Twisting Falls

Cherokee National Forest, Carter, Tennessee
Twisting Falls, Cherokee National Forest
Twisting Falls (5/12/2007, 35 mm, f/22, 0.6 sec, ISO 100 hi res photo)
Order from Gardner Photography


Twisting Falls is an impressive site as the Elk River falls 25-35 feet over a wide ledge in the river.  Just as impressive is the remote location in a rather steep canyon of the Cherokee National Forest.

It's a beautiful setting and well worth the short but very steep hike.  The waterfall rated a very good 7.5 from me, although Greg Plumb only gave it a 3-star.

Getting There

From Hampton, TN take U.S. 321 past Wautaga Lake.  At the small town of Elk Mills, turn right on Poga Road (just after crossing the bridge).  Go about 4 miles and turn right onto Clawson Rd.  It's very narrow.  About a 1/2 mile down this road take a right onto an unmarked gravel road.  Follow the gravel road to the end near an old barn.  You should see a four-wheeler trail on the right.  Park here.

Hike Details

This is a relatively short but steep hike.

From the parking area follow the four-wheeler trail that leads off to the right through the woods and slightly downhill.

After about 200 yards you should come out under some powerlines.  Just before a large set of poles will be a trail to the left heading straight down.  Yep, that's it.

Because the trail is steep and footing can be iffy at best, I recommend you bring a good walking stick or trekking poles for assistance.  This trail has no switchbacks.

It's straight down all the way, baby!

View near the base of the trail

The trail will bring you out on the Elk River about 0.2 miles or so downstream of Twisting Falls.  Don't forget to mark 

where you came out if the trail happens to be overgrown and hard to see!  The picture to the left was taken near where the trail emerges at the Elk River.

A good trail to the base of the falls there is not. 

You just have to rock hop and scamper up the river.  We happened across one snake but it was of the nonpoisonous variety.

Photo Tips

I was blessed with good weather.

No, it was great weather.

Actually, it was bad weather but great for waterfall photography.  It was overcast and even sprinkling some.  Perfect!

The moisture in the air made the pictures a little fuzzy but also gave them this surreal, ethereal feel to them as well.  On top of that, the overcast sky gave a nice, even lighting to the scene with little or no excess glare.  Be aware, though, that I still underexposed most of my pictures about 1/2 stop.

Use a polarizing filter for sure to help with glare on the water and foliage.  Note that the polarizer will often give a cool (bluish) cast to pictures and it did here.  I color corrected the images with Photoshop.

Yes, I think a tripod is necessary unless you visit in the Spring and there is heavy flow.  Even then I would use a tripod.  

Ok, where to shoot.  To get a full view of Twisting Falls you will need to cross the river.  I didn't go across as I was carrying some high dollar equipment on my back and didn't want to risk it.  I did scamper out about halfway across on a ledge for the best pictures and video you see here.  You can't get all that close to the waterfall due to mist from the falls.  There are many options on composition with nearby rocks and foliage.  Play around.  Digital film is cheap.


Here you go. 

› Twisting Falls

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