Outdoors Recreation

Year of the Trail: Where Three Trails Meet

Visit Elkin for Trail Variety, Abundance

Surry Scenic Bikeway, Elkin Dobson Loop. Photo courtesy of Surry Scenic Bikeway

By Emma Castleberry

2023 is the Year of the Trail in North Carolina. Each month, The Laurel will celebrate with a story about an inspiring trail, related organization or project.

The town of Elkin in Surry County is a top regional destination for hiking, biking and other trail activities. Three trails converge in Elkin’s downtown: the North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail, Overmountain Victory Trail and the Yadkin River Blue Water Trail. The Elkin Valley Trails Association also builds and maintains a variety of local trails in the area, so options abound.

Carter Falls. Photo by Sam Dean

Natalie Eidson, event coordinator with Explore Elkin, says it’s hard to choose just one trail as a favorite. “For hiking, I love Carter Falls and the Forest Bathing Trail,” she says, adding that the Forest Bathing Trail is conveniently positioned next to Grassy Creek Vineyard, so visitors are encouraged to make a day of it with a post-hike glass of wine. The Carter Falls trail is another easy trail favored by locals. “Once they started building the trail down to the falls,” says Eidson, “a ton of locals started telling stories of how they would hike down there as kids to go swimming, so it’s cool that folks are becoming more aware of this little hidden gem.”

Bob Hillyer, trail development manager for Elkin Valley Trails Association, says each of Elkin’s trails have been built to have their own unique character—trail personalities, if you will. The Forest Bathing Trail, for example, is a meditative experience dotted with single-person benches for solitude and harmony with nature. Grassy Creek Trail, which connects Grassy Creek Vineyard with Carter Falls and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, has a moodier vibe. “Along the way, you pass through the ‘enchanted forest,’ a large grove of planted 30-year-old white pines,” says Hillyer. “The canopy of these pines blocks much of the sunlight creating a dark and spooky atmosphere. The locals decorate it for kids to enjoy at Halloween.”

Elin Valley Trails. Photo by Sam Dean

The three trails that intersect in Elkin offer a diversity of experiences, too. “History buffs love to walk in the footsteps of America’s Revolutionary patriots on the Overmountain Victory Trail,” says Hillyer. “Kayaking and canoeing the Yadkin Blue Water River Trail or one of its five smaller tributaries provides smooth family floats or technical small creek runs. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail passes six waterfalls ranging from 30 to more than 200 feet tall on its journey from the Blue Ridge Parkway through Stone Mountain Park and on to Elkin.”

Mountain bikers will also find more than six miles of professionally built trails ranging in three levels of difficulty, and rock climbers can enjoy routes at Stone Mountain and Pilot Mountain State Parks. Wherever you go in Elkin, you’re sure to find fun and feel welcome. “Elkin is one of the friendliest towns I’ve ever been in,” says Eidson. “If you’re hiking the trails in our area, you’re very likely to make a new friend by the time you’re back at your car.”

Learn more at ElkinValleyTrails.org.

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