Of all the places I’ve driven in search of North Carolina waterfalls, I’ve never gotten more twisted around than on Beech Mountain. Now I know what a rat feels like in a maze. Even after visiting the area on several occasions, I still don’t know the best way to get to the falls. The only advice I can offer is to stop at the general store or visitor center and pick up a copy of the excellent Trails of Beech map. It shows all the trails and supposedly all the roads as well, though I’m convinced a few were left out just to aggravate me further. The trailhead is at Buckeye Lake Recreation Area. You can park at the Buckeye Recreation Center.
Beech Mountain is located at the end of NC 184. Follow the signs from the town of Banner Elk, east of Elk Park.
Falls Trail is a loop hike that passes Buckeye Creek Falls. It’s about the same distance to the falls no matter which way you go, so you might as well do the entire loop. It’s easier to stay on the trail at the start if you hike counterclockwise. As you face the recreation center, walk to the right. The trail starts behind the playground. It descends rather steeply to a switchback at Grassy Gap Creek, then follows the creek downstream a short distance to a footbridge over Buckeye Creek. The waterfall is immediately upstream from the bridge.
For the return hike, cross the bridge and follow the trail upstream. You’ll come to a footbridge below the Buckeye Lake dam. After crossing, turn left and ascend steeply to the top of the dam. Turn left again. You’ll climb beside a chain-link fence and come out on the road behind the recreation center. Follow the road back to your car.
Note: I received an update in late July 2017 about the loop hike. The town of Beech Mountain is working on the dam and the upper portion of the trail is closed indefinitely. You can still hike to the falls in a counterclockwise manner, but you will need to backtrack once you reach the falls.
This new loop trail makes a great hike for anyone visiting Beech Mountain, regardless of the season. It’s a terrific family hike—long enough so the kids will feel they’ve accomplished something, but not too long for them to become irritable. For those who like to get off the beaten path, it will be disappointing, however. There is no such thing as getting away from roads or people on Beech Mountain!
- She Falls Falls