Make Boone your base camp for forays to the nearby waterfalls to be found in North Carolina’s High Country.
With the Appalachian High Country officially becoming part of the American Viticultural Association in 2016, the area’s award-winning wineries have become a must-do for any oenophile looking to experience the unique taste of grapes grown at higher elevations. Conveniently, there is an easy to moderate waterfall hike less than five minutes from each of the three vineyards; so strap on some hiking boots, call up your favorite DD and enjoy a winery a day for the perfect weekend vacay!
Day One: Otter Falls to Grandfather Vineyard
Kickoff your scenic tour of Boone Area wineries by heading South from Boone on NC-105 S towards Banner Elk. If you haven’t already eaten, there are plenty of fantastic breakfast & lunch spots on the way. Some local favorites include Sunrise Grill, Troy’s 105 Diner, The Cardinal, and The Pedalin’ Pig.
Driving From Boone
You’ll drive for about nine miles total, passing Valle Crucis on your right and traveling through the Foscoe community. Take note of the billboard on your left for Grandfather Vineyard–tempting, yes, but you’ll pass it for now. Soon after, you’ll see the sign for the Town of Sevin Devils, take a right there onto 7 Devils Road past the gas station. Wind your way through the hills for another mile, then the road makes a hard left and turns into Skyland Drive. A small parking area for Otter Falls is 0.7 miles on the left.
This 0.9-mile round-trip hike is considered moderately difficult, mostly due to the 200-foot drop in elevation. Trust us, this one’s worth it. We suggest taking a picture of the trail map before you start the hike and keeping an eye on trail markers along the way, as some of the paths can be confusing.
Drive Time from Boone: 25 minutes
Total Hiking Time: 30-45 minutes
Once you’re finished taking in the radiance of the rushing waters, prepare your palate for indulgence; we’re headed to the winery!
Grandfather Winery & Vineyard opened in 2011 and was the very first winery in the county to produce wines from grapes grown on-site. Set against the backdrop of the iconic Grandfather Mountain profile, you’ll want to order one of their wine flights and treat yourself to a post-hike snack from their shop. Grape varietals grown on the five acres include Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, St. Croix, Lando Noir, Chambourcin, and Vidal Blanc.
Settle into a seat on the bank of the Watauga River flowing through the property, or stay shaded under their pavilion. This dog-friendly, kid-friendly winery brings in live music performances and the Eleven80 food truck every weekend from May through October. Heads up – if you decide to bring a four-legged friend, make sure they play well with others. There are a few (very sweet) winery dogs that like to greet guests and zoom through the terraced grapevines.
Day Two: Crab Orchard Falls to Banner Elk Winery
Your second day in the Boone Area offers ample opportunities to take it easy and enjoy vistas of sylvan charm. Again, you will make your way to NC-105 S and head into the “Vale of the Cross.” Valle Crucis is a pristine mountain valley listed on the National Register of Historic Rural Places and is famously home to the Original Mast General Store. The hiking trail for Crab Orchard Falls is located at the Valle Crucis Conference Center.
Driving From Boone
Starting once again on NC-105 S, you’ll follow a similar, albeit shorter, route as Day One. After about five miles you’ll come to a bridge and intersection with Broadstone Road, where you will turn right. Continue on Broadstone Rd. for just about three miles. When you see the Mast Store Annex, get ready to take a left onto NC-194 S coming up shortly after. Continue on NC-194 S for just over a mile and continue to keep right when the Apple Barn comes into view. After the sharp right curve, proceed onto Skiles Way for a short distance and take a right into the Valle Crucis Conference Center parking lot beside the Holy Cross Episcopal Church. Make your way to the upper parking area towards the back and proceed to the trailhead at the end of the parking lot.
At 1.4 miles out and back, this easy, gradually-inclining trail is perfect for those who may be just dipping their toe into waterfall-chasing. There are also benches en route to the cascading falls, perfect for catching your breath on the steeper uphill slope.
Drive Time from Boone: 18 minutes
Total Hiking Time: About 45 minutes
Time for wine! Proceed back to the main road, take a right onto NC-194 S, and continue on the curvy mountain highway for about five miles. Soon, you will see a roadside sign for Banner Elk Winery, and shortly after, make a right turn onto Gualtney Road. As you drive up to the villa, stay left and continue to the parking area.
When it opened its doors in 2005, Banner Elk Winery was the first commercial winery built in Watauga County. Today, their winemaking expertise has earned them a plethora of awards in state, national, and international competitions. We always recommend starting with a flight but don’t skip out on the Banner Elk White or Banner Elk Red – both have won gold at reputable competitions. As you uncork the subtleties of tannins on your tongue, relax by their trout-filled pond or play cornhole against the stunning mountainscape setting. This winery is so perfectly perched that time itself seems to disappear into the surrounding hillsides, along with your cares about any post-hike soreness. It’s a win-win!
Day Three: Linville Falls To Linville Falls Winery
For your last day in the High Country, you’ll be visiting one of the most iconic and photographed waterfalls in Western North Carolina. Although your drive time is longer than the previous two days, the sightseeing opportunities along the way are abundant. Picnic lunches are strongly encouraged due to the magnetizing magnificence of these overlooks – you’ll want to spend as much time here as possible.
Driving From Boone
From Boone, you will make your way to the Blue Ridge Parkway from your nearest access point (we’ll be starting at the BRP entrance on US-321 for the sake of these directions) and head South for about 25 miles. Once you reach Milepost 316, prepare to turn left at the Linville Falls Visitor’s Center. Continue down Spur Road and park at the Visitor’s Center where the adventure begins.
For the sake of our difficulty parameters, we’ll be following Erwin’s View Trail. From the parking area, continue straight over the bridge crossing the Linville River. The first overlook is only a half-mile from the Visitor Center and provides tranquil views of the river as it spills gently over the upper falls and widens. At this point, you’ll witness the water drift into a narrow canyon and spiral out of sight – for now, at least. Continue another 0.2 miles to the Chimney View overlook and witness the majesty of the upper and lower falls as the river plunges 45 feet into the lower basin. This part of the hike can be strenuous at times with the elevation gain, so continue at your own discretion. If you’re feeling up to it, continue to Gorge View Overlook for a breathtaking view of the river as it cuts through the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. The Erwins View Trail ultimately ends at Erwins View Overlook, another 0.1 miles ahead. All in all, this 1.6-mile hike and the photos that will result are well worth the time and effort spent. And at the end of the day, the winery is just three minutes away. That’s right, by the time you finish posting your waterfall selfie-of-choice, you’ve already arrived at your destination.
Drive Time from Boone: 45 minutes
Total Hiking Time: Varies; About an hour for Erwin’s View Trail
If the rushing rapids at Linville Falls worked up an appetite for you, fear not! Linville Falls Winery has a rotating selection of food trucks on its property to pair with your wines. This boundless, 40-acre family-owned and operated vineyard is the culmination of Jack Wiseman’s life-long dream to open his very own winery, and his love for the land is evident. Be sure to sample their flagship Riesling, as the climate and elevation of these farm-grown grapes give way to fresh, vibrant flavors.