Gunsight Falls (Bankhead National Forest) – 2 year adventure

This particular post has taken about two years to actually write. The reason is my hiking buddy and I had heard of this particular mysterious waterfall in name only with very few detail about the actual location several years ago. Since we have seen most of the other major waterfalls in Bankhead National Forest, this one was on our list to see.  We went into detective mode, scouring the Internet for clues of the actual location and/or directions and there were very few. Our schedules go busy with work and family. I finally had a few hours free one Saturday morning. Although I hated to go find this particular waterfall without him, this was probably my only chance this year so I took advantage of the little free time I have and made the decision to go find it.

Following some fairly vague directions, I parked at the gated area for the Kinlock area in Bankhead National Forest. I have always wondered where this road led and I was about to find out. It was interesting that so much money had been invested in this “road to nowhere.”  Evidence of concrete drainage spots were very obvious along the sides of this road. . I headed up the hill and passed the turnoff for Kinlock Shelter. I topped the hill and headed downhill as the road curved to the right and Basin Creek was gurgling on my left. There were some very nice flat and open spots for camping along the creek. I was surprised there were was not any evidence of previous camping such as fire rings, etc.

I continued to follow the road to the right and slightly uphill as it finally curved slightly to the left and crossed Basin Creek. I was expecting the evidence of a large bridge in the past, but it appeared as a simple rock bottomed creek crossing as many of the other old logging roads I have seen in the forest. I was surprised given the time, energy, and money to construct the road up to this point. I retraced my steps back to the point where I first encountered the creek.  I dropped off the road to the creek and found myself at the junction of several creeks.

From memory, I knew my destination was upstream of my current location but I wasn’t sure which creek held my much sought after waterfall.  I decided to head up the creek to my left as I thought I faintly remembered being told it was that direction.  From this point forward, the hiking became a bushwhack without any trail evident except for a game trail or two. 

I headed upstream and after a short time I could hear the distinct sound of a waterfall up ahead just as I passed an old wooden bridge crossing the narrow creek.

Old wooden Bridge

I knew this area was close to private property and I was on the lookout for evidence of “No Trespassing” or “Private Property” signs as well as the presence of red paint. National Forest boundaries are marked with red paint on trees, or yellow signs with black printing. I did see two old metal signs, but I was on the correct (National Forest) side of the signs I observed. I quickened my pace upstream to discover two surprises.  First, I did find a wonderful waterfall. However, my second surprise was it was NOT the waterfall I expected. I have seen several pictures of the waterfall I was trying to find, but this definitely was not it. 

Waterfall #1

I took a quick break and as I looked around, I noticed a metal ladder leading up to a ledge to the left of the waterfall. Knowing this was close to some private property, I assumed it was brought down from area up on the ridge above me. Although I have not seen or heard anyone, I am not one to want to intrude where I’m not supposed to be.  I consulted my map and decided I should have taken the creek to the right instead of the creek to the left at the previous junction. Although I could retrace my steps back to the creek junction, it would be much shorter to follow the bluff around to the north to find the waterfall I was actually out here to see.

As I headed across the creek to follow the bluff around I noticed a set of old wooden steps leading down into the creek and a wooden bench.


I passed these heading up and around the bluff. I am so glad I made that decision. Within a short distance, I found two more small waterfalls. 

Waterfall #2

The first waterfall was interesting. The water fell a short distance then the water came back under and flowed to the left as you faced the waterfall.

Waterfall #2

I passed this waterfall, and continued the bluff around to the north. In the next drainage, I found another interesting small waterfall. This one had a “slide” above the edge of the waterfall.

Waterfall #3

After many up and downs bushwhacking around the bluff, I finally came to the creek I should have taken earlier and headed upstream. I saw a large bluff on my right and heard rushing water as I neared the end of the canyon. I decided to save that area to explore on my way out. I continued upstream and came upon what I have heard referred to as “Gunsight Falls.” I think the name comes from the narrow area at the top of the falls. It does resemble iron sights on a rifle. While it was a tall waterfall, it honestly wasn’t as tall as I expected. I would estimate it is similar to height as East Bee Falls near the “Big Tree.” I was glad to finally find it but slightly sad my regular hiking buddy wasn’t’ here to enjoy our discovery as we have talked about searching for this waterfall for several years.

Gunsight Falls
Gunsight Falls

I did take a longer break here since I knew I was nowhere close to private property. After a break it was time to head back downstream toward the car with one more area on my list to explore on my way out. As I headed downstream, I headed toward the sound of water I heard on the way in.

I found the source of falling water and was pleasantly surprised. There was a large shelter with a very unique feature. Instead of the water falling over the edge of the shelter as most waterfalls, the water was falling from a fault INSIDE the shelter. The ground inside of the shelter was covered with large rocks that had fallen from the roof, so I took a few quick pictures and left the danger area.

Waterfall #4

I headed back downstream and quickly came to the location to cross the creek and get back on the old road. I climbed the hill and just as I was within sight of my car I saw the first people of the day. They were headed to Kinlock Shelter to have lunch.  I got into my car and headed home. According to my GPS, I had covered about 5.5 miles in a little over 3 hours. About half of the distance was bushwhacking. It was another great day in Bankhead National Forest and one more waterfall was checked off my list of places to go find.


About jnunniv

I like outdoor activities including hiking, camping, and scuba diving.
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5 Responses to Gunsight Falls (Bankhead National Forest) – 2 year adventure

  1. Ranee Robinson says:

    Enjoyed reading about your trip to Gunsight Falls. It’s on my list for next Winter. Do you think the shelter you found with the water pouring inside cold be the “Coral Canyon”? I’ve heard of that recently put can’t find any information other than a short video. The Canyon/Shelter does look massive and pale in color in the video and in your picture as well.

  2. uniquelyLara says:

    @jnunniv I love reading about your hikes! How far from Gunsight Falls do you think the shelter with the waterfall is? This hike has been on my to-do list for a long time!

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