Elk River Falls was a moderate-volume 40ft waterfall that we ended up going a little bit out-of-the-way to visit, especially considering that we based ourselves mostly in Asheville and in Brevard. That was because this waterfall was very close to North Carolina’s border with the far northeastern tip of Tennessee.
Much of the terrain around its very wide plunge pool was smooth rock. Given how frigidly cold it was the Autumn morning that we showed up (it was 37F), we really didn’t do a whole lot more than take photos of it while keeping our faces and hands from going numb. I’m not sure if this place would be a popular place to go swimming on a hot Summer’s day, but I could easily imagine such a scene.
The falls and its basin was almost entirely in shadow. I’d imagine that had we showed up later, we might have been looking against the sun, which would’ve made photography difficult at best. There was a long rock that protruded out into the large plunge pool, and it was from here that we took our photos while being careful not to fall into the plunge pool (thanks to the rock sloping on both its sides).
The walk from the car park was merely 10 minutes or so. It started off by rejoining some road before quickly branching downhill towards the right leading towards the Elk River (i.e. don’t go left). There was access to the top of the falls, but the trail continued to descend towards that elongated rock where we could walk all the way to its end to look right at the falls.
Elk River Falls also goes by the name Big Falls or Elk Falls.
We came up here from Asheville via the I-40 east and then going north on the Hwy 221. The Hwy 221 turnoff was about 33 miles east of where the Hwy 74-Alt and the I-40 junctioned. The Blue Ridge Parkway crossed the Hwy 221 at about 28 miles north of its exit with the I-40.
Continuing north on the Hwy 221 for about 6.3 miles, we then veered to the left to get onto the Hwy 194. We continued north on Hwy 194 for another 16 miles as it split with US 19E. At this split, we went left to get onto the US 19E near the town of Elk Park. Then, we drove just under a mile before turning right onto Old Mill Rd (which descended rather sharply from the main road).
We drove on Old Mill Rd for about 0.4 miles, then we turned right onto Elk River Rd. We took Elk River Rd for about 4.5 miles to its end (trying not to hit some dogs that comfortably sat in the middle of the road without any fear of passing vehicles), where there was trailhead parking for Elk River Falls.
Even though distance-wise, it wasn’t the shortest route to go from Asheville to Elk River Falls, it was certainly much faster than going the Blue Ridge Parkway route then turning north onto Hwy 221. It took us about 2 hours to do this drive with some minor delays from following slow moving trucks on curvy mountain roads.
As for some geographical context, Asheville was 35 miles (under an hour drive) north of Brevard, 63 miles (about 90 minutes drive) north of Greenville, South Carolina, and 130 miles (over 2 hours drive) west of Charlotte, and 247 miles (4 hours drive) west of Raleigh.
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