Are you in the mood for a mini outdoor adventure with a big reward at the end? If so, just set your sights on Laurel Creek Falls whenever it’s time for a fun day out. Located right along the Watauga River, this quaint outdoor recreational area lets you enjoy the true beauty of Boone, North Carolina. This chill area starts with a bit of a hike and then opens up to reveal the waterfall with its swimming hole at the bottom.
Once upon a time, it was devoid of visitors, allowing you to sneak off to get away from it all for a while. Nowadays, that’s no longer the case, especially on the weekends. Despite the crowds, it’s well worth coming by for a visit at least once.
To do so, you’ll need to plan to spend plenty of time looking for a parking spot and then carefully traverse the rocky trail to the falls. The hike is a bit challenging, so be sure you’re capable of navigating slippery surfaces on relatively steep grades before heading out. There are no bathrooms or other amenities on-site, so keep that in mind during your visit.
If you’re coming from Boone, just head down U.S. 321 to the bridge going over the Watauga River. You’ll quickly see a small gravel parking lot for the trailhead. Upon finding a parking spot, take all your gear with you to avoid having to come back and keep your stuff from looking tempting to car prowlers. Although it’s a relatively low-crime area, there’s always the risk of break-ins while parked at quiet retreats. Once you have all your stuff in hand, lock up your vehicle and walk up the hill to reach the trailhead for the waterfall.
As you travel down the path, take your time to retain steady footing, especially over the steeper areas. The dirt and rocks can feel quite slippery at times. So, while the hike is just 0.3 miles round trip, it can take up to 20 minutes to reach the falls and another 20 to head back to your car. The view is well worth the time it takes to get there, however.
As you get closer to the falls, you’ll hear the rushing water all around. You have two options in visiting the waterfall. You can either go down the steep path to its lower swimming hole. Or continue down the trail until you see the deep swimming holes up above. Either way, you’ll get to gaze upon the beauty of this 25-foot dual-tier waterfall before hopping in the swimming hole to cool off.
There are no lifeguards, so swim at your own risk. On top of that, college kids hang out here most often, so don’t be surprised to see the action get rather rowdy at times. If you just want to sit and reflect on life, find a quiet place nearby to look at the falls while kicking back and relaxing.
When it comes time to leave, pack out what you brought with you. This waterfall once had the nickname “Trash Can Falls” due to the garbage left by visitors. Thankfully, it’s much cleaner now, but it’s up to all the newfound revelers to keep it that way.
-If you want to bring your dog, keep them on a leash at all times and clean up after them.
-Never swim right at the base of the falls. The rushing water reduces buoyancy plus there’s always a risk of falling rocks and debris.
-When parking, make sure your entire vehicle doesn’t encroach on the roadway. Otherwise, you will get towed. If there’s no room in the parking lot, head up to the Upper Watauga Gorge Park and walk back down the roadway to reach the trailhead.
-As you walk down the trail, keep your hands off the foliage to avoid touching poison oak and poison ivy running alongside.