Laurel Falls

There are so many "Laurel" Creeks in W. Virginia, it's sometimes hard to know which falls are which.  For instance, I thought the ones I shot on Bechwith Road were Laurel Falls, as they are on Laurel Creek.  Not so.

 

This fall is a bit of an adventure and you might think you hear the banjos playing in the back of your mind, if you get my drift.  We'll start on US 19, where a lot of good things start and go 4.5 miles east on the Midland Trail (US 60) and turn right on Saturday Rd.

 

NE on Saturday Rd. (Hopewell) for 6.4 miles
Make a sharp left onto Lucas Rd. (Intersection has triangle island and you will cross Laurel Creek almost immediately.  Now you have Laurel Creek on your left.
Continue to a church on left after 1/10 mile.
Continue on hard top road for 1 mile.
At a sharp turn to the left at the crest of a hill, continue straight onto a gravel road.
Lucas Road follows Laurel Creek now on your right.  You will cross the creek again in .5 mile, now on your left.  At 1.4 miles from the start of the dirt road, you will come to a fork in the road.  Go left and immediately cross Laurel Creek again, now on your right.
All together it's two miles on this road.  When coming to junctions in road, choose the path that travels downward and follows the creek in it's descent to the Gauley.
Stop and park at a wooden structure on your left below some sandstone cliffs. From here you will have to find a way down into the creek.  I went about a hundred yards down stream from the structure to scramble down.  It was a bit tricky and in places the ground wants to slide out from under you, but it's definitely doable.

Here's a shot of me and some of the guys I took there.  This is a nice falls and worth the trip.

 

 

These are the directions and further information supplied by Fred Wolfe on his Flickr site.

Fred is a wonderful waterfall photographer and is very savvy about WV backroads, creeks and rivers.

 

About 200 yards west of the intersection of US Route 60 and US Route 19 (Hico, WV) take Sunday Road (When you get to Leander, WV Sunday road magically turns into Saturday...I don't know why but it's the same road.)

The road is in good shape but very curvy...so it seems like a long drive. After you pass Leander watch for Lucas Road. It's not marked but the intersection is very unusual...it is shaped like a railroad "wye"...triangle shaped in the middle with Saturday Road as its base and Lucas Road on each side. After a short way you will pass a old white frame church which is your clue you are on the right road.

After a mile or less Luca Road makes a sudden and sharp 90 degree left turn...don't turn...straight in front of you is County Road 3-3...CR 3-3 is a dirt road...you will soon be surrounded by green and will soon get close to Laurel Creek. You will cross it on an old bridge. When you are within a few hundred yards of the big fall the road splits...to the left slightly uphill, to the right sharply downhill. You want to go downhill.

At this point how much farther you drive depends on what you are driving. High axle 4WD is best but not absolutely necessary. I drive my Monte Carlo down there but I'm not too bright. Prudence dictates pulling to the side and walking the rest of the way. I've not been down there in two years and don't know if the road is better or worse.

A word of caution - I assume since you are a seasoned waterfall chaser that narrow, muddy, rocky backroads are not news to you. If not, walk. If you get stuck down in that canyon it's gonna be bad.

There is room enough at the big fall to turn around. The last few hundred feet before the big fall the road hugs hard by tall cliffs. When you get abreast of the fall you will notice some old structures that look like an old camp ground.

 

I'd like to add that the big fall is only one of many more...all pretty, all requiring wet feet and are upstream from the big fall. A few smaller falls and cascades are downstream and can be gotten to without getting too wet.  By the way the last road you turn on, the one I commented that turns sharply downhill, is not shown on the map...don't know why...it just ain't. Even the most recent USGS (2011) does not show it. 

If you have the right vehicle that road will take you all the way down to the Gauley River. At that point it joins a one-lane road that used to be C&O rail bed. Turn left and you can drive through the mile long Koontz Bend tunnel. At the other end is an old rail road bridge which you can walk across. Nice views. Walk across it to the active Norfolk Southern tracks and turn right. Walk about 3/4 mile to a large and pretty waterfall on Peters Creek.

Turn left and you can drive all the way to Nallen, WV...first along the Gauley River and then up Meadow Creek. Along the way you will drive through another tunnel, the Carnifex Tunnel, curved and wet. It's a long drive to Nallen but pretty. You will pass by Ramsey Branch with it's big and beautiful waterfall.