Roaring Fork Falls: A Wonderful Waterfall Hike Near Mount Mitchell

Last Updated on April 15, 2021

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If you plan to visit Western NC, please check beforehand to see if the area is safe following the recent flooding. Officials have closed some sections of Pisgah National Forest (including Forest Heritage Scenic Byway and Blue Ridge Parkway stops) to keep visitors out of danger. Please respect signage and local guidance.

Roaring Fork Falls (aka Roaring Fork Creek Falls) sits at the base of Mount Mitchell in Yancey County (near Burnsville), just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. This 100-foot easy-to-reach cascade is one of our favorite kid-friendly hikes in the area.

Hop off the Parkway and you’ll find this quick hike with beautiful sights and sounds that hold their own against that iconic scenic road. Eventually, you’ll reach a secluded waterfall that’s perfect for a picnic and a jump in the water!

Our guide shares tips to help you reach this wonderful waterfall by car and after you get out.

Roaring Fork Falls is also mentioned among our favorite things to do in North Carolina and is also included in our Bucket List book! This post is part of our series on waterfalls and other awesome places to visit in Western North Carolina.

About Roaring Fork Falls

Roaring Fork Falls Mt Mitchell

The cascade at Roaring Fork Falls has a gentle flow framed by lush greenery with a calm pool of water at the base. It is only seven miles from Crabtree Falls and off the same road as Setrock Creek Falls (South Toe River Rd).

That makes this one of three Yancey County waterfalls you can easily see in one day.

Driving Directions to Roaring Fork Falls

Cell service is not great while at Roaring Fork Falls, so be sure to know the route before heading out. From the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 344, drive 2.2 miles north on NC 80.

When you reach South Toe River Rd, turn left. There will be a sign for Black Mountain Campground, which is the trailhead for Setrock Creek Falls.

Drive across the bridge and turn left toward Busick Work Center. There will be a wooden sign pointing to the left for Roaring Fork Falls. The road ends at the trailhead, and the entrance to the trail is behind a gate on your right.

By the way, that turn at MP 344 is one of our favorite Blue Ridge Parkway stops.

Leave No Trace (and Don’t Overcrowd)

Trail for Roaring Fork Falls

When arriving at the Roaring Fork Falls trailhead, you’ll see limited parking, with perhaps enough spaces on the left for five to six cars.

We ask that you not park anywhere beyond these spots and return at another time if the lot is full. Also, we ask you to always keep North Carolina beautiful and pack out everything you bring in.

Trash does NOT belong on our trails.

A great step further is to pick up any trash if you see it. That act will make you feel better and also, will help us all maintain this beautiful trail today and for future generations.

Hiking to Roaring Fork Falls

The hike to Roaring Fork Falls is an easy half-mile, steady climb along a service road.

Trailhead at Roaring Fork Falls NC

The trailhead sits just beyond a wire fence, where the road ends. It’s just across from the small parking lot to your right. A sign along the service road will guide you to the falls.

Bunkers at Roaring Fork Falls

During the hike, keep your eyes out for two abandoned concrete buildings on your right. These are former bunkers that were used to store explosives. The doors have been removed for safety reasons, but they are still really cool to look into!

Bridge at Roaring Fork Falls

The gravel service road will eventually end, and you will cross a bridge to the right. The waterfall is directly ahead after some light dodging of roots and rocks.

Tips for Visiting Roaring Fork Falls

Roaring Fork Falls Burnsville NC

Arrive early because parking is limited. If there aren’t any spaces available, head to Setrock Creek Falls only 2.5 miles down the road and occasionally check back for available parking spaces.

Although it is located on a gravel service road, we don’t recommend this trail for strollers or wheelchairs because the gravel is thick and the trail is not maintained.

The elevation gain is gradual enough that our toddler walked it, and we think it’s a great way for you (and your kids) to get some energy out!

Ready to Enjoy Roaring Fork Falls?

Roaring Fork Falls is a secluded waterfall and truly a hidden gem—perfect for a picnic. While it can get busy during the weekends, we were the only people at the waterfall in the middle of the week.

As hard as we tried, photos really don’t do this place justice. If you’ve been before, you’ll likely agree. Of course, we’d love to know your thoughts if they differ from ours.

