Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Jones Falls

Finding directions and information for Jones Falls back in 2007 when I first 'discovered' Jones Falls was a challenge.  Fortunately, there are numerous websites now that describe this hike (see links below). But still, my guess is that this waterfall doesn't get too many visitors -- except for thru-hikers on the AT (as it's located 1/10 of a mile off of the AT). At 100 feet high, this impressive waterfall ought to get more attention. The top part of the falls is mostly a free fall, while the bottom half of the falls is a beautiful, flowing cascade. It's definitely worth the hike. It's located just inside of the Tennessee line in Carter County, between the towns of Roan Mountain, TN and Elk Park, NC. It's best to go after a good rain. Jones Falls is located at a high elevation, so the watershed of Jones Branch is limited.  And if you're interested in photos, I also recommend going on a cloudy or overcast day, as the top part of the falls is exposed to the sunlight.

There are two ways to get to the falls. One coming in from the NC side via Elk River Falls. The other from the TN side hiking in on the AT.  I recommend the first (NC) approach.

Jones Falls via Elk River Falls.  This approach to Jones Falls allows visitors to see two fantastic waterfalls -- and is actually quite a bit easier than the second approach described below.  First, drive to Elk River Falls: Take 19E to Elk Park, NC (just over the border from Roan Mountain, TN), turn north onto Old Mill Road, and after 1/4 mi. turn north again onto Elk River Road. There are signs pointing the way. Take this for approx. 4 miles until the road dead ends at the falls. It's a short 1/4 mi. hike to the base of the falls. (Click here for my full post on Elk River Falls). I believe there used to be a river trail that would allow you to continue on to Jones Falls, but I found the way completely overgrown beyond recognition. So save yourself the hassle, and backtrack to the parking area. Once there go around the forest service gate and turn right and follow the well-established forest service road for 3/4 of a mile until it reaches the river.  Once there, continue on to your left (don't cross the river) and you'll find a narrow trail that follows the river. Take this for about 1/4 mile until you come to a small campsite and then look for where the trail crosses a small stream (which is actually Jones Branch) and then begins to climb. Follow this and you'll very quickly come to the Appalachian Trail (you'll know it's the AT when you see the white slashes on the trees).  Turn left and hike approximately 1 mile to the sign pointing the way to Jones Falls. Take this spur for 1/10 of a mile to Jones Falls. [update 3/13/14 - the sign has been torn down].

Jones Falls via Buck Mountain. There are various option for picking up the AT on the Tennessee side. I'll describe taking the AT north from where it crosses Buck Mountain Road. It's a 1 hour hike which can be fairly steep and challenging (lots of ups and downs).  To get there... take Route 19E from Elizabethton toward Roan Mountain. Continue past the town of Roan Mountain to where the AT crosses 19E (just barely inside TN -- if you enter NC, you've gone too far). Turn left onto Bear Branch Road and continue 1.8 miles till you reach a stop sign. Turn left onto Buck Mountain Road and continue for 1.7 miles. The AT crosses Buck Mountain Road right after Buck Mountain Baptist Church on your right (you have to look carefully for the white blaze). I parked off to the side in the church parking lot. Take the AT to your right, down the steep slope. After a 1/2 mile, you'll cross Campbell Hollow Rd. (btw...there isn't a place here to leave a car), stay on the AT. It's about an hour hike (and that's moving pretty quick) to the falls. Again, a sign will point the way to the short spur that leads to the falls.

Other very helpful posts on Jones Falls can be found online:
Hiking Bill
Wendell Dingus
NC Waterfall Hikes

It's a very slippery place, so exercise caution there.

[Update 1/12/13] Thanks to the many helpful posts below and the advice from friends, I've updated this post. :) As always, I appreciate your input!

Also... we noticed on our approach to Jones Falls via Elk Falls on the AT this large upper section of the falls (right)... it doesn't appear to be the same section of the falls pictured above. Anyone know if it's possible to get there or how tall the entire waterfall is?


  1. Hello. What awesome pictures. I live in Carter county and moved here from California. Looks like a hike I may want to take :)

  2. I just looked at an official map of the AT that I borrowed from a friend. I'm pretty sure that hiking from Walnut Mountain Rd would be considerably longer (two or three times as long), and, if I judged correctly, the road you cross after the 1/2 mile from Buck Mountain Rd is actually Campbell Hollow Rd. Therefore, it may be quicker, but as you said, you may not want to leave your car there.

    I definitely want to check out these falls. I moved here (Johnson City) in August from eastern NC and have been checking out waterfalls and whatnot for the past 10 months. I wish I had known about your site earlier. It appears to be such a valuable resource. While we're going to move in August (just to Madison County, NC), I hope to take advantage of this information.

    While I don't have the expertise that you do, I have taken some photos of some of the places I've been. If you're interested, they're at xanga.com/stephenandginny. Just click on "Photos" and then click on the albums you'd like to see.

