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Otter Falls Trail near Banner Elk is one of our favorite High Country waterfalls!

Otter Falls Trail: A Fun Hike to One of the High Country’s Most Beautiful Waterfalls

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Otter Falls had always been waiting to be enjoyed and thanks to the work of locals, you can access this High Country waterfall via a fairly easy trail. It all sits inside the resort community of Seven Devils, which is really cool place to explore if you have more time.

But for now, let’s stick with Otter Falls, which is easily one of our favorite hikes near Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk. It’s home to an interesting background and a few twists and turns along the way as you descend down to the waterfall. Knowing about both will help you appreciate this hike before you get started.

This post is part of our series on all the awesome places to visit in Western North Carolina. The Otter Falls Trail is also one of our favorite places to go hiking throughout the state.

Otter Falls Trail

Otter Falls Trail Guide Organization Note: If you’re searching for something specific about the Otter Falls Trail, here’s how we’ve organized this post.

  • Background
  • Driving Directions
  • Hiking the Otter Falls Trail
  • Our Recommended Route
  • Why We’ll Be Back
  • Nearby Places to Visit
  • Map of Otter Falls
  • More Things to Do in the High Country

Background

It was nearly always possible to visit Otter Falls and there’s even a record of people doing so before recent times. One notable figure to have visited Otter Falls is botanist Asa Gray, all the way back in 1841. He was hiking Grandfather Mountain and discovered the lily that now bears his name.

The Otter Falls Trail that we know today has only been around since 2015, when the town of Seven Devils opened the trail to the public. Construction of the current trail was made possible by 50/50 donations from the NC Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and local donors.

Driving Directions

The trailhead parking lot is very easy to find, and a beautiful sign will lead you in. Park at 825 Skyland Drive and make sure to snap a photo of the trail map before you leave.

Our map at the bottom of this post shows the trailhead’s location, along with some nearby places that we’ll mention later.

Hiking the Otter Falls Trail

While the directions sound complicated (and we debated a bit at intersections!), ultimately, you should know that you’re going to meet the falls if you keep descending. The only trail that doesn’t lead to the waterfall is the one with the yellow blaze.

There are several different routes you can take with the trail thanks to lots of connections. However, the short 0.6 miles that it takes to reach the observation deck isn’t all that complicated.

You’ll dip about 230 feet in elevation via two loops with plenty of benches along the way for rest just in case. The trails aren’t marked all that clearly, but as we mentioned, keep going down and follow the sound of water.

We promise you’ll find yourself at Otter Falls eventually!

Our Recommended Route

Our recommended route to reach Otter Falls is the following:

When you reach your first major intersection with a bench to follow the larger downhill trail to your right. While the trail to the left is beautiful and meanders, taking the right trail is faster and more direct.

Why You Should Hike the Otter Falls Trail (and Why We’ll Be Back)

The Otter Falls Trail is very kid-friendly, with wide paths that are not too rocky. However, there is a moderate grade but it shouldn’t give you too much trouble when coming back up.

Our first time down, we decided to carry our toddler instead of letting her walk because we didn’t know the trail. Now, we are confident that with enough patience and snacks, she could have walked it herself.

Otter Falls isn’t the grand waterfall like you’d expect at Crabtree Falls or Catawba Falls, but it really is beautiful. The stream spills over a rock ledge onto mossy rocks below and almost bounces into a gentle pool beneath.

The Otter Falls overlook is nice enough if you don't want to walk down rocks to the actual falls.

The water at the base of the falls is shallow enough to wade in and the rocks shrouding the falls keeps it cool and magical. Take some time to enjoy the water, stick your feet in, and maybe even pack a picnic!

We think you’ll want to stick around this amazing High Country waterfall.

Nearby Places to Visit

Grandfather Vineyard is one of the best in North Carolina for taste and scenery. And it's just down the road from Otter Falls.

Otter Falls is close to quite a few fun places. Grandfather Vineyard is just down the road and there, you can enjoy a glass or bottle (drink responsibly) by a serene creek.

Between the High Country‘s biggest towns, Otter Falls is closest to Banner Elk (17 minutes), and even closer is Sugar Mountain (16 minutes). Boone and Blowing Rock are each about 25 minutes away, too.

Seven Devils

Seven Devils is a resort community that formed in the 1960s to provide tourists with fishing, swimming, and recreational activities. The name comes from a legend that says winter winds blowing across the hills sound like seven devils screaming at night.

There are plenty of family-friendly spots here, including Otter Falls. Two other popular places to visit are the 148-acre Bear Paw State Natural Area, and Hawksnest Zipline.

Nearby Hikes

Beacon Heights is an awesome short hike near Otter Falls.
Beacon Heights.

The Grandfather Mountain State Park Profile Trail is about 10 minutes away. And while long (3.6 miles one way), this is a very popular hike. Shorter hikes nearby include Beacon Heights (25 minutes) and Rough Ridge (28 minutes).

Both short trails offer amazing views of Grandfather Mountain and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina. And of course, there are also plenty of waterfalls to chase after you hike to Otter Falls.

Map of Otter Falls (and Nearby Places)

More High Country Things to Do

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