Toms Creek Falls is an easy beginner hike with a wonderful 60-foot waterfall at the end of the trail. Hiking to Toms Creek Falls is a four tenths mile stroll on a beautiful woodlands trail . The combination of short hike and minimal elevation gain makes the trail the absolute perfect spot for beginner hikers, young families or seniors.
The waterfall is located just north of Marion, approximately one-hour east of Asheville. The drive out of Asheville is almost entirely on Highway 40, but the scenery is welcoming. The gap through the Eastern Continental Divide provides views of the mountains around Mount Mitchell and the valleys below the highway. The last turn to the parking lot passes through a neighborhood on a paved road, which turns to gravel for a short bit and then back to paved. About 1.2 miles in from the main road, the parking lot is on the right and you will see the trail board for Pisgah. Extremely easy drive that all cars can make, no need for the 4×4.
We arrived just before 9am on a Sunday to find an empty parking lot. The end of April is hard to judge if the trail will be packed or not. We usually try to visit waterfalls as early as possible to enjoy a peaceful trip for our group, and it was nice to have an empty trail. Within fifty feet of the trail head, we found a small garter snake warming up in the trail and got a good look before passing by. Wildflowers lined the walk and gave off a nice aroma. The trail runs parallel with the creek, with some thick foliage blocking the view. Side trails have formed to camping spots located on the banks of the creek providing plenty of spots for picnics or overnight stays. The creek crosses the trail under a bridge and makes multiple appearances as the trail bends back and forth. We found all sorts of colorful millipedes and centipedes on the walk. Bright yellow and red highlights as they roamed around the leaves. Our group paused in shock coming around a bend to see the waterfall in the distance. I thought the trail was .8 miles each way, when in fact the .8 miles is roundtrip. The first view of the waterfall from the trail seems to stretch from the trail to the canopy, and we followed the few cutbacks to the viewing platform. The trail officially ends at the viewing platform, but on the right side of the main trail a few side trails loop around the rocks to the pool at the falls. The trail to the bottom is very easy for adults, but hold hands with smaller children. I don’t recommend taking kids to the top of a waterfall.
The creek at the base of the waterfall is perfect for kids. The water tumbles down the rocks into a central spot, then flows over a small set of large boulders and spreads out to a shallow area filled with an assortment of rocks and mica. The shallow area is twenty feet long and maybe fifteen feet wide. It seems that groups have walled off a bit of the current to setup a perfect shallow wading pool for the kids. We spent over an hour playing in the creek and picking up the small shiny rocks. The area around the creek is known for the variety of colorful stones. On the drive to the trail, you will pass two active stone quarries digging from the same general vein as the river. Many of the boulders on the side of the trail have veins of mica or basketball size rough quartz crystals. Keep your eyes peeled and spot all sorts of geology for the kids and young at heart.
Between the rocks and the wildflowers, the wildlife in the creek is a great addition. We found dozens of salamanders hiding between the rocks and swimming in the currents. The salamanders ranged in size from your fingernail to your hand, with a majority in the three to four-inch range. Most of them are a dark brown color, but sometimes bright patterns appear. We also found a few crayfish moving around, including a bright pink one that was freshly molted. Crayfish shed their skin to grow and start off very brightly colored compared to the later camouflage. After viewing the small critters, we carefully put them back where we found them. Right before we left, we experienced a bit more of the nature cycle. The bright pink crayfish had wandered too close to a large salamander hiding in the rocks, and he jumped out and grabbed the crayfish next to us. A bit of splashing and the salamander had a nice breakfast. Small moments like these make me appreciate taking the time to get our daughter outside during “quiet” hours on the trails.
We strolled back to the parking lot, stopping to look at butterflies, caterpillars and pretty flowers. Riley was exhausted and I’m glad I brought the kid carrier instead of carrying her the entire way. She sat up top enjoying snacks and pointing out the bugs. As we hit the parking lot, another family pulled up with two small kids. We all smiled knowing how much fun they were about to have and with a cheerful wave headed home.
On our way home, we decided to visit a playground in Montreat another parent told us about. We rarely head out to Black Mountain, so we decided it was worth a quick stop, even with a tired toddler trying to fall asleep in the car. During our brief stop at the playground, we were impressed. The Montreat Playground has slides and swings for all sizes. The best part is the creek winding through the playground, offering very safe splash areas. Kids swarmed around the water and slides, enjoying the spring day. To learn more about area playgrounds, click here and see our Favorite Playgrounds.
If you are looking for another waterfall in the area, check out Catawba Falls. The trail now has bridges across the stream and a nice wide walking path.