Pine Mountain - Bad Branch Falls, High Rock, and Mars Rock


Overview. This is a fantastic hike. While I caught the falls in the midst of a drought, the views atop Pine Mountain more than made up for it. High Rock and Mars Rock are wonderful destinations on their own, with expansive views west. It’s also worth exploring near the falls along the cliff face moving northwest, but stopping at the rock formation that I’d call the “Dragon’s Jaw” pictured below.

Route Type | Out and Back
Total Distance | 6.5 miles
Overall Difficulty | Moderate to Strenuous
Bad Branch Falls Nature Preserve Trail Map

Trailhead. The parking lot and trailhead for this hike are located just off US-119 and back on a winding mountain-bottom road. [map]

Trail navigation. Starting from the parking lot, head north to follow the wide, packed trail. I didn’t notice much of any blazes, but the trail is easy enough to follow along the west side of Bad Branch. At 0.8 miles, turn right at the junction to reach the falls 0.2 miles and a number of stairs later. The walk down to the falls area is a bit steep, so take your time here. Enjoy the falls and explore the cliff face if you like. Retrace your steps to rejoin the main trail moving up Pine Mountain 1.1 miles (2.3 miles total) until reaching the intersection with Pine Mountain State Scenic Trail. Turn right (east) to move north on the trail toward High Rock. There is a loop trail intersection at mile 2.5 if you care to take it. I was short on time, so I went straight to High Rock at mile 3.3. Moving 0.2 miles past High Rock, you can enjoy the giant outcropping aptly named Mars Rock at mile 3.5. When you’ve finished taking it all in, return the way you came a total of 3 miles to reach the trailhead.

No dogs. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on this hike.

CAUTION - Cliffs. Be careful to avoid getting too close the edge of cliffs - this includes the upper falls area where others have found their death.

CAUTION - Poisonous snakes. Beware of timber rattlesnakes and copperheads that can be found in the area. Pay attention and give an extra wide birth.

CAUTION - Bears. Black bears are prevalent throughout Pine Mountain. Be sure to follow bear safety precautions. [Be Bear Aware by US Forest Service]