We get out about once a week to hike usually in central to western North Carolina. We hike slowly and stop often to enjoy the views and the little treasures that nature offers. We enjoy waterfall, river, and mountain hikes frequently visiting The Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Smoky Moutains National Park, and Pisgah National Forest.
Porters Creek is in the Greenbriar section of the Smokies east of Gatlinburg. It is accessed by several miles of gravel road that passes two picnic areas with restrooms.The first part of the trail is gravel road in good shape following the creek. On the other side of the road are side trails leading to stone walls and old foundations.
The trail is almost level and lined with flowers. This is a pleasant shaded walk with lots of chances to explore. There are stone steps leading up to the old homestead site and more leading to an old cemetary. Past the cemetary are the remains of an old vehicle. At one point there is a foot bridge where vehicles would have forded the stream.
At about one mile the road ends in a "cul-de-sac." Our trail continues to the left. Straight ahead is another hiking trail and to the right is a short detour to several buildings. There is a well preserved cantilever barn, a springhouse with the water still flowing through it, and a restored cabin. We took a few minutes to wander through the buildings.
The main trail from this point is narrower but still easy walking through pleasant woods. We saw a few flowers but the best was yet to come. There was a stream crossing with a long footbridge. The creek was pretty here as it tumbled down the rock. Just across the bridge was a natural garden area with lots of wild flowers.
After the bridge the trail climbs away from the creek and up on a good size hill. This is the hardest part of the hike but it is not long to the waterfall. It came upon us by surprise. We were crossing a few stepping stones across what looked like just a little run when I looked to the left and spotted the falls. Fern Branch falls are set back a hundred feet of so from the main trail and may be reached by a primitive side trail if you want a closer look.
This was a busy trail even on a weekday during the Spring wildflower season. There were less people on the second mile section past the road..I would recommend this hike for families as there is lots of variety to interest the children and just enough difficulty for them to feel they accomplished something.