Sounds like a more remote section of Middle-earth, doesn’t it? It also goes by the far more ordinary name of Elakala Falls, but I prefer the name used on the map we got at Blackwater Falls State Park, where the falls are located. The falls are a series of four separate falls as Shays Run “descends into the Blackwater Canyon”, as the article in Wikipedia puts it. Our hiking map gave warnings similar to those found in this Wikipedia article, namely that once you get past the first falls, the other three become increasingly dangerous.
Early one morning during our stay, my husband and I went to hike the falls. We drove to the lodge. If you walk out the front door and turn right, you are only about a three-minute walk from the trail head, which is clearly marked. The day was overcast, occasionally spitting rain, the perfect backdrop for the dark hemlocks and spruces that overhang the trail by the falls. Under these trees grow ferns and mosses, giving the forest a magical, primeval look. If an elf or a centaur had passed us on the trailer, I wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow.
The path to the first falls is easy to walk and clearly marked. We crossed the bridge as the first falls tumbled beneath us. Walking down the trail that parallels Shays Run, we were able to take photos of the falls. In the evening, we brought our kids back, and my husband experimented with different camera set-ups.
During our morning hike, my husband and I looked for a trail to the second falls, and my husband thought a small path following the Run would lead us to it. But since it wasn’t marked, and my husband and I aren’t experienced hikers, we decided to stick to the marked trails of which there were many. We met no one on the trails and could take our time trying to different shots with our camera. The quiet, ancient atmosphere of the forest was soothing and mysterious.
If you get a chance to visit Blackwater Falls State Park, don’t overlook the Falls of Elakala. Or the Elakala Falls. Even if you only reach the first falls, it is worth the hike.