A True Adventure: Beauty to Behold on Barren Branch

There are dozens of waterfalls for people to enjoy in Fayette County alone. An outdoor person’s dream, Fayette County has a slew of outdoor opportunities for you to explore and enjoy, many of which are easy to access. However, if you’re looking for an adventure that few have viewed, then Barren Branch might be a place to check out!

A note: This is not an easy hike. You’ll primarily be walking in creek bed, so a good set of waders are recommended. When I was exploring this area, there were numerous trees down. I was told that there was a flood within the last couple of years that brought a lot of vegetation down. Nonetheless, the waterfalls on this creek are outstanding and the adventure of getting after it makes it so worth it!

Barren Branch is a small tributary that is located off of Dunloup Creek just east of Glen Jean in Fayette County and is located on the northern fringes of the Summit Bechtel Reserve. A zoomed in map is shown below.

Barren Branch is located off of Thurmond Road. Dunloup Creek alone has some beautiful waterfalls on it, including The Little Brother, Dunloup Creek Falls and Meadow Fork. Geographically, the creek traverses north from the Summit Bechtel Reserve near Glen Jean and empties into Dunloup Creek, traversing only about a couple of miles.

Location of each waterfall along Barren Branch, with an additional large waterfall located on Turley Branch. Coordinates for each of these are available farther down in this story.

There is a couple of pull-offs in the area of where Barren Branch stems off of Dunloup Creek. The parking’s a bit tight but doable. There’s no real easy way to get down into the creek bank – a few deer trails are around and I just took one of those to get down into the creek bed of Dunloup Creek.

Dunloup Creek flows well even during periods of dry weather, such as was the case during my escapade.

Once you get creek level with Dunloup Creek, you’ll need to cross it and find where Barren Branch stems off of it. It’s pretty easy to see, but beware, the creek rock in Dunloup Creek is pretty slick!

After crossing Dunloup and locating Barren Branch, it becomes pretty evident quickly that this is no easy hike! There are a lot of trees down covering the creek and the rhododendron is pretty thick in spots. Be prepared to get bushwhacked a bit, as you’ll see how the landscape looks in the pictures below:

The waterfalls begin appearing pretty quickly after you first start trekking up Barren Branch’s creek bed. In total, I encountered eight waterfalls between where Barren Branch empties into Dunloup Creek and near the fork of Barren Branch and Turley Branch – a pretty substantial amount for only about a mile or so of creek hiking! I did not go past the fork with Turley Branch and Barren Branch – there is quite a climb beyond this point, plus you start getting pretty close to the reservoir that Barren Branch flows from.

Here’s a list of the waterfalls and then photos of each:

Name of WaterfallCoordinatesDescription
Barren Branch #137.92483, -81.117255Small four-footer at the beginning of the trek
Barren Branch #237.924478, -81.117036Eight foot shelf waterfall – nice for angles!
Barren Branch #337.924117, -81.117303A couple of small two feet tall waterfalls on each side of creek
Barren Branch #437.924147, -81.117455A nice wide five-footer – a nice pool below the falls
Barren Branch #537.923683, -81.117797The most photogenic – a six foot cascade into a large pool
Barren Branch #637.92163, -81.120353A beautiful eight foot staircase waterfall – very serene!
Barren Branch #737.920912, -81.120880Unusual rock drop-off – unique!
Turley Branch #137.920845, -81.120942Definitely the largest at 15 to 20 feet – beautiful flow!
Barren Branch #1 – the closest waterfall to Dunloup Creek (farthest north).
Barren Branch #2
Barren Branch #3
Barren Branch #4
Barren Branch #5
Barren Branch #6

Barren Branch #7

Turley Branch #1

There’s a real serenity in this area that is hard to describe. There are sections of this creek that are quite rugged and difficult to travel on! It was especially hard juggling my camera and tripod along with just carefully walking around without getting water in my waders. But there were other sections that were very calm, like in the section shown below, where minnows and larger fish pranced around with hardly a care in the world.

The one beautiful thing about this area is that it has largely been untouched by man. Very few people go up this stream and it’s evident when you’re there. There is no sign of trash or remains. If you decide to embark on this trip, please bear that in mind so that the next set of eyes can enjoy it as much as I did!

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