The quaint town of Blowing Rock has its own hiking trail not two blocks off Main Street. I know, who’d have imagined? And it’s not a short and easy walk. Glen Burney Trail descends 800 feet into the John’s River Gorge alongside the rushing New Years’ Creek.
I’m of the opinion that the trail sign should bear the title “What Goes Down, Must Come Back Up”. The map at the trailhead:
does not make any indication that you go down…and down…and down some more. First time I went, I just jumped in as per my usual, so I had no idea this trail is so steep. And it didn’t really connect as I went on down listening to the sounds of the creek. I get lost in my own little world when I’m on a trail, what can I say?
I digress. The Glen Burney Trail meanders 1.6 miles, and it is a strenuous trail. There are four points of interest along the way, all of which I will show you.
Point #1: “The Ruins”. This sounds much more romantic than it actually is- it’s just the foundation of a sewage plant that served the town around 1929. (Fun history trivia: Blowing Rockers have been using the Glen Burney area since the early 1890s, and before that, it was a hunting trail used by Native Americans.) The ruins are .4 mile down when you first encounter the creek.
About .4 mile on down, you come to Point #3, the eponymous Falls. Be careful here- you’ll come down the trail and there’s a not-hardly-marked fork. The rest of the trail goes off to the left, and the part to the right goes about .1 mile to the view of the Glen Burney Falls proper. Last month when I was there, of course it was still the dead of winter, so I couldn’t see the trail on my way down and therefore missed this at first. Making matters worse, I missed the turn back uphill when I was on my way back, so I wandered to these falls, then managed to get myself lost trying to find the trail again. But I’m glad I found it:
And from here, you have to turn around and go back from whence you came. Because it’s not a loop trail, I classify it as Lord of the Rings- “There and Back Again”. (Yes, I am a bit of a nerd. ) It took me about an hour longer to hike the return trip because of the steepness, and because I am relatively out of shape.
This is NOT a trail to do in anything less than well-treaded sturdy shoes, at any time of year. I’ve seen people stomping along in flip flops. If that’s you- your doctor is going to get a good laugh when you tell him how you sprained your ankle. Also you’ll need to bring at least 24oz of water- more is better, or have water purification tablets on hand if you run out, since drinking straight out of New Year’s Creek (or any unfiltered water) is never a smart idea.
Also, standard caveat whenever you’re near waterfalls- keep an even sharper eye than usual on young energetic kids around the water falls. DO NOT let them go on the rocks at the water- there were a couple fatalities by people lacking common sense who went out on the slick stones and went tumbling down the falls. There has since been a nice wooden railed viewing platform built where once you could get onto the rocks, but enterprising kids (and sometimes teens!) can find a way where there’s a will.
WHERE IS IT?
Downtown Blowing Rock- turn onto Laurel Lane at the yellow Martin House. Go a block and through the four-way intersection and make a left down the hill into the parking area for the Annie Cannon Memorial Gardens. Follow the signs to the trailhead.
Strenuous trail, 1.6 miles long one way, so I would say ages 8 and up. Definitely not little-kid friendly. Oh, and there’s absolutely zero cell signal after the first .2 miles of the trail.
All text and photos copyright 2011 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.