Courthouse Falls is an absolutely gorgeous waterfall and area that is nestled into a small cove located in a remote section of Pisgah National Forest. The hike to the falls is short, only .7 miles, and the trail is flat and very scenic. This is definitely a waterfall you should put high on your “to see” list.
Roundtrip Distance: 1.4 mile roundtrip
Features: Waterfall, Swimming Hole, dense woods hiking, creekside hiking
Directions: From The Blue Ridge Parkway, taken the Highway 215 Exit and follow Highway 215 south for just shy of 7 miles. On the left, you’ll see a small dirt road and a sign indicating it is FR140. Turn left onto FR140 and follow it out for 3 miles to the trailhead.
Recommended Gear: Good hiking boots or shoes, Daypack, Dayhiker First Aid Kit, Sunscreen, some snacks, water, Water shoes and a bathing suit if you think you might want to swim.
Courthouse Falls is located in Pisgah National Forest, south of the Blue Ridge Parkway off Highway 215 (see our detailed directions above). The waterfall is located .7 miles down the Courthouse Falls Trail. The trail is flat and very easy until the very last section, where you travel down a fairly steep and narrow side trail that takes you to Courthouse Falls itself.
Reaching the trail head is an adventure in itself, as it is a beautiful drive. After turning off Highway 215, onto FR140, you’ll travel out this narrow gravel road for almost 3 miles. You’ll cross over a number of bridges before reaching the trailhead parking lot. You’ll see the Courthouse Falls trailhead immediately to your left after crossing a small bridge. The small parking area will be on your right.
Here is a photo, taken from the parking area, looking towards the Courthouse Falls trailhead. You can see the end of the bridge on the left. The trailhead is between the two trees.
A heads up about FR140, the road to the trailhead, it is a narrow gravel road, that is often a bit bumpy. While a 4-wheel drive vehicle isn’t required, it would certainly be beneficial in some spots just due to ground clearance and a few steep uphill climbs.
But regardless of your vehicle type, just go slow and pay attention to avoid the holes and you’ll be fine. The park service also recently repaired a number of the bridges, and regraded and graveled the road, so it’s far better than it was.
Courthouse Falls Trail
The trailhead is labeled as two separate trails: Courthouse Falls Trail and Summey Cove Trail. Courthouse Falls Trail will veer off the main trail at about the .5 mile mark and the Summey Cove Trail will continue on.
Summey Cove Trail leads from Highway 215, and is scheduled to be closed by the park service due to maintenance issues due to water and lack of use. The trail will officially be renamed to Courthouse Falls Trail soon.
Courthouse Falls Trail follows along side Courthouse Creek for nearly the entire length of the trail to the falls. There are numerous small side trails that lead you down to the creek for beautiful scenes and photo opportunities. At about the .25 mile mark, you’ll hear the Falls. This is a key indicator to begin watching to your left for the small trail that leads down to Courthouse Falls.
You’ll actually pass the falls as you head towards the small spur trail, and if you watch closely, you’ll be able to see the falls from the trail. At about .5 miles, you’ll see the small spur trail to the left. It’s really a switchback, and goes down steeply. On a log just past the side trail, is an arrow with the words “Falls” pointing you in the right direction.
Caution: There are a number of very steep side trails that people have made to reach the falls. Don’t take these, as they are slippery, not stable, and dangerous. Just continue hiking until you see the marked side trail (see photo above), that has steps at the beginning of it.
Travel down this small narrow trail. You’ll cross a small bridge, and then walk down some steep but short stairs. You’ll see the cove ahead of you, and Courthouse Falls to your left.
Courthouse Falls is about 50 feet tall, and plunges into the small cove and dark pool. The water at the base looks deep, and is often used as a swimming hole during the summer. The pool then spills out and continues as a creek working it’s way through large boulders and smaller waterfalls.
The cove and waterfall is absolutely gorgeous, and you’ll find many photo opportunities here. Down a little from the falls, is a large boulder that makes for a great place to just sit and enjoy the sites and sounds of the area. When we visited, we were there for nearly 2 hours, and didn’t see a single person the whole time.
Recently a very large Hemlock tree fell from above the cove area, and landed just below the pool at the bottom of the falls. Unfortunately the tree hampers the view for one of the best photo angles. The goods news though is that the fallen Hemlock does help with crossing the creek. You can see the hemlock in the bottom of this photo:
Courthouse Falls is named due to being located on Courthouse Creek and below Devil’s Courthouse a popular scenic overlook and location on The Blue Ridge Parkway.
On your way back, take time to follow the many smaller trails down to the creek. Courthouse Creek is very pretty, and contains numerous smaller cascades they make for great photos, like the one below.
Other waterfalls in the area:
While visiting, be sure to see the following waterfalls that are very close by:
- Dill Falls – Dill Falls is a tall and beautiful falls located in a remote section of the Nantahala National Forest
- Graveyard Fields Upper and Lower Falls – A popular destination on the The Blue Ridge Parkway that has two waterfalls, and a number of hiking trails.
- Skinny Dip Falls – A gorgeous waterfall off The Blue Ridge Parkway that is also a very popular summer swimming hole.
- Wildcat Falls – A neat and unique waterfall located off Highway 215 in Pisgah National Forest.
- Sunburst Falls – Literally right next to the highway, this is a pretty and easy to access waterfall off Highway 215 in Pisgah National Forest.
Courthouse Falls Video
Here’s a video of myself (Larry), and our daughter driving and hiking down to Courthouse Falls:
Here’s a video of the falls I took during our recent visit in the Fall:
Courthouse Falls Photo Gallery
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