  3. I hiked into Jones Falls all the way to Elk Falls today and came in through Campbell Hollow Rd. It was a beast of a hike. We came in off 19E turning left onto Bear Branch Rd, winding around to Campbell Hollow Rd, it's a quick switch back right turn. go all the way to the end when it makes a loop and the Foresty gate is in the loop. we parked there and headed out. You'll cross the "old AT" with brown blazes, but if you stay on the fire road you'll be fine. there are no markings for the fire road, but it's an obvious trail, even in the winter. follow this over a few creeks (one of which has a blue trash can in a tree) you'll come to a creek crossing with a cable that has orange tags. if you back-track about 20 feet you'll see the flags go down the side of the hill; this will take you to Jones Falls. If you continue across the cabled creek it will take you to Elk River Falls. The NC side are orange and easy to follow. the TN side are pink and are not so easy to follow. at one point we had to give up on the pink flags and follow the river at Jones falls out to the Fire road. BEAUTIFUL falls. defintely worth the trip.

  4. Wow, I have been searching all over the internet for more information on how to get to this waterfall.
    I go to Milligan, so I've heard your name all over the place, but I've never seen your blog before and I wish that I had. You really have such a wealth of information.
    So thank you for compiling it all. It's wonderful.

  5. Judging from the descrptions above, I would say that is much faster and easier to hike in from Elk River Falls. NF road 190 leaves the parking area at Elk River Falls. Cross the gate and follow the gravel road 15 minutes til it meets the river. Follow the trail along the river's edge until it runs into the AT. Turn left onto the AT and walk another 15 minutes to the spur trail on the left that leads to Jones Falls. This is not a steep hike and can be covered in about 45 minutes total. Refer to National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map # 783 for this route.

  6. MORE DEFINED DIRECTIONS TO JONES BRANCH FALLS. (SHORTEST ROUTE) If you take 19E just after passing thru Roan Mtn. village turn left onto Buck Mtn. road (beside the animal hospital). Follow Buck Mtn. Road to Campbell Hollow Rd, it's a LEFT turn from this direction. At the end when it makes a loop and the Forestry gate is at the beginning of the loop. Park there with permission if possible. (Spencer Campbell owns the property) Follow the fire road until you come to a fork in the trail (the right fork leads to the creek) Take the Left fork which veers slightly to the right and appears to lead back and rejoin the left fork at the creek. Just before rejoining the fork look to your left for the orange flags. The orange flags go down the side of the hill in what will appear to be little more than a deer trail. This will take you to Jones Branch Falls. At the base of the falls the blue blaze trail will connect with the AT (.1 miles). For a much longer hike (but less strenuous climb than following the orange flags back out) take the AT South towards 19E (up hill from where the blue trail connects) follow the AT until it crosses Campbell Hollow Rd. then turn left and follow the road back to where you parked.

  7. Have you been to High Rock in the Tiger Creek Community of Roan Mtn

  8. no I haven't, do tell! :)

  9. Thanks so much to Anon who posted directions from Elk River Falls. We hiked into Jones Falls that way yesterday. A very nice trail. The only part that is a little sketchy is the trail from the FS road to the AT. When the FS road crosses the Elk, there is a meadow to your left. Travel thru that meadow and at the very end, close to the river is a small footpath leading down the river. It has had some erosion, which has been repaired, but the trail is small and right on the edge of the erosion. It then turns and travels steeply up to the AT. The AT climbs the mtn, but with gradual switchbacks, so it's an easy climb. The spur trail off of the AT to the bottom of Falls is Very well marked. It took us about 20 min parking lot to river crossing, and also 20 min on the AT, but we had 3 children 6-10 yrs old and I was carrying my 16 mo old on my back.
    Again, thanks so much! It was beautiful hike, a beautiful afternoon and the frigid water was a wonderful balm for tired hot feet! The kids loved playing carefully in the water at the foot of the falls.

  10. Great hike... although it was over 2 miles down Buck Mnt. Road. The AT crossed right before the church not after and you want to take the trail to the left (go down the hill)... I took my thirteen yrs. old and his friend and we hiked the wrong way w/ heavy packs... ended up on 19E. We ended up in the right direction and after a lot of hiking found the falls. If you continue down the mountain from there, there's a couple nice camping spots by the river. Thanks for the posts!

  11. If you park at the church and take the right on the trail down hill you will cross another road and then back on the trail. We hiked to jones with no problems from the church. What we couldn't do was hike from Jones to Elk. Not sure where we got lost, but we never crossed on to the Elk River Trail, we always stayed on the AT.

  12. Just visited these today, just to clarify if you follow the directions from the original post when it says "take the AT to the right, its to the right when you are standing in the church parking lot facing the road. The white blazes were hard to see with all the snow!

  13. Directions are perfect! Went today and an amazing time. New update: The sign is back up!

  14. Jones Falls is amazing, and there are actually two smaller waterfalls above it upstream I am working on cleaning up and clearing out where they have been overgrown for decades that you couldn't find or get to them. I live at the loop on Campbell Hollow as mentioned and your welcome to park there, just leave a note on car your hiking, or you can text me 423-262-9283 and let me know your leaving your car there

  15. I hiked up to the falls yesterday, 06/28/2016. Parked at Elk River falls. The trail was not hard it was enjoyable. The only section that was a little tricky was the goat trail by the river right after you leave the forest road. It was really narrow and a little slippery and I had my dog pulling me along lol. Weather permitting I am going to go back Sunday and take my girlfriend to see it. Next on my list is Splash Dam Falls.


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