Fall color and water

Fishing the Watauga

Fall is a favorite time to hike in the High Country. If you are an outdoorsman and love to hike, there’s several options for you in the Boone area. Some hikes are challenging, some not so much, but most offer scenery and options for photographers and outdoor lovers in the spring, summer, fall or winter.

The trails listed below are just a handful that have water along with some beautiful options for color. Please do your research before you decide to hike and because fall is here there might be a nip in the air so dress accordingly. Flip-flops are not what you want to wear on a hike.

Boone Fork Trail: A moderate/strenuous loop leading through deep woods and along a cascading river of 4.9 miles in length. The trailhead is located in the Price Park Picnic Area, Milepost 296.5 This trail runs into a boulder hopping waterfall called Hebron Falls. This is a popular hike destination but worth the trek.

Price Lake Trail: An easy trail leading around scenic Price Lake for 2.7 miles. If you are lucky the beavers will be working or you might run into the Kingfishers or Blue Herons fishing. Trailhead is at Price Lake parking area, Milepost 297.0 and you can go either way on the loop.

Linville Falls Trails: Several trails begin at the Linville Falls Visitor Center, in Linville Falls. All less than a mile in length, some lead to the top of the falls while two lead to the bottom of Linville Falls. All are recommended, although the lower falls trails can be a bit strenuous but give the better images from below. Milepost 316.4.

Crabtree Falls Trail: A strenuous 2.6 mile loop which leads to both the bottom and top of Crabtree Falls. This trail begins and ends in the Crabtree Falls Campground’s parking area, near Little Switzerland, Milepost 339.5.

Crabtree Orchard Falls Trail: Crab Orchard Falls is just up NC 194 in Valle Crucis. It is on the property of the Valle Crucis Conference Center.

Look for waterfall parking to the left. St. Johns Church is there as a marker. There is a gravel road behind the Inn to Johnson Hall where you will follow up to a dirt road that has been blocked off and used as the trail. Go up the road and hike the switchbacks.

The waterfall is roughly .5 from the start and I would say easy to moderate. Look for the trail that breaks off to the right and follow it down. You will hear the rushing water. This is private property so be respectful and as always – take out what you bring in.

Conley Cove: This is a popular trail thanks to its more gradual descent into the gorge. There are plenty of switchbacks for an easier hike but some areas are rocky. It accesses Rock Jock Trail on the way to the gorge floor. A moderate 1.3 mile hike with good views along the way and always the Linville River at the bottom. Just remember you have to hike back out and the elevation gain is between 800 to 1000 ft.

Spence Ridge Trail: A moderate 1.7 mile descent from the east rim to the gorge floor, this is a well-used access point to the area. Cross the river to connect to the Linville Gorge Trail. The trail has a nice swim hole at the end and the bridge has been out for several years. The Little Table Rock Trail connects with this trail and is a tough trail so look for the signs to the right going down and not go straight ahead.

Huntfish Falls: Moderately strenuous, 1.4 mile roundtrip descends steeply to a big pool beneath a 10 ft. falls. Starts on forest service road 464. The lush forest will yield plenty of fall color and open up at the end with a waterfall.

Harper Creek Trail: Strenuous 6.3 mile trail, connects to 9 other area trails, leading to gorgeous waterfalls, aspiring views, and excellent backpacking opportunities. You will love the options for color on this trail.

Trails further out

Compression or Twisting Falls: A waterfall found on the rugged Elk River. It is a 1.7 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Butler, Tennessee. There are three distinct waterfalls on this section of the river; Elk River Falls, Jones Falls and this one. The trail is difficult to find, really to get to, but it is well worn and steep going down. Remember, you have to come back up.

To get there travel Hwy. 321 into Tennessee until you get to Poga Rd., turn on Clawson and then onto Dark Ridge Rd. Look for turn on right. The waterfall is actually on the back end of the Pisgah National Forest.

Laurel Falls Trail and Appalachian Trail: This is one of the best hikes I have done in awhile. The trail starts close to Hampton, TN on US 321 and runs along the Laurel Fork of the Doe River. It leads to a beautiful waterfall. This trail starts with a blue marker but runs with the AT for part of its length. The trail is in real good shape and has been maintained. There are two footbridges crossing over the river and will give you great stream shots. The length is right around 5.6 miles round trip.

High Shoals Falls Loop Trail: The South Mountains just south of Morganton, NC is a state park that many forget about in North Carolina. South Mountains State Park features elevations to 3,000 feet, an 80-foot waterfall, mountain streams and more than 40 miles of trails for hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers. Jacob Fork River runs through this beautiful park.

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