By Jeremy Alan Patton
Bear Creek Falls is located in Daniel Boone National Forest, Pulaski County, Kentucky.
From Bee Rock Recreation Area, drive west on KY-192 to Mount Victory Fire Department. After passing the fire department, turn left onto Old Whitney Road. Continue for about 2.75 miles then turn left onto Forest Road 122A. You will reach the dead-end of FR 122A after about 3.5 miles.
Approximately 0.8 miles before the dead-end, look for a dirt road on your left where you can begin the north half of Nathan McClure Trail #530. The road was not marked on 2/7/16, but you should find white diamond trail markers soon after joining it. The trail descends south-east along Pole Bridge Branch then follows the Rockcastle River north to Bear Creek.
The north segment of the 14-mile Nathan McClure Trail boasts colosal cliffs, waterfalls and natural arches. I will focus on Bear Creek Falls here, but will soon write a full article about the trail.
After hiking nearly three miles and photographing numerous natural wonders, I had already had a great day when I approached Bear Creek. I heard a roar coming from the ravine, rounded the corner then smiled as the incredible cataract, rockhouse and plunge pool appeared, gleaming with vivid color.
I am amazed that I had never heard of this waterfall, but this is likely thanks to its remote location. No matter which trailhead that you embark from, the hike to the falls is at least six miles round-trip. Access by boat is easier, but the waterfall cannot be seen from the river, so you must leave your boat near the mouth of the creek and follow it inland.
I also drove to the terminus of Bear Ridge Road at Jones Cemetery, parked then traveled the narrower, less-maintained portion of the road toward the creek. I was searching for a shorter route so that I could later share the waterfall with my girlfriend/friends. I checked my compass several times then surmised that the road heads south-east, possibly meeting the creek or trail. “No trespassing” signs lined both sides of the road, so I do not know where priviate land ends and public land begins.
The remoteness of this magnificent area is probably for the best because it would ordinarily attract numerous vandals so close to Lake Cumberland. I found relatively little trash.
A smaller, multi-tier waterfall resides just down-creek from the big falls. I will call it Bear Creek Tributary Falls 483M SW. The name is derived by measuring the distance (using Google Maps) from the waterfall to the creek’s confluence with the Rockcastle. It is lovely in its own right and a welcome embellishment to the area.
The six-mile trek from FR 122A to Bear Creek Falls is difficult due to the high milage and mountainous terrain.