Compression Falls – Short but Steeeep!!

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Compression Falls is a gorgeous, wide, scenic, and picturesque 30 foot waterfall with a plentiful water flow. It is located on the Elk River in the very eastern most section of Tennessee. The other waterfall that this river is famous for is Elk River Falls. It is located just 4 miles upstream in North Carolina. To my knowledge, there is no trail connecting these two. It would be a sweet hike though. While these two are fairly close on the river, they are more like 45 minutes apart by car. This can be attributed to the extremely remote location of these falls, and the ruggedness of the gorge the Elk River runs through.

To get there, take US highway 321 to Elk Mills, Tn. If coming from NC, Be looking for Poga Rd for a left turn. Follow Poga Rd up the mountain about 3 1/2 miles. Make a right turn on Clawson Rd for 1/2 mile and then a right turn onto Dark Ridge Rd. The road will change to gravel. Parking used to be up by an old barn, but now there there is a small parking area off to the right. On my last visit, the access to this, needed some serious maintenance though. This was only a 1.4 mile roundtrip hike that begins fairly level and the waterfall was very nice. With that in mind, before you consider viewing this falls, a section of about 0.2 or 0.3 miles is absolutely straight down. Once the trail comes out into a clearing under some power lines, a trail to the left goes down to the river. This might be the steepest section of trail that I have ever hiked, no switchbacks either. I fell once and nearly 3 or 4 other times down this rocky steep trail that just seems to never end. It was clear by some of the bent trees that people were using these for leverage. If you do this, be careful and take your time, it can be done.

Once at the river’s edge, you will be able to see and hear the falls, and there will be 0.2 miles or so from the river to the base of the falls. Make sure you mark the spot where you came down to the river. The trail to the river would be easily missed on your return trip. Luckily for me, someone had a bandana tied on a tree. Next is just walking along the river side, along the rocks until…..you reach the spray zone. Here the rocks are all wet, and to get to the big rock that juts out into the river for the best photos, will require some technical and careful maneuvering up some rocks. There was also a well placed dead tree connecting two parts over the pool. Be careful, you could get hurt if you fall here. It is not a long ways down or anything, but rocks are rocks and they usually win when in a confrontation with skin and bones. This part would be a lot easier if you are willing to get wet and just get in the river and wade, but I wasn’t. Despite this extreme short hike to the falls, it is a very popular place that gets a lot of visitors and you might see some kids jumping off the 30 foot falls, which doesn’t seem to be a smart thing to do.

As steep as this trail was going down, it is quite the beast to get up. No rope was needed, but the steepness and length of it, had me totally out of breath. After a few rest stops, I finally made the top and made my way out of there. This waterfall is really a treat, but I would like to see some improvements made on accessing this beauty!

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2 comments

  1. First time I visited this falls it was Summer. The dirt ditch was dry, but the little tiny balls of red clay made it difficult to climb back up owing to the steepness and the shifting surface. I got tickled at my hiking companion’s color commentary on the effort making me laugh. No one can climb that thing when they are having a fit of laughter! He called it “That last bastard climb up the dirt ditch.”. too funny.

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