Thursday, May 24, 2012

Waterfalls of Deep Creek

One of the more popular areas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Deep Creek.  This entrance to the Park is about 10 miles from Cherokee along US 19 near the community of Bryson City.

One of the features that makes this a popular place is Deep Creek which is wide and fast moving--just right for tubing.  Along Deep Creek Road from Bryson City right up to the gate of the National Park are private vendors displaying thousands of tubes for rent.

Deep Creek is also popular with fly fishermen.  Deep Creek Trail follows Deep Creek upstream for some eleven miles of easy access for fishermen.  The tubers are only allowed along the lower 1.5 miles, so the fishermen are in their element for the other 10 miles.

Deep Creek is popular with hikers and horsemen, also.  There are about 5 loop trails that begin near the picnic/campground area.  A couple of these loops are short--less than 5 miles.  The others vary in length, but are all short enough for a day hike.  Many other trails are accessible off these loop trails and a backpacker could spend many days wandering around between Deep Creek, Newfound Gap Road, and Clingman’s Dome.  Deep Creek Trail is over 14 miles in length from the parking lot at the picnic area all the way to Newfound Gap Road.  This is the same Deep Creek we had lunch by on Monday; we were just 10 miles up the trail from the campground at the junction with Fork Ridge.

The Deep Creek area is popular with the tourists.  There is a large picnic area with a restroom facility with changing areas for the tubers.  There is a picnic pavilion for larger groups and there is a small campground for tents and small RVs.  Deep Creek Trail is one of only a couple trails in the Smokies that allows bicycles (only for the first 1.5 miles).  Perhaps the biggest attraction of the area are the waterfalls.  There are three waterfalls within a mile of each other.

Juney Whank Falls

We came to Deep Creek to see the waterfalls.  There is a very large parking lot at the end of the picnic/campground area and a short access trail at the back of this parking lot which leads one-tenth of a mile to the Deep Creek Horse Trail.  Following the horse trail for another two-tenths of a mile brought us to Juney Whank Falls.  A footbridge crosses the creek in front of the falls so you can get up close and personal.  Juney Whank is actually divided into two sections with a total drop of about 90 feet.  The trails guidebook says that Juney-whank is Cherokee for “the bear went that a-way”, but the National Park website says Juney is the nickname for Junaluska Whank, who may be buried nearby.

Tom Branch Falls
We continued on the trail after crossing the footbridge in front of the falls which led steeply downhill about 0.4 mile to junction with Deep Creek Trail.  Following Deep Creek Trail upstream we soon came to Tom Branch Falls on the far side of Deep Creek.  This falls drops about 60 feet.  There were several benches on the bank for viewing this waterfall.  When we were there it was a very peaceful setting.  I can imagine on a hot summer day Deep Creek would be thick with tubers at this location.

Indian Creek Falls
Continuing on up Deep Creek Trail for about a half mile we came to the junction with Indian Creek Trail.  Taking Indian Creek Trail for a couple hundred feet brought us to Indian Creek Falls.  This waterfall is short at 25 feet, but it makes up for that shortness with its width.

After making a few photos, we continued on Indian Creek Trail for a half mile to junction with the Loop Trail.  This one mile trail climbs up a short distance to Sunkota Ridge Trail then drops down the other side to connect with Deep Creek Trail to form a loop.  From there it was 1.7 miles back to the parking lot.

Patiently waiting for me to finish making photos

We had our picnic lunch in the recently renovated picnic area then toured the campground before heading back to Cherokee.  Our total hiking milage for the day was 4.6 with an over the top scenic beauty rating.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

That’s all for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

1 comment:

  1. Loved looking at all the waterfall pics and thinking how fresh and cool the spray would feel. Gene's always a patient waiter...