Hiking the Highlands – Beech Mountain falls

At nearly a mile high, the water on Beech Mountain doesn’t really have any place to go – but down. Here, Pond Creek tumbles, slipping over ancient rock formations beside thick nests of rhododendron and laurel.
Talk about tranquil.
Listen: That’s about all you could call the rippling waters of the Lower Pond Creek Trail.
This trek spans only about a mile, one-way. But it’s rated moderately strenuous for traversing steep terrain.
For sure, it can be simply challenging, holding onto trees and keeping balance on a surface of knobby rocks and worn roots.
What’s the attraction? All that water.
The Lower Pond Creek Trail boasts a grand series of cascades and side chutes. It’s a continuous trip down, down, down.
SEAN MCNAY leads the way.
He’s the parks and trails coordinator for Beech Mountain. And it’s his job to maintain the trails of this getaway in western North Carolina.
An isolated community situated among North Carolina’s High Country, Beech Mountain claims fame for being “Eastern America’s Highest Town,” with an elevation of 5,506 feet.
It is known, today, for its resort at Ski Beech. Historically, too, it is known for once being the home of the Land of Oz, an extinct theme park that operated at the mountain’s peak in the 1970s.
The office manager for the Beech Mountain Chamber of Commerce, Peggy Coscia, promotes the trails of Beech Mountain, along with former mayor Fred Pfohl, operator of Fred’s General Mercantile, and McNay, who helps coordinate a series of guided hikes.
One trail leads behind the Buckeye Recreation Center to reach a 20-foot-high waterfall. Another follows the Upper Pond Creek Trail, with a trek leading through the Charter Hills neighborhood.
TRAILS RANGE from 3,800 feet to 5,000 feet and wind past creeks, waterfalls, old-growth timber and other natural wonders. You’ll see all kinds of wildlife along the way – from white tail deer and wild turkeys to raccoons, red squirrels and grouse.
“We are excited to offer an educational, outdoor activity that can be enjoyed by everyone – from the advanced hiker to a family with small children,” Coscia said. “Since we started these guided hikes several years ago, we’ve had a tremendous turn-out, and people come from around the region to enjoy the mountains and the educational hikes.”
These days, Coscia said, people rent houses and simply go hiking at Beech – for a weekend or even a week.
“And,” Pfohl said, “with summer temperatures rarely exceeding 72 degrees at Beech Mountain, it’s a great way to escape the heat while still enjoying the outdoors.”
IN ALL, BEECH MOUNTAIN boasts about 20 miles of trails. The Lower Pond Creek Trail, for one, boasts Beech Mountain’s most impressive waterfalls.
There are many.
And the largest of the drops has a legend attached to it. As the story goes, a woman hiked along this trail and decided to take a closer look at the largest cascade – a 25-foot-high drop. Yet, as this woman got too close, she slipped, fell and broke her leg.
Later, after her rescue, one of McNay’s co-workers came along and figured out the best name for this cascade. Today, it is called simply:


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