Height: 45 feet
Trail Type: Dirt and stairs
Hike Distance: Less than 0.2 miles
Elk Falls is one of the easiest falls to visit. The problem with that is you’re likely to run into a ton of college students from Appalachian State on a warm day swimming in the large pool and jumping off the top (which isn’t recommended, but it’s doable even though several people have died trying). Here, the Elk River, which is easily 30 feet wide here, squeezes into a V-shaped crease that’s less than 10 feet wide and spills over a huge exposed rock face. The splash pool below is deep and the water is always clear.
There are several ways to get to the small community of Elk Park, but the most direct way would be to take US 321/421 north out of Boone and then turn left onto NC highway 194 south. Follow this road all the way to the intersection with US 19E. Turn right at the intersection and drive a short way to “downtown” Elk Park, which is really just a short collection of buildings. There’s a sign for “Elk River Falls” that is positioned far beyond where you’re supposed to turn off. Instead, turn right at the sign for Elk Park Christian Church. Take an immediate left and drive down into the residential neighborhood. After 0.5 miles, turn right at the sign for Elk River Falls. Take this road to the end and park.
From the parking area, the trail enters the forest and leads you to the gently sloping rock at the top of the falls. This is where you’d take your jump to the pool below if you so dared. Otherwise, you can continue on the trail down several stairs to the base. At the bottom, there’s a massive slanted rock that faces the falls you can use to sit on and enjoy the view.