Hiking along the Boonefork Trail, about a mile in, you start to hear the roar of waterfalls, Hebron Rock Colony Falls. Irresistible on beautiful days, the falls are a perfect way to cool off. But how to reach them?
Formerly, the falls were unofficially accessed from Old Turnpike Road. This is no longer permissible. End of discussion- don’t do it. Residents on Old Turnpike could not access their own homes, and emergency vehicles could not get through. The North Carolina Highway Patrol has increased their vigilance in patrolling this road, watching for wayward waterfall junkies. See below for more details.
But not to worry- there’s another way to access the beautiful falls! You must go in on the Boonefork Trail, accessed at the picnic area of Julian Price Memorial Park. The trail loop begins and ends at the park. Take the right-hand loop, through the old lake bed, and plunge on into the woods. The first half mile of the trail was re-gravelled in the past 6 months, which makes for a nice beginning of your hike, plus part of it is part of the railbed from when logging trains ran through this area. There are remnants visible of an old dam across the river near the one-mile point. After that, the trail begins to meander uphill a little bit, through the woods, following the contours of the Boonefork River.
Continue through the woods. The trail at this point is not strenuous at all- rather, it’s got moderate inclines and curves. Go along until just shy of the 1.5 mile marker (and the mile markers are clear- hard plastic posts about 3′ high with white lettering.) Just before you get to the 1.5mi marker, you’ll see a pair of trees with red flag markers tied around them, indicating the spur trail down to the river. Currently there is not a formal marker, but plans are being tossed around to change that, so until then, these red markers will suffice.
The spur trail leads down the hill. Because this is not a formally marked footpath, it looks more like a deer trail. Most of the trail has clear footholds, but there is one part near a rhododendron bush that can be a bit slick. Make sure you have on good boots! The spur is only a couple tenths of a mile long, and the falls get louder with every step. The trail bottoms out at the riverside, and you can easily wade in and start boulder hopping your way up or down.
The trail puts you out in the middle of the boulder field, and you can make a day of it sunning yourself out on the rocks. Remember that the rocks can be slick and you are out here at your own risk. When I went, I wore my Chaco sandals and had very little difficulty out there (of course, I also had a hiking buddy bigger and stronger than me to help me climb the rocks!.) But this is by no means a loafers-and-flipflops place! Wear flimsy, no-grip footwear like that and you’re asking for serious injury. Some people go barefoot out there, but I prefer to have something between me and the ground. There is no reliable cell signal there, so unless you have a SATphone, you can’t call for help. I have been told by a couple inside sources that the emergency room at App Regional Healthcare System has a few injuries per week inseason from these falls alone. Stay safe out there!
The best falls are at the top of the boulder field.
Sure, Hebron doesn’t have the biggest and most spectacular waterfalls in the area. That being said, how many waterfalls do you get to actually climb? Four legged family members will also enjoy visiting and splashing around in the water, and Boonefork Trail is a great pet friendly trail. Bring the dog along for an adventure the whole family will enjoy!
Going back to what was said earlier about the correct access trail: You may see other information online or in print stating that access was via Old Turnpike Road. This is no longer true. You *will* be cited if the NC Highway Patrol see you in person, or your car will be towed and you will be forced to hitchike. In case you think this is an idle threat: the author personally spoke with a Sergeant in the SHP, and he informed me that in one week, 13 cars were towed and about 15 people were cited. A citation is over $200 and a towing bill is a minimum of $125. If you don’t want a fun hiking day ruined, you won’t access from Old Turnpike Road. Access from the Boonefork Trail is a bit more hiking, but worth it in the end.
All ages can do the trail down to the river and enjoy the calm waters at the base. If accompanied and carefully supervised by adults, children above the age of 5 could climb the boulders to the falls.
WHERE IS IT?
Julian Price Memorial Park, on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Part of the trail winds through the Price Park campsite. MP 296.5
Remember to be careful out there on the falls. Blue Ridge NC Guide is not responsible in any way for any injuries sustained while enjoying the falls, nor are we responsible if you foolishly park on Old Turnpike and get towed/cited.
All text and photos copyright 2012 Cassandra Hartley, Blue Ridge NC Guide. No portion of this article is to be copied, saved, or otherwise distributed without express written consent. Sharing is encouraged using the designated social media sharing buttons at the bottom of this article. Photos for this post provided by our sister site Photos by Cassandra Lea. Author received no compensation, monetary or otherwise, in exchange for this article.