With about 250 in Transylvania County and the Brevard area alone- not to brag- we’re waterfall rich in NC, y’all. Hikes to the falls of your choice can range from a brief walk from the parking lot to a challenging jaunt where you truly earn the reward of breathtaking views of Mother Nature showing off a bit. Keep in mind that rains can change the scenery by increasing water flow after a big storm and periods of draught can also constrict the flow at your favorite falls. The waterfall you see on one trip might change from what you encounter on your return. Since the environment is constantly changing, the level of caution you used on one trip might also change on your next. Although they’re one of nature’s more accessible wonders, NC waterfalls are nothing to take lightly and proper safety should be practiced every step of your hike. Here’s a few rules for your next waterfall encounter:
- Never climb on or around waterfalls
- Never jump off waterfalls or dive into plunge pools below (rocks, logs, and strong currents might be hiding under the surface)
- Never wade in the river above a waterfall
If you want to leave (most of) the thinking to the experts and just be pointed in the right direction of your pot of watery gold, try one of the many tour services that specialize in waterfalls hikes:
Check out our handy waterfall map and tips below to make your own tour. We wish you luck and many scenic miles as you go… chasing… waterfalls.
Elk Falls, AKA Big Falls: Pisgah National Forest. For a big bang for your buck, a quick 5 minute walk from the parking lot will land you at these falls with a pool at the base that’s perfect for a swim. Twisted Falls is downstream where you can jump off the cliffs if you’re looking for more excitement after your dip.
Looking Glass Falls: Pisgah National Forest. Literally, right off the road- you could be really terribly lazy and see some of the falls from your car. Named for a large rock that water freezes on like a looking glass during the winter, this beauty is 60 feet tall with rocks at the base that are climbable (but slippery) for an up close and personal experience of the falls. Moore Cove Falls is just one mile away but you won’t have the luxury of signs directing you to this hidden gem. It’s worth the trouble though since you can walk behind the falls here.
Rainbow Falls: Pisgah National Forest via Gorges State Park. Although beautiful, safety should be especially considered at these falls. Rainbow Falls is a look but don’t touch experience where, sadly, 2 were swept over the falls and lost their lives this summer. A sobering reminder of nature’s power. If you want to get in the water, Turtleback Falls is a short distance upstream and might be described as Sliding Rock’s more adventurous cousin- here you can slide down the rock into a mountain-cooled swimming hole.
Harper Creek Falls: Pisgah National Forest. Harper Creek feeds Wilson Creek- an excellent area for a mellow dip in cool mountain water. Follow the trail to Harper Creek Falls and you’ll be met with a sight that, at first, is far from mellow. Huge falls with tall rock walls surrounding a swirling pool will take your breath away. If you have breath left in you, there are various ropes and scramble trails that will lead you to a different vantage point of the falls. Proceed with caution and make sure to stay within your experience and abilities.
Cedar Rock Falls: Pisgah National Forest. This waterfall is only ¼ mile into the John Rock Trail hike which gets strenuous with 3,320 feet of elevation gain by the time you’re done. The good news is you get a treat at the beginning to get you energized for your trek as you pass the falls, though!
Sliding Rock: Pisgah National Forest. Not quite a waterfall, but mountain-goers’ favorite way to cool off on a hot summer day. This water is cold so be prepared for a surprise ending after your slide!
Courthouse Falls: Pisgah National Forest. With only a .3 mile trail to a 45 foot drop into a large pool, these falls are perfect for the person that wants a shorter hike with the same payoff of a grueling, high-climbing trail.
Grassy Creek Falls: For a whopping 1 mile round trip, you get a multi-cascade waterfall. The Switzerland Inn is nearby with great views from their restaurant for your post-hike nosh.
