Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Blue Ridge Parkway is loaded with opportunities for day hikers like myself, and yesterday I took advantage of them. Sunday's are always a good hiking day because I'm almost always guaranteed to have someone to go with me, Steve, Pauline, Amber, and our dog, Cash loaded up and headed toward Roan Mountain early yesterday morning. We traveled through Roan Mountain into the town of Elk Mills just across the North Carolina border. Elk River Falls is here and one of the nicest waterfalls in the area. The access to the falls is easy, and the walk is less than a 100 yard from the parking lot. The Elk River spills 65 feet over a rock cliff into a deep pool, it's a popular spot and there are always people here. I was able to squeeze in a few pictures before it got too crowded though.
Steve and Pauline at Elk River Falls
top of Elk River falls, not a good place to slip!
From Elk River we headed further into North Carolina toward the Blue Ridge Parkway at Linville Falls. The Linville Gorge area is to nice to pass up if you have time to stop, so we stopped and visited the Upper Falls and hiked over to the Chimney Tops viewing area for some photos of the main falls. Cash was a real celebrity here, almost everyone that passed wanted to either pet him or know what kind of dog  he was, he really loved all the attention! From the Chimney Tops, the massive main falls on the Linville River is squeezed through a narrow gorge before free falling fifty feet!
upper falls on Linville River
The river narrows drastically as it enters the main falls
Linville Falls
main falls closer view
from the Chimney Tops view high above the river
Cash loving some hiking
Everyone seemed to enjoy Linville Falls but my eagerness to see as many sights as possible had us hiking out after a short stay. The climb up the hill winded the girls but we were excited to get on the parkway and head toward the Linville Viaduct just past Grandfather Mountain. I had never traveled this section of the parkway, and was highly impressed with the rocky mountaintop at Grandfather, I didn't feel like paying the eighteen dollars to enter the park so I enjoyed the view from the parkway. The Linville Viaduct is an impressive bridge that swings the parkway wide of the mountain and on either side of the bridge it's a long way down to the mountain below.
Grandfather Mountain
closer view
the Linville viaduct
just one of the many beautiful views from the parkway
Table Rock Mountain
Grandfather Mountain far in the distance
Riding back toward Linville Falls on the parkway we pushed on and toward Crabtree Falls, 22 miles away. Although it is a short drive, the Sunday drivers were out in full force and it was almost an hour later before arriving at the parking area for the falls. The trail head leaves the parking area and descends the mountain for a mile to the falls. I could tell that many people we encountered on the trail weren't prepared for the steep climb out but I found it refreshing after my constant hiking and conditioning. Crabtree Falls was a pleasant surprise it was near 100ft high and cascaded beautifully down the rock face to the creek below, a small footbridge crosses directly below the falls and we all rested here before the climb out.
wildflowers along the trail
Crabtree Falls
my little family, resting by Crabtree Falls
one of my best friends, Steve
After sweating our way out of Crabtree Falls, we left the parkway via NC 80 and toward the town of Burnsville, Interstate 26, and our way home. We had one final stop just off 80, Setrock Falls is located near Black Mountain campground and is secluded on a branch of the Southtoe River. I had seen pictures of Setrock online but in person this is a really nice falls, it's listed as a multilevel 55ft waterfall but Steve and I felt it could be higher than that. From the falls it's a five mile hike to the summit of Mt Mitchell. We played along the falls and turned over rocks finding several salamanders but no snakes, sadly. Satisfied with our day, we hiked out and traveled toward home. Another beautiful day in North Carolina just fueled my desire to hit the trails and with vacation just three weeks away, I already have some wonderful hikes lined out. So until next time...happy trails!
Setrock Falls

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