A very nice waterfall in the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina with a short one mile loop trail should be easily accessible by most people.
In the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina, near the town of Elkin, is a beautiful gem of a waterfall called Carter Falls. Located on Big Elkin Creek, Carter Falls is split into two sections with decent viewing areas for both. The upper falls starts with rapids in the creek and then quickly turns into a beautiful 60ft cascading waterfall. The lower falls is much shorter, only about 6-8ft tall, but is still very beautiful and worth checking out. The moderate loop trail, which is less than a mile in length, will take you to the viewing areas for both falls and can be enjoyed by most everyone.
The trailhead to Carter Falls is located on Pleasant Ridge Road in Elkin, North Carolina. The moderate sized parking lot is right where Martin Byrd Road ends at Pleasant Ridge Road and is well signed. It is only minutes from downtown Elkin or about an hour from Winston-Salem. There are no restroom facilities at the trailhead.
Since the trail is a loop, it starts at both ends of the parking lot. The right side will visit the upper falls first and the left side, which is labeled Lower Falls and Power House Trail, will visit the lower falls first. The Power House Trail is part of this loop too as the old foundation for a power house is located at the viewing area for the lower falls. We started on the right side and visited the upper falls first.
The trail is very nicely maintained, signed, and blazed with white blazes. It starts out on a very wide and mostly level trail that heads into the woods. As the trail starts to descend down to the falls it will narrow some but remains well groomed and easy to follow. Fairly quickly you will be at the top of the upper falls at a nice viewing area. As with any waterfall that you are above you want to be careful here, especially with small children. Any rock that is wet will be very slippery and the current, if you were to get into the water, could easily pull you over the falls. This is a great area to hang out and enjoy the view of the falls.
The trail continues parallel to the creek following it downstream to a viewing area just below the falls. Follow the trail for maybe 50 yards until you come to a steep turnoff that leads down to the creek. This will be the only steep section that might be difficult for some people. When we visited there were some fixed ropes attached to the trees to assist with the descent. The hill is not too long and will lead down to a much larger viewing area that is just below the falls. This is the perfect spot to relax at and enjoy a picnic if you brought one.
When you are ready to continue to the lower falls, safely climb back up the hill to the trail and continue following it downstream. Soon you will reach some wooden steps and a bridge that veers left and you will want to take this as it bypasses a section of the trail that washed out. The wooden bridge also provides a nice perspective of the river and upper falls.
Once you are off the bridge you will continue your hike on the trail paralleling the creek although you will be a little higher up on the hill. It won’t be long and the trail will bring you back closer to the water where you resume the original section of the trail and quickly work your way down to the power house foundation and the view of the lower falls.
If the lower falls were any smaller it would be considered more of a rapids than a waterfall. It is, however, a legitimate waterfall that is beautiful and definitely worth checking out.
After the lower falls, the trail continues and heads uphill back towards the parking area. It is only about ¼ of a mile before the trail levels off and you are back at the parking area completing your loop trail hike to Carter Falls.