If you’re traveling to Boone, North Carolina, you are in for a real treat when it comes to hiking opportunities. This part of the country has so much natural beauty and so many beautiful parks and trails that make it easy to get out and explore that natural beauty. One such trail is the Otter Falls Trail.
The Otter Falls Trail is located on Skyline Drive. To reach the trailhead from Downtown Boone, go south on Highway 105 for 7.7 miles and then turn left onto Skyline Drive. Continue on this road for just under a mile, and you will see a trailhead sign and a small parking area for Otter Falls. However, a word of caution, this route can get hazardous in the winter, with the park sometimes even closing in the event of extreme snow and ice. Additionally, if there is snow on the ground, you will want to have ice chains or snow tires before venturing down to this area, also known as Seven Dells.
Once you’ve reached the trailhead, you will find that the Otter Falls Trail is actually comprised of four trail sections that are delineated by color: Red, Blue, Orange, and Yellow. The following is a quick look at what to expect with each:
The red portion of the Otter Falls Trail is the very first part of the trail you will encounter at the trailhead. In fact, it’s the only part of the trail that you need to go on if you want to hike the Otter Falls Trail as the rest of the colored loops and off-shoot trails connect to this one. The red trail starts as one and then will split off after you’ve walked a few minutes. For the fastest route to the other parts of the trail and the waterfalls at the end of the trail, go right when you reach a split on this portion of the trail. The red portion will loop all the way around, but going right will take you through some tall trees, across the creek, and quickly onto the trail’s first bench and point where it intersects with the blue portion of the trail.
The blue portion of the trail is another large loop. You can take either a left or a right. Going left will take you more into hillier territory, offering some nice climbing before reaching the bench where the blue trail meets the orange and yellow trails. If you choose to go right onto the blue trail, you will find a short little side path that leads out to a nice scenic overlook. Continue past this and you will quickly reach that aforementioned green and yellow trail intersection.
The yellow trail leads to an overlook of downstream Valley Creek. This trail cuts left from the Blue Trail intersection and will feature a bit of a climb before the trail switches back and leads to that nice overlook area.
Now, this is the ultimate portion of the trail that you want to reach if you are out chasing waterfalls! The orange portion of the trail will also fork shortly after you set off on it. You can go right to find yourself at a viewpoint above the falls or you can go left to an observation deck more aligned with the lower portion of the falls, where the water crashes down onto the rocks.
Over the course of the trail, you will descend about 230 feet and travel about a mile at the shortest route between the trailhead and waterfall deck. Finally, one last thing to note before we close out this run-down of Boone, NC’s Otter Falls Trail… this trail is dog-friendly!
-Otter Falls is a waterfall, but certainly not the tallest or most gushing waterfall in this region. For the best experience in viewing it at its peak performance, try and go a day or so after a good rainfall.