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Hiking Trails, Photograph This!, Waterfalls

Hiking Trails- GLEN BURNEY TRAIL, Blowing Rock

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.

Point #2: “The Cascades”. .8 mile down the trail, you come to the first waterfalls. This is your first taste of the waterfalls below.

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:

At the very bottom of the trail, there’s Point #4: Glen Marie Falls. These are the tallest of the three falls.

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.

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. 


About Cassandra Lea

Native of Blowing Rock, NC; married to a fellow High Country native; lover of the outdoors, history, and local shopping & dining; and proud advocate of everything this area has to offer!


3 thoughts on “Hiking Trails- GLEN BURNEY TRAIL, Blowing Rock

  1. I did this trail also. I was a little disappointed though in all honesty. I didn’t like the view of the houses from the trail and all that. Plus I didn’t like how heavily populated the area was. I made the mistake of doing this trail in 100 degree heat last year without enough water and I brought my dog which meant half the time I felt so bad for her I gave her most of the water.

    Definitely people need to realize that they must come prepared for this hike. VERY deceiving. If you have the proper hiking boots you’re fine but I saw people in flip flops meandering helplessly on the trail and it’s very frustrating. So come prepared. Nice description! 🙂


    Posted by Kriestienn | April 7, 2011, 3:03 am


  1. Pingback: Photograph This!- BROYHILL PARK & ANNIE CANNON GARDENS, Blowing Rock « Blue Ridge NC Guide - June 29, 2011

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All text and photos belong exclusively to Blue Ridge NC Guide, copyright January 2011 to present. No portions of the text and no photos may be copied without express written consent. Sharing is encouraged using the Share Buttons at the bottom of each article.
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