The hike to Chestnut Falls is interesting in its deception. Until you get there, you could be convinced that you’re on the wrong trail.
This waterfall is one of several really, really nice cascades to be found along NC 215 so head off to Rosman, NC and from the intersection of US 64 and NC 215, drive north on NC 215 for 10.3 miles to FR 140. It comes in at a shallow angle on the right just before a bridge. FR 140 is marked.
Drive 2.6 miles on FR 140 (it is gravel) to where FR 5031 comes in on the right. Again, it is nicely marked. Although an FR road, it is barricaded. Park so as not to block the road. Simply walk around the barricade and the road turns into a wide, grassy trail for you to follow.
It starts out with a short uphill followed by a flat stretch then a long uphill. At this point, you begin to wonder if this is really a trail to a waterfall. You will reach a ridge and begin to start a shallow descent but your confidence will not be buoyed, you are still way up above the valley (and water sounds) to your right.
At about the 0.8 mile mark, you will notice that you’re beginning to hear water sounds from your left, not where you expected the waterfall to be. That’s Chestnut Creek as it comes down off Chestnut Bald. You’ll soon see the grassy trail forks into two grassy trails immediately in front of you. About 30 feet before the intersection, there will be an obvious path coming in from the left. In March 2012, it was also marked with surveyor’s tape.
Start into the woods on the path and it turns right in about 20 feet and begins to work its way down toward that always obvious sound of a waterfall. You continue down until you can see the creek and the water noise becomes louder…but you still can’t see the waterfall. And you won’t see it until you get within about 50 feet. The guides say it is tucked away in its own cove. “Cove” is a bit of an exaggeration, it is more like a “niche.” This really gives the waterfall a unique personality.
At 25 feet, the Chestnut Falls is about 2/3rd tier, 1/3rd plunge with the water flow restricted to the right side of the rock face. Your best photos are taken at the “door” to the niche. You can get closer to the waterfall if you like, but it takes some pretty careful rock-hopping.