Saturday, June 5, 2021

Falls of Hills Creek -- Highland Scenic Highway's Hidden Gem

We fell for the Falls of Hills Creek!



This was a delightful find, along the north half of the Allegheny Scenic Highway. As we drove by, we saw the sign for Falls of Hills Creek and wondered what we were missing, so we turned to check it out.



Turns out, it was a breath-taking (in the literal and figurative senses) hike to the -- you guessed it -- three waterfalls that Hills Creek creates as it descends the mountains.

One of the lower viewing platforms.



Hills Creek descends a narrow gorge in the Monongahela National Forest adjacent the Allegheny Scenic Highway, along WV 39/WV 55. This is a popular scenic attraction, as indicated by the expansive parking lot. When we were there in April, we saw three other cars -- a crowd by the standards of all the other hikes we've been on, where we've seen literally no one else.



Part of the hike -- the top part -- is wheelchair accessible, although some of the inclines are pretty steep. I believe one review I'd looked at said it was about 12%. This accessible part -- a paved path for some 1700 feet -- leads you to an overlook of the upper falls. 

The stairs leading down to the Middle Falls.



And that's about the best view you'll gain of the Upper Falls, which tumbles 25 feet down the hillside. 

One of the first glimpses of the Middle Falls, tantalizingly through the rhododendron.

The sign in the parking lot advertises that the other two falls are viewable by following the trail: "The remainder of the trail has about 380 steps and may be quite difficult. Rest often if necessary." The elevation change is 272 feet in 1.3 miles.



Don't let that discourage you! On the way down, you enjoy the sound of Hills Creek and the waterfalls, and you'll note that there are plenty of flat stretches where you may rest a bit to enjoy being out in the woods on the way back up. 



Between the first and Middle Falls, you cross the creek, before heading down additional stairs to a viewing platform above the Middle Falls. Along the way there are a few signs providing information about the local flora and fauna and the geology behind the falls.



There is a bit of an intimidating steel stairs structure on the way down to the Middle Falls, which cascade down rather dramatically 45 feet over a ledge, but again, there are rest areas and viewing platforms from which to enjoy the falls as you catch your breath on the way back up. 

The final stair structure before the Lower Falls.



Finally, another stair structure and board walk carry you down the mountainside (and creek) to the viewing platform for the Lower Falls, which puts the previous two falls to shame with its spectacular 63 foot plummet, making it the second tallest falls in West Virginia. 



This is worth the descent and future ascent up those 380 stairs. You can do it. It's worth it. You won't regret it! 

Getting there: From the North and East via Interstate 79, use Exit 57 onto US Route 19 South to State Route 55. Take WV 55 through Richwood to the Falls of Hills Creek. Approximately 65 miles from Exit 57.

From South and East via Interstate 64 use Exit 169 onto US 219 North to State Route 39/55. West on WV 39/55 to Falls of Hills Creek. Approximately 42 miles from Exit 169 in Lewisburg.

Hours: Dawn through dusk

Website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/mnf/recarea/?recid=9914





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