Exploring Norton Mill Creek
by Brian O’Shea
Whiteside Cove Road is a gateway to several popular sweet spots throughout the Nantahala National Forest, including Granite City, Cashiers Sliding Rock, Ammons Branch, Ellicott Rock, and Iron Bridge, to name a few. All of them offer visitors a unique day-trip experience.
One of the lesser known spots in this area is the footbridge at the confluence of Norton Mill Creek into the Chattooga River, and it’s just as incredible as the company it’s surrounded by.
The bridge gives visitors a view of the creek pouring into the Chattooga River.
On one side of the footbridge are two large granite formations that squeeze Norton Mill Creek to only a couple of feet wide forcing the water into a narrow-powerful falls. On the other side is the creek flowing into the Chattooga River.
Hikers can walk down to a small beach and take a dip in a swimming hole. However, be forewarned, the water is cold no matter what time of year you visit, so be prepared.
The trailhead to get to the footbridge begins on Whiteside Cove Road. From Highlands, take Horse Cove Road to the junction of Horse Cove, Whiteside Cove, and Bullpen roads and take a left onto Whiteside Cove Road. After approximately a mile, visitors pass the Macon/Jackson County line and immediately following is a small parking area on your right.
From Cashiers, take Highway 107 South from the crossroads to Whiteside Cove Road and take a right. Follow it for approximately seven miles to the parking area on your left. If you reach Horse Cove Road, you’ve gone too far.
The trailhead is next to a large dirt mound on the same side of the road as the parking area. A Forest Service sign marks it as County Line Trailhead.
It’s approximately 1.2 miles until hikers reach a fork in the road. Visitors will pass several side trails along the way, but stay on the larger, more-maintained, trail and you’ll be fine.
After descending about a mile towards the river, you reach a fork in the road and hikers have to decide — left or right? Left follows the Whiteside Cove Trail to the footbridge, and going right leads to the Chattooga Cliffs Trail. Forest Service signs mark the intersection. Turn left to reach Norton Mill Creek footbridge.
Follow Whiteside Cove Trail for approximately a half mile and you’ll reach the footbridge.