including bushwhack to
Waterfall on Kuykendall Creek
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In his book on North Carolina Waterfalls, Kevin Adams has this to say about this waterfall: "Thanks to a hike that measures nearly 5 miles one-way and the extremely steep climb down the bank, this waterfall is not for everyone."
I had tried two other times to find this waterfall, each without success. The main stumbling block was not so much the mileage, or the bushwhack, but rather since you cannot see or hear the waterfall from the trail, it's very difficult to know exactly where to leave the trail to start bushwhacking down the hillside to the creek.
Kevin Adams gives excellent landmarks to look for, complete with mileage points for each. I have added each of his landmarks and associated mileage markers into my GPS track (below). If you have a GPS unit, all you'll really need to do is download the gpx file I have provided and follow that. But otherwise, print out the large map linked to below, and combined with Kevin's trail description, you should easily be able to find where to leave the trail.
Elevation Profile of the trail
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GPX data for download:
Kuykendall Loop, including bushwhack to Kuykendall Waterfall.
The nicest part of this loop hike is that it IS a loop hike. Kevin Adams trail description suggests an out and back hike along an old forest service road. I find this particular old logging road interesting, especially in the winter, as you get some nice views of the Brevard valley to the east, and some great views from numerous perspectives of the large, expansive rock face of Cedar Rock.
However, it would get a bit boring to do the same 5 miles up, and then back. As I explored this old forest road on other hikes, I noticed a single track trail that joined this road 0.6 mile up from the trailhead. Of course, I had to follow that and see where it went, and was surprised to find that in just over a mile and a half, it came out at Butter Gap, along the Art Loeb Trail, right at the shelter which is located at that gap. The course that this trail follows is a very pleasant route up the cove formed by Cedar Rock Creek.
The old forest road you follow up to the falls comes within a mile or so of Art Loeb, so by remaining on the old logging road to its junction with Art Loeb, and then following Art Loeb down to Butter Gap, you can make a very nice 9.3 mile loop hike out of this trek to Kuykendall Falls.
The trailhead for accessing this waterfall is on Catheys Creek road, a gravel road that runs from US64 to Gloucester Gap in Transylvania County, NC. If coming from US64, turn at the sign for Kuykendall Group Camp, and once you've made that turn, bear to the left onto Catheys Creek Road. After a short distance, the pavement ends and the gravel portion of this road begins.
3.5 miles from US64 you'll come to FS5361, a gated FS road on your right. On the left is a house with a large yard.
Park on the lower end of the FS road, being sure not to block the gate.
FS5361 winds around the southeast, and then the northeast face of Kagle Mountain. It remains wide and open the entire way, although the times I've hiked this in the summer it has had areas of very tall grass and briars in spots. Over the course of its 5.5 mile length, it gains 860 feet in elevation.
FS road 5361
As you climb in elevation, you gradually get views of Brevard to the east as well as Cedar Rock, to the north. About a half mile before FS5361 joins Art Loeb, Cedar Rock really makes a looming appearance!
Cedar Rock, looming above the upper section of FS5361
The Bushwhack to Kuykendall Waterfall
As mentioned above, Kevin Adams gives an excellent written description of where to leave this wide FS road (4.6 miles from the trailhead) and begin your descent down to the creek. At this point, you cannot hear or see the creek.
The descent is steep, but certainly not excessively so. As someone who "butt slides" down steep downhill sections, I was able to walk down almost all of this descent. The forest is mostly open, but even on the winter day we did this, we did run into a lot of briars. I imagine this descent in the summer would be a lot tougher with more undergrowth to work your way through.
As we approached the creek, we could tell we were upstream from the waterfall. We were actually able to find an almost level pathway that took us downstream to the portion of the stream past the falls. Once we made our way all the way down to creek level, we found we had one last steep section to drop/slide down.
Once at Kuykendall Creek, we found ourselves a little bit downriver from the base of the falls, and had a couple areas of rocky shelves to navigate up as we made our way to the base of the falls.
Making our way upstream to the base of Kuykendall Falls
The week prior to when we did this hike had multiple days below freezing, and there was still a lot of ice on the north facing slopes. But this day was in the 50's, and allowed us to wade the creek as needed to explore these gorgeous falls.
Brenda at Kuykendall Falls
We spent a nice amount of time at the falls, and had lunch there. We then headed back up the hillside to FS5361.
About that connection with Art Loeb
... you'll swear it isn't there ...
To continue with the loop, continue to follow FS5361 to its end. It connects with the Art Loeb trail. But the first time you do this hike, you won't think so!!
5.5 miles from the trailhead, this wide forest service road just ends. Big wide road, that totally ends, with nothing beyond it but trees. However, look closely for a narrow, single track pathway that bears off to the left (west) from the end of the wide forest road. Continue to follow it, and in about 600 feet, you'll come out at Art Loeb Trail. There is no marking at this point, except that Art Loeb is a very evident trail, and white blazed.
The first time you do this loop, be sure to do it in the counter-clockwise direction that I am presenting, because as you're standing on Art Loeb trail looking back at this trail you just took from the end of FS5361, it will look like nothing more than a trail that may have been made by wildlife. Very faint, and most certainly easily overlooked.
Turn left onto Art Loeb. It will head generally northwest, and in 0.9 mile, will arrive at Butter Gap, where the Butter Gap Shelter is located. Over the course of this 0.9 mile stretch, you'll drop approximately 200 feet in elevation, and cross several small creeks.
Once at Butter Gap, you have a great view of the southwest face of Cedar Rock.
To continue the loop back to the trailhead, you will leave Art Loeb Trail here at the Butter Gap Shelter. Look for a single track trail which crosses a small creek on the opposite side of the shelter from which you first arrive. This trail isn't labeled, and isn't even on most maps.
But the trail is very evident and easy to follow. Approximately 0.3 mile from the shelter, this trail will come to a "T" with a wider trail. Turn right and continue to follow this trail, which parallels Cedar Rock Creek, crossing it several times.
The trail initially goes through an area of large, level open forest. Then, as it descends further, the terrain on either side of the trail becomes steeper, and is bordered by thick mountain laurel.
1.6 miles from Butter Gap shelter, this unnamed trail rejoins FS5361. Turn right, and you'll be back at the trailhead in 0.6 mile.
Also, note that this trailhead is just 0.3 mile up the road from Catheys Creek Falls. Although you can easily see these falls from the road, it's worth parking and taking the short, steep path down to the falls themselves. Photos of Cathey's Creek Falls are in this SmugMug Gallery.