This short hike to Little Fall Branch Falls is worth a quick stop if you are hiking in the Harmon Den Wildlife Management Area of Pisgah National Forest. If you are hiking to Max Patch (like I did after this stop), or having a nice outing at the Cold Springs Picnic Area, then this 30-minute detour will most certainly surprise you. Little Fall Branch is very tiny, and it seems impossible that an impressive waterfall would be located on this watercourse. The waterfall is ~40 feet high and hemmed in by a cove of moss-covered cliffs. It would at its most spectacular in the summer after rain when everything is really green. Although the trail to the waterfall is unofficial, the path is easy and appropriate for any hiker. This waterfall is not listed on any map, I found out about it from the excellent new North Carolina Waterfalls Third Edition book by Kevin Adams. I highly recommend purchasing this book if you love hiking to waterfalls.
Take exit 7 off of I-40 deep in the Pigeon River Gorge, and drive north on Cold Springs Creek Rd for 3.7 miles into the Harmon Den Wildlife Management Area. Turn right onto FR 3526/Fall Branch Rd, passing by Cold Springs Picnic Area on the left. After 0.3-mi Fall Branch Rd is gated immediately after the gated road to the Harmon Den Horse Camp. Park anywhere around here, the unofficial trail to the waterfall is located just beyond the gate.
Max elevation: 3100 ft
Min elevation: 2864 ft
Total Time: 00:22:56
Begin the hike by following FR 3526/Fall Branch Rd to the closed gate. When you walk around the gate you also walk over the culvert for Little Fall Branch. This stream is very tiny, how could this have a nice waterfall you may wonder as I did. About 10 feet after the gate look to the left for a usage path that follows the stream. I did not initially find the path, but I walked parallel to the stream and eventually found it. The forest is very open here so there’s zero chance of getting lost. The path never strays more than 15 feet away from the stream at any point.
In 0.2-mi the trail hugs Little Fall Branch as it curves right. It is oh so small. You will see up ahead a band of cliffs and bluffs that rise above this flatland drainage. You’ll reach Little Fall Branch Falls in just under 0.3-mi. The beauty of this waterfall is surprising. It cascades then freefalls ~40 feet over a wide cliff. The whole area is teeming with green, the cliffs covered in moss. I think in the summer this would have a wonderful rain forest feel. The sun was shining through the trees directly above the waterfall, so it was difficult to get nice pictures. This was only a quick stop for me before I hiked up to Max Patch, so I only lingered for a few minutes. Little Fall Branch Falls is not worth a trip by itself, but if you’re in the Harmon Den area you’ll enjoy this side trip.