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Compression Falls is a 0.8 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Elk Park, North Carolina that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking and is best used from May until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length 0.8 mi Elevation gain 400 ft Route type Out & Back

Dogs on leash

Hiking

Forest

River

Views

Waterfall

Wild flowers

Wildlife

Muddy

Rocky

Scramble

Description
Waypoints (0)
Facilities
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Getting There

Hard to find trail with very challenging descent to river and series of waterfalls, main falls is Compression Falls, further up river are two more falls, Twisting Falls and another falls, but are harder to get to. Compression Falls, also known as Twisting Falls, is found in the Elk Mills area of Carter County near the border with North Carolina. On the northeast side of Beech Mountain, NC and just across the Tennessee border on Dark Ridge Road, this hike starts from a dirt parking lot down a gradual and wide 0.3 mi. trail to a sharp left turn straight down a 60 degree quarter mile slope through the forest to a riverbed. You have to use roots & rocks as steps and tree holds to maintain balance (and the way up is a climb) and reach the Elk River. From there, take a left upriver about another third of a mile to the biggest falls, 35' Compression Falls. Another quarter mile upriver is 20' Twisting Falls. Locals say that there is another 20' falls upriver from there. This trail is extremely dangerous and the locals don't recommend anything but hiking boots to get you there and back. The climb up is a great workout however. The falls are beautiful and pretty impressive.

The park service has added a nice dirt parking lot, marked with a "P" sign.

Cherokee National Forest Service: http://www.fs.usda.gov/cherokee

Hard to find: we had to ask some locals... Directions from Banner Elk, NC to Dark Ridge Road trailhead: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&source=s_d&saddr=Unknown+road&daddr=Dark+Ridge+Rd&hl=en&geocode=Fd-JKQIdE-kc-w%3BFdzfKAId8k8d-w&mra=dme&mrsp=1&sz=18&sll=36.233162,-81.964982&sspn=0.003206,0.008256&ie=UTF8&ll=36.256594,-81.964617&spn=0.051286,0.132093&z=14 Driving directions to Dark Ridge Rd 3D2D From Banner Elk, NC 1. Head west on N Carolina 194 S/Main St E toward Shawneehaw Ave S Continue to follow N Carolina 194 S 3.7 mi 2. Sharp right onto State Rd 1310 0.1 mi 3. Take the 1st right to stay on State Rd 1310 0.2 mi 4. Turn left onto Sam Eller Rd 0.8 mi 5. Turn right to stay on Sam Eller Rd 30 ft 6. Turn left to stay on Sam Eller Rd 0.9 mi 7. Turn right onto State Rd 1310 0.1 mi 8. Continue onto Beech Mountain Rd 0.5 mi 9. Turn right to stay on Beech Mountain Rd 0.8 mi 10. Continue onto State Rd 1310 0.2 mi 11. Continue onto Dark Ridge Rd 1.0 mi 12. Dark Ridge Rd turns left and becomes State Rd 1310 0.5 mi 13. Turn left to stay on State Rd 1310 Entering Tennessee 1.2 mi 14. State Rd 1310 turns slightly left and becomes Clawson Rd 0.6 mi 15. Turn left toward Dark Ridge Rd 0.2 mi Turn right on unknown road and drive to parking area just to the right of what's left of a barn 0.2 mi - trail is off to the right... past a hole dug by the park service to keep folks from driving down the first part of the trail. From Tennessee: Directions: Take highway 19E to Hampton, TN and then turn north onto route 321/67 toward Mountain City. Drive 9.7 miles and turn right on route 321 which leads to Boone, NC. Drive 7.2 miles till you reach Elk Mills Store (which will be on your right), turn right after the store onto Poga Road. After 0.2 miles the road will split, keep left, cross Jack Campbell Bridge, and then you'll immediately turn right again to continue following Poga Road for 3.6 miles. Then turn right onto Clawson Road and drive 0.5 miles. You then turn right onto Dark Ridge Road and drive another 0.5 miles (it will eventually turn to gravel). You'll see an old barn up on the hill to your left, park on the road next to it (don't park next to the barn, that's private property). The trail head is across the road from the barn and marked with yellow and red paint on a tree.

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Reviews (127)
Photos (105)
Recordings (46)
Completed (331)
Shane Carroll
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFri Jul 03 2020
Hiking

Wonderful trail! It’s more of a “boulder trail” than a “hiking trail” down to the falls, but if you take your time, have three points of contact, and use the natural roots and rock holds to your advantage, the trail isn’t terribly difficult. It is just very different from a hiking trail. The waterfall is divine! It is SAFE enough to jump and/or slide down the falls (the right side looking at it/ the left side when you are at the top). There is a trail across the river that will lead you to the top. I STRONGLY CAUTION that anybody wishing to go to the top tackle this second trail as a Bouldering trail. You MUST wear your hiking boots/shoes! Overall, a gem for intermediate to advanced hikers and a challenging experience for those new to the hobby.

