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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
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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 (135)
Photos (111)
Recordings (55)
Completed (372)
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Savannah Wallace
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 18, 2020
Hiking

Steeeeeeeeeep but awesome

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Crystal Willett
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 14, 2020
Hiking
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Crystal Willett
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 11, 2020
HikingBlowdownGreat!Scramble

My video of the trail. https://youtu.be/0xtHbCjaEOU. What a hike! I've done over 250 hikes in NC and this one kicked my butt! It was such a great hike but you have to watch each and every step placement and the rocks at the river are slicker than snot! We had the falls all to ourselves today for the most part. I'm exhausted from a hike that's not even a mile!

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Charles Huguley
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 15, 2020
HikingGreat!MuddyRocky

Honestly, Anyone that says this hike isn’t worth the end result, must not have jumped off of the falls. Well worth the trip! The way down is pretty steep, and would recommend to anyone that is good with ropes, try to re-knot the sections that provide rope, they look a little worn and one was only attached to a root that was starting to come up. We eventually made it down, and the view was spectacular. We didn’t get the opportunity to climb past the top of the falls, but can’t wait to come back and continue the adventure. For our trip, we decided to jump off a the falls a few times, lay out on the rocks, and enjoy a quick lunch! Hope everyone else enjoys their time there, we’ll be back for sure, next time I’m bringing beer.

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Denise Moss
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 15, 2020
Hiking

Extreme!!!!

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Katey V
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 10, 2020
HikingScramble

We’ve done this hike with our toddler a few times over the years. It is a straight “hike” down to the falls. If you’re just looking for a nice waterfall to see, this may not be the best choice. Most people take on the hike in order to jump off of the falls. Above the main waterfall- Compression Falls- there is Twisted Falls and move areas to swim and cliff jump. Down river from the falls there are plenty of spots to swim.

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Justin Michael
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarAugust 8, 2020
Hiking

This hike was brutal and the waterfall wasn't even worth the energy spent. Very disappointing. But every once in a while you just run into a dud I definitely would not recommend this one.

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Jodi M
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 6, 2020
Hiking

Absolutely worth the time it took to find it! Off the beaten path with no markers letting you know you’ve made it to the trailhead. Thankful for the detailed directions another member posted here! Beautiful falls, lots of swimming pools and large rocks to lay and soak up some sun. Hike down was hard as the rocks were loose and slippery, going up is tough too as it very steep. This was the last hike of our trip and a great finale!

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Jd Hollingsworth
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 25, 2020
Hiking

Short scramble down to the river. Moderate difficulty for a healthy person. Could be difficult for elderly or handicapped. I suggest download the offline google map directions because you will lose cell service halfway up driving to get there. Awesome falls. Some great cliff/waterfall jumps. Current was moving rapidly because of rainfall so just be careful. You can jump from the right side of the waterfall as you are looking at it from the trail approach. You have to cross the river to get to the trail up to get to the jumping spots.

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Carolina Kim
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 24, 2020

haven't heard back from my sons. they went there today. very worried!

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Peter Nguyen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 19, 2020
HikingRocky

Not an easy to find and not an easy hike but very much worth it! Highly recommend going on a sunny day. The trail is very steep. Wear shoes with good tread and watch your footing. Once you reach the waterfall, go for a swim to cool off or tan on the rocks! It is safe to jump and slide down the waterfall. There's a trail right of the waterfall that will lead you to the top where there is a shorter waterfall to jump from as well. When youre ready to head back, get ready to bear crawl back up

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Shane Carroll
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 3, 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.

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Eric Grotheer
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 21, 2020
HikingMuddyRocky
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Brylee Cordell
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 6, 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

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Hike Is Fun You Know
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMay 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!!!!

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Ray Moyer
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMay 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

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Diane Cooper
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarFebruary 3, 2020
HikingRocky

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

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Rebecca Berry
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarNovember 11, 2019
HikingRockyScramble
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