The end of December and beginning of January 2018 brought some sustained, brutal cold temps to Kentucky. We basically had a two week stretch where temperatures didn't breach freezing, not a common occurrence to say the least. Although we weren't fortunate enough to see much snowfall, the cold meant we had a chance to catch something else we don't see often - frozen waterfalls.
If you're not familiar with Bad Branch Falls, check out some information on the Bad Branch State Nature Preserve here. In short, Bad Branch Falls is a 60-foot waterfall that flows into Bad Branch, a designated Kentucky Wild River. The Preserve is across Pine Mountain from Whitesburg and has access to/from the Pine Mountain Trail. It's easily one of my favorite places in the Commonwealth. This is a Nature Preserve so hiking only.
I'll admit it, the thought of Bad Branch Falls freezing over never crossed my mind until I scrolled past a Facebook post from WYMT. I was home for the weekend so I decided to make the drive over to put eyes on it myself.
I've hiked to the Falls only once prior to this trip and that was in the summer. There was still a trace amount of snow on the ground which really made this a unique hike. Getting to the Falls isn't terribly strenuous and is less than two miles out-and-back. As I mentioned, you do have access to High Rock and the rest of the PMT from here but be prepared for some serious elevation gain and more difficult hiking if continuing on up the mountain.
I'll let the pictures take it from here:
I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of people that were out there during my short visit. A solo photographer, a group of 6, a group of over 20 (students from VA Tech that were in the area at the time), and myself were all enjoying the Falls. I'm sure that was only a small portion of the people that made it out there during this relatively unique occurrence. I'm betting most of them, like myself, went after seeing the pictures floating around social media.
Don't sleep on the drive to or from the Preserve either. US 119 crossing over Pine Mountain from Whitesburg is an experience in and of itself. I pulled over a snapped a few pictures on my way back across the mountain. To me, these pictures were just as powerful as the frozen waterfall. Southeast KY at its best. All in all, this little detour only took about 2 hours out of my day. Just goes to show, your plans don't have to be elaborate to be special.