The beautiful Elk River Falls is just 15 miles from Sugar Mountain in the Pisgah National Forest. It’s a short-but-steep walk down to the pool below the 50-foot waterfall that funnels through a rock cliff. While you will see “Elk River Falls” directional signs from the small town of Elk Park, you will see the name “Big Falls” at the trailhead.
Below the waterfall is a popular summer swimming hole, so it can be very crowded on hot afternoons. The small beach and safe place for playing in the water is below the waterfall pool. The force of the waterfall creates hidden currents in the pool by the cliff, so don’t swim there. Plus, do not dive off the cliffs since it can be a deadly jump!
To reach this Blue Ridge Mountain waterfall, look for the trail at the end of the parking area. Walk along the river, finding some scenic views to the right – including a flat rock outcropping at the top of the waterfall. Be careful! Never get into water above a waterfall and do not approach the edge of the cliff. Rocks can be surprisingly slippery especially when wet.
Continue the trail down some stairs to reach a long boulder that borders the pool below the waterfall. From that boulder, the swimming area is to the LEFT. Continue down the trail to reach the small beach.
Driving Directions to Elk River Falls from Sugar Mountain
- Turn Left onto NC Highway 184 North
- At the stoplight in Banner Elk, turn left onto NC 194 South and drive 6.5 miles
- Turn right onto US Highway 19E toward Elk Park and drive about a mile
- Turn right onto Little Elk Road (look for Elk River Falls sign), then a quick left onto Old Mill Road and quick right onto Elk River Road.
- Drive 4 miles out Elk River Road to the end of the road with an unpaved parking area.