Boone, NC is a small college and resort town nestled within the Blue Ridge Mountains, a gorgeous location that offers an array of outdoor pursuits. One such pursuit is waterfall chasing. This mountain range is one of the oldest in the country, with springs, creeks, and streams having worn their paths from summit sources down to river valley bases over the course of millennia. Their watery passages have created fantastic pools to wade and swim in and, of course, gorgeous waterfalls to view. The following is a look at five exceptional waterfalls near Boone, NC that are just a hop, skip, and jump away from your vacation home.
1. Laurel Creek Falls
Laurel Creek Falls is a popular waterfall that lies just west of downtown Boone. You will take the main highway of US-321 west out of town for just under 12 miles. Right after you pass the bridge over Watauga River, start slowing down and look to your right for the pull-out gravel parking area for Laurel Creek Falls Parking. Do not park anywhere along the highway except for this parking area or you risk having your vehicle towed.
After parking, you’ll walk across the highway and just further west will be the trailhead for this waterfall. Despite what Google Maps says, this is not a paved trail (there is a Laurel Falls in Tennessee that does feature a 2.3-mile round-trip paved trail). For North Carolina’s Laurel Creek Falls, the trek down to the waterfalls and swimming area (during summer) is a steep 0.3-mile journey over hard-packed dirt, rocks, and exposed tree roots — quick but only comfortable if you have the right hiking shoes.
Laurel Creek Falls itself flows over three layers of rocks like a large birthday cake and pools in a large swimming hole. The falls are locally known as Trash Can Falls and you will often find people swimming in that swimming hole during hotter days.
2. Hebron Falls
Hebron Falls is locally, and perhaps more accurately, called the Hebron Colony Rocks. We say “more accurately” because this waterfall doesn’t plunge at huge heights from one massive cliff, but rather tumbles over a series of massive boulders. But while Hebron Falls is not going to be the largest or most dramatic waterfall on this list of best near Boone, it is picturesque and there are a couple of great hikes you can take to get there.
To visit Hebron Falls, you can either take a hiking trail that lies to its south or you can take one that lies to the north, which offers two entrances:
- The northern route, simply called the Hebron Falls Trail, is the lesser trafficked route. The Trailhead for this can be found on Shulls Mill Road about a mile southeast of The Inn at Crestwood. The parking lot here is a simple gravel pull-out. You’ll see a tiny dirt trail leading up through a clearing into the woods and fenceposts with a white circle. That white circle will be all along the hiking trail to indicate you’re on the correct path.
- The southern route to Hebron Falls is via the Boone Fork Trail. Boone Fork Trail is a five-mile round-trip hiking trail, it starts just outside the Price Park Picnic Area. This picnic area features picnic tables, full bathrooms, and tons of parking spots. About half of this trail meanders right alongside the creek that is Boone Fork, making for an easier hike until it branches off after the falls. The NPS recommends hikers plan for at least three daylight hours to complete the trail in full.
3. Otter Falls
Otter Falls descends around 230 feet over giant mossy boulders. This is a very gorgeous waterfall for which the local park service has built a solid viewing platform that offers a nice elevated view of the falls, its massive boulders, and the creek as its snakes around.
This North Carolina waterfall is about 12 miles west of Boone in the small town of Seven Devils. You’ll actually take NC-105 S until you hit 7 Devils Road for which there are signs taking you to the parking area for the trail. That trail is less than a mile, but it is pretty strenuous as it takes you up switchbacks to Otter Falls’s high elevation.
4. Cascade Falls
The trailhead for Cascades Falls is located right on the Blue Ridge Parkway, about 15 miles east of downtown Boone, NC at milepost 272. This trailhead is at the EB Jeffress Park and Picnic Area, a sizable green space that features full restrooms, a scenic vista, picnic tables, and a nice map of the overall area.
From the trailhead here, the walk to Cascades Falls is listed as being a one-mile round-trip, which includes a series of stairs down to the waterfalls’ base that most consider the most strenuous part of the hike. Expect a moderate hike that will take about 45 minutes in all if you include a 15-minute or so break at the Cascades. There aren’t any good swimming areas at this waterfall and trail, but the falls themselves are quite majestic as they descend about 100 feet over sheer rocks bordered by aspens, birches, and maple trees.
5. Elk River Falls
Elk River Falls is where you want to go on a hot summer day to cool off and enjoy a couple of lazy hours creekside. It has the shortest trail, but it is the furthest away from Boone, NC — 30 miles, which will take drivers about an hour on the slower mountain roads.
But while it will be a trek taking you almost all the way to Tennessee, this is a pretty attractive place to be. The parking lot for the trailhead sits right beside Elk River, but we don’t recommend swimming here as this is the river at the top of the falls. Instead, you’ll want to hike the 0.3-mile trail down to the base of the falls where the Elk River drops nearly 100 feet into a massive amphitheater-like area. This lower part features, there is a deep swimming hole, large sunning rocks, and even a sandy beach area perfect for relaxing.
Learn More About Boone, NC
Waterfalls are mesmerizing to look at and some of the above water destinations include an exhilarating hike. However, walking about is not the only way to experience Boone, NC, and its nearby outdoor destinations. Horseback trail riding, fly fishing, and bouldering are just a few of the other popular outdoor activities people travel to this mountain town for. Learn more about all you can do in Boone and just beyond its borders by checking out our other pages.