View Shane's Recording
Eric Grotheer
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Jun 21 2020
HikingMuddyRocky
Kim H.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Jun 08 2020
Hiking

Steep but worth it !

Brylee Cordell
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Jun 06 2020
HikingMuddyRocky

Very pretty I wouldn’t recommend a child under 10 just because you have to use rope and it’s straight down ,and it’s rocky but other than that it’s a great swimming and jumping place

Hike Is Fun You Know
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon May 11 2020
HikingBugsFloodedNo shadeOff trailPrivate propertyRockyScramble

Only parking for ten vehicles everyone else who attempts to park anywhere else will be towed via webcam monitoring. The last part of the trail down is 743ft in elevation drop in about 1/2mileAlso, the rangers are frequently visiting since last years death and this is a no drinking area meaning that if you are seen with a cooler or any alcohol by a ranger it is a 5,000$ fine and or no more than 6months in jail which because the person who died was drinking they are strictly enforcing daily spot checks here. This is one of the best swimming holes in the area! 80ft jumps to a minimum of 40ft. If you climb above the falls remember jumping is ten times safer than climbing back down/ one person has been paralyzed and one died in the last five years simply trying to climb back down the main trail. Definitely worth the effort for those who know the risks!!!!

Ray Moyer
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSun May 10 2020
Rocky

very busy location, college kids drinking... falls were beautiful, but be ready for a super steep climb down and I rough climb up. don't wear sandels lol

M P.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun May 03 2020

Very difficult but worth the trip. I do not recommend for children under 5. Steep descent and difficult climb back up.

Diane Cooper
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMon Feb 03 2020
HikingRocky

very difficult trail.you go straight down a gully on the side of a mountain. but definitely worth it

View Diane's Recording
Rebecca Berry
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMon Nov 11 2019
HikingRockyScramble
View Rebecca's Recording
Sarah LeDoux
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Nov 09 2019
HikingRockyScramble

Great unmarked trail! Definitely a hands-on climb down and back up. I went in November. Full falls, but too cold to play in the water. Can’t wait to come back when it’s warm!

Stoy Asmussen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Sep 30 2019

Worth the steep decent and climb out. Glad I saw it just wish it was not 90f out when I did it. Made this old Man sweaty.

Ma Ed
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Sep 14 2019
Hiking

Rough Trail but the falls make it worth it

Blake Soblesky
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarMon Sep 09 2019
HikingRocky

Trail wasn’t marked, very very steep and rocky. Pretty slippery with loose rock and roots. The falls were awesome. Very big, fun to swim in.

Lauren Northrup
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Sep 07 2019
Hiking

A trail I keep going back to! Very steep and slippery walk to the falls but so worth it! Not too busy in the morning time but can fill up fast.

Amanda Jenkins
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Sep 07 2019
Hiking

Great falls! Well worth the hike. Trail starts out easy, then it makes a left turn, down a very steep hill. This is a strenuous hike, thankfully it’s less then 2 miles.

Justin Carlin
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Aug 11 2019
Hiking

Very very worth it. Decently intense hike but a short one. Waterfalls are unreal and you can cliff dive at multiple spots from multiple jumps, off both waterfalls as well. Rocks are slippery, just be careful and you’ll be fine. Don’t advise consuming a large amount of alcohol and then going off these jumps.

Mimi C.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSun Aug 04 2019
HikingScramble

It is steep, but having read the reviews I was prepared. There’s many loose rocks but the reward at the end is so worth it. The waterfalls are so much fun. We jumped off the upper water fall and then slid down the big one. There are ropes and ladders. There’s also areas where you can just chill in the water and not jump. I would recommend going on a hot day and bringing good water shoes. Although the trail is pretty obvious, it is unmarked and there is one place where it splits without signage, but you just go the direction that goes downhill. Also the drive there is not easy.

David Blevins
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Jul 13 2019
HikingRockyWashed out

Straight down a mountain but worth it the falls where beautiful and sliding and jumping off them was even better, hiking up to the next set off falls totally worth it, will be going back next wknd

Zach Huckaby
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFri May 31 2019

crazy dope swimming hole. jumping isn't advised until you've slid a few times. just let the water take you. the water us deeper than you think, but exercise caution. you'll be helicoptered out in an emergency. also a high clearance vehicle is recommended for parking. you're in bumf nowhere so make sure you have a full tank of gas. and dont expect a hike. imagine going straight up and down a mountainside with no switchbacks. deadass watched a group turn around and not even make it to the falls.

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