A 1-mile roundtrip hike takes you to the beautiful Crab Orchard Falls waterfall in Valle Crucis, just 9 miles from Sugar Mountain. While the trail is short, it has some steep sections. The trail is well-maintained, so it’s great for most fitness levels and kids. It’s on private property at the Valle Crucis Conference Center, but they welcome waterfall hunters and have a parking area at the trailhead.
From the parking area adjacent to Church of the Holy Cross, follow a gravel road past some of the historic buildings. The trail gradually climbs the ridge. Find some benches along the way if you need a rest. You’ll see a waterfall sign to turn right to descend to the base of the cascades. As you approach the falls, you’ll get a birds-eye view of the cascades below. A wooden boardwalk makes the last section by boulders much easier – but it can be slippery when wet. Dogs are allowed on a leash.
At the waterfall, enjoy several vantage spots. There are some large boulders in front that you can sit on – be careful especially when wet. Do not climb on the cliff along the waterfall since you could fall easily. At the base of the falls, the small pool is nice for wading (but not swimming).
Find wildflowers and plenty of nature’s beauty on this trail through the forest. If you want to extend your hike, the main trail continues two miles past the waterfall to “Bishop’s Ridge” at the conference center.
The Valle Crucis Conference Center is a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina, part of the Episcopal Church. It’s home to the beautiful Church of the Holy Cross built in the 1920s. The present day center uses many building from the historic Mission School, dating from 1800s. Admission is free and parking is open 7 days a week unless there is a major event there. Sunday morning parking can be slim due to church services.
The community of Valle Crucis is another 1.5 miles farther with the famous Mast General Store.
Directions: The 9-mile drive to Crab Orchard Falls from Sugar Mountain is very scenic. Allow at least 20 minutes to drive since you will drive through Banner Elk and a very curvy mountain road. From Sugar Mountain, turn left on NC 184 to downtown Banner Elk. At the stoplight, turn right onto NC Highway 194 and go 6.2 miles to the Conference Center on the left. Turn into the main entrance and watch for waterfall parking to your left. Walk to the end of the parking area to begin the hike. GPS Address: 146 Skiles Way, Banner Elk, NC 28604
To make a loop to return to Sugar Mountain, continue to Valle Crucis and turn right to reach NC Highway 105.