Hooker Falls/Triple Falls/High Falls: Dupont State Forest. The triple threat of the waterfall world, you can see Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls all on the same 7 mile hike. The aptly named High Falls is an impressive 150 feet. 7 miles is a bit longer than a beginner-friendly hike might be, but you can pick and choose from among the 3 sights to shorten your trip. Be sure to back a picnic to have between the layers of Triple Falls, pictured below (no swimming, though).
Crabtree Falls: Blue Ridge Parkway. About 3 miles total with an easy option to the bottom and more strenuous to the top.
Dry Falls: Nantahala National Forest. A gorgeous waterfall that gets its name from the fact that you can walk behind it while staying dry. Situated near the heart of Highlands, NC, be sure to stop into Kilwin’s and stroll the quaint Main Street after your visit.
Bridal Veil Falls: Nantahala National Forest. Also near Highlands, Bridal Veil Falls is viewable from the road, in fact you used to be able to drive behind it.
Glen Falls: Nantahala National Forest. If you’re hoping for a little more physical waterfall viewing experience than Bridal Veil Falls, try Glen Falls with a 2 mile moderate roundtrip hike. Also in Highlands, so you can still get ice cream afterwards.
Indian Creek Falls/Tom Branch Falls/Juney Whank Falls: Deep Creek. Plenty of variety here near the TN border, you can choose to see all 3 falls or break up your trip by visiting your favorite. As you might be able to tell from my post-hike recommendations above, my rewards usually come in food form- most likely in a cone- but if you’re more into lower calorie rewards, try tubing at Deep Creek Camping. Tom Branch Falls is pictured below.
Soco Falls: NC Smoky Mountains. Double your pleasure with twin waterfalls with an easy path down.
Upper Whitewater Falls: The largest East of The Rockies at 811 feet in Cashiers, Upper Whitewater Falls stretches across 2 states: NC and SC.
Log Hollow Falls: Secluded and only accessible via an unpaved, one-lane road, your pre-hike efforts just to get here will be rewarded with a short hike to multiple falls. Loggin Road Falls comes first then the trek gets tricky up to Discovery and Upper Log Hollow Falls.
High Shoals Falls: A bit of a hike (ha) from our favorite mountain escape in Asheville at 70 miles east of town, 40 miles of trails and an 80 foot waterfall are well worth the drive. Hiking up to the falls is 2.7 miles in the most gorgeous woodland paradise you can imagine. The Hemlock Nature Trail is even wheelchair-accessible with boardwalks along a .75 mile route while Chestnut Knob is a bit more challenging and clocks in at 4 miles roundtrip.
Hickory Nut Falls: The famous Hickory Nut Falls from the film The Last of the Mohicans is located in Chimney Rock State Park. A quick .75 mile hike will bring you to it’s base with the top 404 feet above you. Remember waterflow depends on the recent rainfall and can range from a trickle to roaring. Take advantage of the other trails in the park and enjoy the view of Lake Lure from the top of Chimney Rock while you’re here.
Graveyard Fields: Not as creepy as it sounds, the name comes from tree stumps toppled by high winds hundreds of years ago that look like gravestones. A 1925 fire is to blame for the starkly different landscape from the surrounding areas as the landscape is still recovering. The Graveyard Falls Loop is about 4 miles and starts from an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway passing 2 of the areas waterfalls along the way. What a great place to get out and stretch your legs after cruising the parkway!
Skinny Dip Falls: Not just a fun name, but a fun hike of 3 miles into this popular swimming hole.
Linville Falls: Blue Ridge Parkway. On the 4 mile hike to the falls, you’ll be treated to 5 different lookouts for 5 unique views. It’s no wonder this is a favorite of locals and visitors alike.
Lower Cascade Falls: Perfect for a lazy afternoon by the water, these falls are surrounded by natural rock creating an enclosed swimming hole.
Whether you want somewhere to take a post-hike swim or are looking for a killer hike before taking in the scenery at the falls of your choice, Scoop has you covered! Don’t forget to tag us in your adventures @ScoopCharlotte on Instagram.