This small town located in Surry and Wilkes counties and sharing its name with the surrounding township of Elkin Township is most known for the Yadkin Valley Wine Festival held each May at the Elkin Municipal Park and The Big Elkin Brewfest that takes place each fall hosted by the two microbreweries in town.
Known also as the eastern-most encampment town along Overmountain Victory Trail (a marker can be find at the park near the recreation center along Hwy 268) Elkin, North Carolina has an abundance of trails. Locals enjoy the Yadkin River State Park ‘Blue’ Trail daily and the Blue Ridge Mountains are only 20 minutes away off of Highway 21 (heading towards Sparta). The town is approximately 15 minutes south of Stone Mountain State Park which is one of our most frequently visited State Parks offering waterfall, epic views and an old Homestead. Today, Elkin is considered to be an official Trail Town as the NC MST is now directed into downtown Elkin along Main Street.
After working extremely hard, the Elkin Valley Trails Association cleared, completed and recently opened one of the newest trails – “Powerhouse Trail” at Carter Falls which will become part of the Mountains to Sea trail once the building of the projected 220-foot suspension bridge – “Bridge of Dreams” is completed. Once the construction of the bridge is done, visitors will be able to enjoy an impressive, unobstructed view of the free flowing 60-foot drop of Carter Falls.
The trail begins at the parking lot on Pleasant Ridge Road just 10 minutes outside the town of Elkin. You can go either way (left or right). We chose to go left on the trail towards the lower falls following the cleared path snaking between tall trees and by the ruins of what looked to be an old barn.
The well marked trail goes for about half a mile downhill before reaching the lower falls and the foundation of whats left of the electrical powerhouse that in the early 20th century supplied electricity to the town of Elkin .
From here, the very well maintained path continues following the river through the Carter Falls gorge for some time before turning right and leading you back to the parking lot. The Powerhouse must’ve been huge as you’ll notice the power lines and other evidence of what once was spread all over the woods.
Iron gears, steel bands and concrete flume cradles that are now marked with orange tape to prevent visitors from tripping on them are used to hold the wooden and steel flume that broke over 60 years ago allowing the water to eat away the side of the gorge and destroying the flume while rushing through.
The Flute was vital for creating the first power for the town of Elkin redirecting the water which traveled from the top of the falls horizontally along the hill and then dropped down to a powerhouse creating energy. Rusted metal remains lay by the side of the trail as you pass between the trees and over the newly done wooden bridges.
The platform brings you to an overlook of Carter Falls and on a winter day when the trees have shed their leaves you’ll be able to get a pretty good view of the large falls. A little path leads to the bottom of the falls for an even better view and if you brought a picnic with that would be the best spot to lay an blanket and enjoy it.
Make sure to watch your step as many metal wires are present throughout the entire trail.
A sign at the top of the falls warns against swimming in the waters as the area contains hazards associated with rocks, steep slopes and cliffs.
The trail is not wheelchair accessible as of right now but the EVTA hopes to have a handicap-accessible trail from the parking lot area to the top of the falls, and then a different handicap-accessible trail along Big Elkin Creek that brings people to the area at the bottom of the falls.
The trail is open daily from sunrise to dawn and can be found here. Dogs are allowed on the trail on leashes and as of right now this hike is free to enjoy.