Last Updated on October 21, 2021
Last Updated on October 21, 2021
If you plan to visit Western NC, please check beforehand to see if the area is safe following the recent flooding. Officials have closed some sections of Pisgah National Forest (including Forest Heritage Scenic Byway and Blue Ridge Parkway stops) to keep visitors out of danger. Please respect signage and local guidance.
The trailhead to reach Tom’s Creek Falls is about 7 miles from downtown Marion in McDowell County. If you can, please make time for Marion, as it’s one of our favorite mountain towns.
Both the trail and the waterfall sit inside Pisgah National Forest, one of North Carolina‘s four National Forests. To see Tom’s Creek Falls, you’ll need to hike an easy half-mile on a mostly flat, wide trail.
There is even an accessible viewing platform that offers a great look at the waterfall. That’s why we suggest this waterfall hike for kids and anyone with mobility issues.
We’ll cover the Tom’s Creek Falls hike, some interesting facts about it and the area, and more in this guide. Since there’s a lot to share about this wonderful place, we’ve organized the guide into the following sections:
- Where is Tom’s Creek Falls? (Driving Directions from I-40 and the Blue Ridge Parkway)
- Tom’s Creek Falls Facts
- Before You Go: Tips for Hiking Tom’s Creek Falls
- Leave No Trace Reminder
- The Tom’s Creek Falls Hike (From Start to Finish)
- Nearby Hikes and Things to Do
You can scroll ahead to any of these specific sections or keep reading more about how to reach this waterfall.
This post is part of our series on McDowell County, with more guides coming soon! Tom’s Creek Falls also features among our favorite waterfalls near Asheville and in our map of waterfalls in Western NC.
Where is Tom’s Creek Falls? (Driving Directions)
Tom’s Creek Falls is in Marion, North Carolina, and is easily accessible from I-40 (Exits 81 and 85).
That ease of access is why the trailhead’s small parking lot (located just before a small bridge) fills up. Here are a few different ways to reach the waterfall, including directions from the Blue Ridge Parkway!
Read More: Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes
I-40 Westbound Travelers (from Morganton)
- Take Exit 85 from I-40 and drive approximately 12 miles on US 221 North
- Turn Left onto Huskins Branch Rd.
- Continue 1.2 miles to the trailhead on your right.
I-40 Eastbound Travelers (from Asheville)
- Take Exit 81 from I-40
- Turn Left of Sugar Hill Rd
- After 2 miles Continue onto Henderson Rd
- Turn Right onto US-221 North and drive for 8 miles.
- Turn Left onto Huskins Branch Rd
We often use Tom’s Creek Falls to break up drives to and from Asheville.
From the Blue Ridge Parkway
- Turn off the Parkway at Little Switzerland (Milepost 334). The waterfall is about 10 miles from here. The trip should take roughly 20 minutes.
- From Little Switzerland, drive south on NC 226A for about 3 miles.
- Turn Right on US 221 South and continue for 1 mile.
- Turn Right on Huskins Branch Rd.
- From Blowing Rock Rd, follow NC-105 South for 17 miles.
- Turn Right onto US 221 S and stay on it for 3 miles. You’ll need to turn left to stay on it after half a mile.
- Turn Left onto US-181 South and stay on that highway for 3 miles.
- Turn Right onto NC-183 North. Continue for 4.5 miles.
- Turn Left onto US 221 South. Stay on 221 for 15 miles.
- Turn Right onto Huskins Branch Rd.
Tom’s Creek Falls Facts
Tom’s Creek Falls is an 80-ft multi-tiered feature with lots of rocks and shallow water surrounding it.
From the waterfall’s base, it appears to be small. However, if you first view the waterfall from the accessible viewing platform, you’ll see that smaller pools follow three levels of cascading water.
The base flows into a smooth rock basin pool. You can scramble on the surrounding rocks to reach the pool.
Beneath the rock pile is a very shallow pool of clear and cold water, perfect for really young children. Typical water levels make the pool at the base of the waterfall knee-deep.
We do ask that you never attempt a climb to the top of this waterfall. Wet rocks are slippery, and it is dangerous.
Tips for Hiking Tom’s Creek Falls (Before You Go)
While the trail at Tom’s Creek Falls is flat and wide, we still recommend proper footwear for this hike—especially if you want to get in the water.
Keen water shoes are our preferred shoes (#notsponsored). You can find them and similar brands at any LOCAL outdoor retailer.
We also recommend stopping to use the bathroom when you get off of I-40 before heading to the trail. There are no bathrooms, and the parking lot is small.
If you need to go on the trail, please remember to take any wipes with you as there is also no trash receptacle here.
Leave No Trace Reminder
Speaking of taking everything with you, it is always important to leave no trace when enjoying our public spaces. Take any trash you bring with you out and while you’re at it, pick up any you might find!
Many great organizations like the North Carolina Waterfall Keepers help keep our state beautiful, but we all share a responsibility not to harm our outdoor surroundings.
Do your best to keep your impact low, respect those around you, and keep NC wild for the next person.
The Tom’s Creek Falls Hike (from Start to Finish)
You will see a trail sign at the parking lot, and from here, the path starts to meander to the left. The surface is crushed gravel and 5 to 6 feet wide the entire way.
The hike will remain relatively flat the entire half-mile until just before the very end. That’s when you’ll follow a series of slightly inclined switchbacks.
There are plenty of spots along the trail to stop and enjoy the creek. If you are interested in camping, there are a few primitive campsites along the water. Signs indicated a maximum stay of 14 days.
While at Tom’s Creek Falls, make sure to look down and enjoy some of the sparkling rocks, especially if the sun is shining on them. This is mica, a natural resource used for electrical insulation that is still mined nearby in Micaville.
You’ll see the rocks throughout the hike but they’re most prominent around the waterfall’s base.
Ready to Visit Tom’s Creek Falls?
We absolutely love Tom’s Creek Falls and always look forward to our next visit. Of course, so we’ll stick to an early arrival on not-busy days.
We aren’t the only ones who love this waterfall, so we’d love to hear from you if you’ve visited Tom’s Creek Falls. What are your favorite things about this place?
If you’ve never made it to this waterfall, you’ll see why we (and others) love it so much! You’re more than welcome to share your first impressions with us after visiting.
Before you do that, we want to share a few places of interest nearby.
Nearby Hikes and Things to Do
After enjoying the cool water and maybe having a picnic, you might be up for some more fun in the area. Here are things to do near Tom’s Creek Falls.
The town is known as “where Main Street meets the mountains” and is a great place to get out, stretch your legs, and walk around.
We mentioned Little Switzerland earlier but wanted to share more about this lovely town that’s just 20 minutes away from Tom’s Creek Falls.
Grassy Creek Falls
Before you leave Little Switzerland, you’ll want to try out the easy two-mile hike to Grassy Creek Falls. This two-tiered 25-foot waterfall sits near the Switzerland Inn and is open to the public despite being on private property.
Crabtree Falls (near Burnsville and Mount Mitchell) is another of our favorite waterfalls in North Carolina. It’s about 30 minutes away and off the Blue Ridge Parkway, just five miles from Little Switzerland at MP 339.
The 70-foot waterfall is about 1.6 miles into a moderate 2.5-mile loop. The hike is moderate but definitely worth the trek!
The Linville Falls Visitor Center is only 30 minutes from Tom’s Creek Falls and just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 316. You’ll take US-221 North for most of the trip, though.
Multiple hikes await here but our favorite is a shorter, 2-mile round-trip hike. That one will take you to three different vantage points of this epic waterfall.
Linville Falls is one of many great places within the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, which is the deepest canyon in the Eastern United States.