For those who’ve never been before, we’d love to know when you’ll be making your first visit and what you think after spending time at the amazing Roaring Fork Falls!

Nearby Places to Visit

We will share a few additional posts covering things to do in Yancey County (and beyond), but thought we’d share some spots you really should get to know near Roaring Fork Falls.

Setrock Creek Falls

Setrock Creek Falls near Roaring Fork Falls NC

Setrock Creek Falls is the closest hike to Roaring Fork Falls, as we mentioned the two sit off the same road.

It’s about 3 miles down the road from Roaring Fork and the hike to this 75-foot waterfall starts from the Black Mountain Campground. The flat 1-mile round trip is a fairly easy walk through the woods.

Also, you may notice a relatively full parking lot upon arrival, but the hike and falls are surprisingly not as crowded.

Mount Mitchell State Park

Mount Mitchell State Park near Roaring Fork Falls NC
Deep Gap Trail.

Mount Mitchell stands tall at 6,684 feet in elevation and is the highest point east of the Mississippi. Inside this state park (30 minutes away from Roaring Fork), you’ll find trails for all levels of hikers and nature lovers.

One of the most popular ways to enjoy Mount Mitchell is to view the summit from the observation deck for 360-degree views. From the parking area, it is a 1/4-mile paved and accessible trail.

More difficult trails include Deep Gap (8.6 miles round trip) at the picnic area near the summit and Old Mitchell (12 miles round trip), which starts at the Black Mountain Campground we mentioned.

Crabtree Falls

Crabtree Falls in Yancey County NC

The area around Crabtree Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of our favorite sections. However, this waterfall stands out as one of the best in Western North Carolina.

It’s a beautiful 70-foot waterfall that and the trailhead sits about 30 minutes away from Roaring Fork Falls.

You’ll reach Crabtree Falls after a 1.6-mile hike through hardwoods and rhododendron-covered paths. In total, the hike is about 2.5 miles.

Arrive early enough and you might have a view of the falls all for yourself.

Linville Falls

Linville Falls near Roaring Fork Falls NC

Linville Falls is about an hour away and the only non-Yancey County spot we’ll mention, but it’s totally worth a trip. You can see one of North Carolina’s most popular waterfalls via a two-mile round trip hike.

In fact, you can enjoy three different vantage points of the falls. The Linville Falls Plunge Basin Trail is more difficult but approaches the waterfall from another direction. You’ll arrive at the bottom of the falls, which is really hard to top among views in our state.

More Fun in Yancey County (and Nearby)

1 thought on “Roaring Fork Falls: A Wonderful Waterfall Hike Near Mount Mitchell”

  1. The explosives bunkers mentioned are an interesting feature to look at, however, even more interesting, and probably more intriguing to readers, is why would there be explosive bunkers along a trail in the middle of the forest, in the first place?!!

    The answer goes back to the great depression, when President Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration – the WPA, to put Americans back to work during the depression. One of the projects created for this purpose was the carving of the Blue Ride Parkway along the Blue Ridge running from Virginia to the western most part of North Carolina.

    The men hired to do the work, required camps to live in along the Blue Ridge corridor. One of these was the Busick Work Center, for which the road to the falls is named. The parking area for the trail head is immediately in front of what used to be the work center camp for the workers. It’s now owned by a private utility company that provides drinking water for the local community.

    The service road, or trail, that leads to the falls, was the service road the workers used to drive up to the Blue Ridge for their task of carving a road through the rugged, mountainous ridge. Contrary to the description in this piece, the road does not end at the waterfall, but continues for a couple of miles up to within a stone’s throw of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

    The explosives bunkers were set along the service road in case of an accidental explosion – you don’t want to keep dynamite where you live and sleep. The bunkers were placed along the road taken by the workers, so they could pick up the needed explosives on their way to work every morning.

    We own an inn across from the turn to the Busick Work Center Rd., so we have many visitors that always ask why the bunkers are there. Before telling them the real story, I always say to them, “that’s where the bigfoots sleep! Wait, is the plural of bigfoot, bigfoots or bigfeet?” That’s where I get the – “this guy is nuts” look. Then I tell them the story of the WPA. Always a good laugh for all.


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