge Parkway. So, if you see a bunch of cars parked by the big waterfall at the side of the road…
…Dude, you’re at the wrong waterfall. That’s Looking Glass Falls. EVERY tourist who gasses up the Buick and takes the fall driving tour through the NC mountains has a picture of themselves at Looking Glass Falls. That’s because, in addition to it being quite scenic, it is right off the road. And I mean…RIGHT off the road. You can park at the side of the road and see the falls (or part of it) without even leaving your car. The viewing area is just down a short flight of stairs.
On peak summer weekends, the parking area for the falls is basically a traffic jam, with cars parked up and down the road for hundreds of yards. And if that’s not enough for you, go yonder up the road to the natural water park of Sliding Rock and take a look at the crowds there.
We like Looking Glass Fall. But realistically, it’s not a hike. It’s a stop on the tourist map.
Down the road though there is a smaller and more secluded waterfall that IS a hike, albeit a short and pretty easy one. This is Moore Cove.
I hesitate to call it a ‘falls’ because…it’s more of a sprinkle.
The grotto where the falls is located, however, is as interesting as the falls itself. Take a look at those interesting rock overhangs. It reminds me of the limestone bluffs you see further west, particularly in Arkansas and the Texas Hill Country.
A ‘cove’ in southern Appalachian terminology, by the way, is basically equivalent to the term ‘hollow’ or ‘grotto.’ A kind of sheltered, dark area craved out by water, where a lot of moss grows. Though we typically associate the word cove with seacoasts or lakes, another meaning of the term is “a hollow or recess in a mountain.”
Moore Cove is undoubtedly a sheltered recess and no small number of people could shelter under it, though they might get a bit damp.
The hike to the falls is about a mile and a half round trip, out and back, not much uphill. It is very easy, in fact, but most people are unaware the falls is even here. The unassuming trailhead pops up between six and seven miles out of Brevard…look for this bridge.
If you see Looking Glass Falls and Sliding Rock go by, you done gone on past Moore Cove and got yourself all twisted up and turned around, as they say in Texas. Which may be a sign the infernal contraption on your dashboard ain’t working no more.
The area around the base of the falls is fenced off, but you can easily walk around this barrier and right up to the falls, as the scofflaw in the picture below is doing.
Since the pitches here are not that steep, this is not one of the more dangerous falls in the area (Sliding Rock and Looking Glass Falls ARE quite dangerous) but still, exercise caution. There are plenty of slippery rocks about. And don’t try to climb up it.
You aren’t likely to be swept away by anything besides romantic notions here; it’s like a large bathroom shower in terms of volume. I’ve yet to see any images of this thing really going. The day we visited it had, in fact, rained earlier, and as you can see, no one was in danger of drowning.
Here’s a nice image that captures it well from ashevilletrails.com…this is a nice scenic area, not a muscular cataract.
There is also supposed to be a smaller falls downstream from Moore Cove, which has no official trail. We have not explored this yet. The reigning (raining?) experts on falling waters in NC…none other than ncwaterfalls.com…have visited.
Though it’s not exactly going to make anyone forget about this place, we like Moore Cove Falls as a quiet and attractive alternative to the tourist-overrun roadside falls of Route 276.
For the final day of Waterfall Week we’ll return to the Smokys for a glimpse at the park’s biggest and best waterfall – and the only actual trail to a waterfall that I would consider on a par with the more challenging mountains we have hiked…and worth the payoff.
Next Up: The Ramsey Cascades, an Epic Southern Waterfall Hike