One of my planned stops on this August weekend was to see Trash Can Falls while in the Boone area. Trash Can Falls, aka Laurel Creek Falls, is a 15 foot waterfall, and a very popular swimming hole especially with the local Appalachian State University kids. Not all of the waterfall books or sites have this one listed. I have driven right past it a number of times without even knowing it was there.
As you leave Boone on US 421/321 heading north, the first thing to look for is the split. US 321 will bear off to the left about 10 miles or so out of Boone. Take this highway. From here it is 5 1/2 miles to Trash Can Falls. Eventually you will find yourself driving along the Watauga River. When you are just about there, you will cross the river just past a riverside park. Once over the river, look for a pull out on the right, or left if coming in from Tennessee. There will be no sign indicating that there is a waterfall here, and while the waterfall is pretty close to the highway, it can not be seen from US 321. . Pull in and make sure your vehicle is totally off the highway. At the upper end of the parking area, cross US 321 carefully, and the trail begins there. It is uphill a little bit, but very short. My total mileage on this was 0.4 miles round trip. After a few trees and turns, you will begin to see this.
The lower section of Trash Can Falls is a very scenic mini gorge. It is somewhat difficult to get down but can be done. Take your time. The main drop and pool are just upstream…
Trash Can Falls is also known as Laurel Creek Falls. From what I have learned over the years, Laurel Creek Falls obtained the nickname “Trash Can Falls” because there was a local dump near the top of the falls. That has long since been cleaned up and on this visit, there was no trash laying around, no graffiti, nothing but a very clear stream over a pretty 15′ waterfall into one of the most popular swimming holes in the area. Folks were swimming and doing a little jumping as well.
There was one fellow who got up there and was petrified to jump. Maybe he was using better judgement, as the safe landing area was not very big. I would not advise him going to nearby Elk Falls or Compression Falls if this one was a problem for him!!
I have another trip to Trash Can Falls documented a few years later with some updated pictures: http://trash-can-falls-aka-laurel-creek-falls-2014. It has some additional information and what i think are better pictures.