Dozens of streams flow off the slopes of the Plott Balsam Mountains, a high, rugged range of peaks near Sylva. Most of these streams form multiple waterfalls as they cascade into the valleys, but few are as impressive as the pair of waterfalls on Buff Creek. First, Buff Creek comes over a massive cliff to form Upper Buff Creek Falls, a remote and stunning part-free-fall waterfall over 100 feet high. Even taller, Lower Buff Creek Falls comes next as the creek slides steeply down a long, broad rock slab. While the lower falls can look skinny in dry periods, the upper falls is gorgeous in almost any condition! Upper Buff Creek Falls is among the most beautiful waterfalls in southwest North Carolina, but access to it presents problems. Shortly after dropping over the lower falls, Buff Creek enters private property as it comes alongside Buff Creek Road. The only legal way to see the waterfalls is a long hike along old logging roads from the trail to Blackrock Mountain. I visited both waterfalls on Saturday, March 24th, 2018. This is not a typical trail report as I do not have enough information to provide a step-by-step guide for the public route to the waterfalls. Instead, this report serves to acknowledge the existence and beauty of these waterfalls, as well as the possible options for accessing them.
Pinnacle Park: West Fork/East Fork Loop to Gina Falls, The Pinnacle, Blackrock Mountain, and Fisher Falls, Sylva, North Carolina
The Pinnacle, a famous rock outcrop that stands sentinel over the town of Sylva, is known well throughout the hiking community for its breathtaking views. The Pinnacle and Blackrock Mountain - a nearby peak with another stunning view - are part of the Plott Balsam Mountains, which are among the highest mountains in the Southeast. The area around The Pinnacle and Blackrock used to be a watershed that provided all of Sylva's drinking water and was strictly off-limits. However, as Sylva became in need of a better water supply, the watershed was transformed into Pinnacle Park. Later, the Blackrock Ridge Tract - an area of previously-private land that included Blackrock Mountain - was purchased, and today, a well-used network of trails connects The Pinnacle and Blackrock to the park's entrance off Fisher Creek Road and to the Blue Ridge Parkway. This hike occurred on Saturday, February 3rd, 2018. My plan was to hike the West Fork/East Fork Loop clockwise. Along the way, I would make side trips to The Pinnacle and Blackrock, and I would also bushwhack to Gina Falls and Fisher Falls.
The Plott Balsam Mountains of Western North Carolina, sometimes considered part of the Great Smoky Mountains, is one of the most scenic areas along the southern Blue Ridge Parkway. A long history exists behind the land covering the western Plotts. Until 1991, the area now called Pinnacle Park was a watershed providing the town of Sylva's residents' water. Then, Sylva's residents were in need of a better water supply, and the watershed was transformed into a public park maintained by The Pinnacle Park Foundation. The main reason of this was to allow public access to the Pinnacle, a jagged rock outcrop on the very western end of the Plott Balsams, making for a sharp ending to the long ridgeline. Nearby, the exceptionally steep and rugged peak of Blackrock was previously on private land, until just a handful of years ago when the Blackrock Ridge Tract was purchased. Since then, these two features are fully connected to trails extending from the Blue Ridge Parkway. This hike occurred on Saturday, November 1st, 2014. My plan was to hike the West Fork Trail from the Pinnacle Park trailhead to the summit of Blackrock, and if time would permit, to Waterrock Knob. Along the way, I would take the side trail to The Pinnacle.
Mark Oleg Ozboyd
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