Once a bustling junction, Elk Park was one of the most populated areas of Avery County in the 1940s, but was left almost frozen in time when the mines closed. Modern residents of the town have embraced this historic past and filled downtown with antique shops and retail outlets echoing a bygone era. It is also home to Elk River Falls.
Also located in Elk Park are the old Cranberry Iron Mines. This is part of the North Carolina Civil War Trails. The iron ore in present-day north central Avery County, at the town of Cranberry, were mined from around 1826 until the 1930s. The deposits were some of the largest in North Carolina, and the mines actively supplied the state with a majority of its iron ore over the period. The activity was especially important during the Civil War, when the Cranberry Mines provided iron for the Confederacy.
In 1882 the railroad opened from Johnson City, Tennessee, to Cranberry. The narrow-gauge railroad facilitated massive expansion of production, leading to the industrialization of the area. The railroad facilitated movement of the iron ore to the furnaces, allowing for faster production. The mine was most active from the incorporation of the railroad until around 1930, when iron production in North Carolina began to dwindle.