Hiking The Rufus Morgan Trail & Falls

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Rufus Morgan Falls Trailhead

Driving westerly out of  Asheville you’ll eventually enter the Nantahala National Forest. Encompassing much of the western tip of North Carolina, it consists of over 531,000 acres of raw beauty waiting to be explored.  Nantahala is Cherokee for “land of the noonday sun”

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Foot Bridge over Rough Fork

Along a winding scenic drive about 12 miles outside the little town of Franklin, you’ll come to FR388. Head a few miles into the forest and you will arrive at a small trailhead parking area on your right marked nicely with a brown sign. The trail begins here and heads up some switchbacks into the woods. The trail is only a little over a mile long with about 467 feet of elevation gain. The trail climbs steadily, but isn’t very steep making it a pretty easy hike for most. The trail is rocky and slippery in spots with several stream crossings, so shoes with good traction and a hiking stick might be recommended.

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The trail is marked with blue blazes and is very well maintained.  The rocky trail follows and crosses a creek fed by the Left Prong of Rough Fork. You will eventually cross a small foot bridge mid way to the falls. Here you will get your first glimpse of one of the several small cascades you’ll see along the path.

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The trail is located in the Wayah Ranger District at about 3620 feet. It is named after Albert “Uncle Rufus” Morgan who was a poet, conservationist, priest and avid hiker of the region. Rufus Morgan maintained a large section of the Appalachian Trail until his death in 1983 at the age of 97.

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Rufus Morgan Falls

The area is only open from March until December, but the hike along the fire road(FR388) to the trail head is only 2 miles if the gate is closed. Some of the best hiking is in the Spring around late April. This is when the wildflowers are in abundance. Come back in May through July and see Flame Azaleas, Mountain Laurel and Rhododendrons blooming.

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The 60 foot tall steep sliding waterfall is located in a dense old growth forest, lush with green moss, lichens and mushrooms. The falls are framed by large towering trees, making it a little hard to get a good photograph. The area is best visited any time of year and often you’ll have the place to yourself.

Directions: From the junction of US 441/23 and US 64 in Franklin, NC Head about 3.8 miles west on US 64 to Old Murphy Road. Turn Right.

Go 0.2 miles to Wayah Road (SR 1310) and turn left. From here travel up the winding road 6.4 miles to the gravel service road FR388 on the left.

Trail is about 2 miles down FR388. Small parking area on the right.

“Not all who wander are lost.”

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