A summer weekend or day trip to any one of the 250+ waterfalls in nearby Transylvania County and the surrounding area is a huge bonus to living in CLT. With the county slowly and safely re-opening under the current state guidelines, it could be the perfect time to visit. The visitor center began a phased reopening Monday, June 8 and staff are currently available to assist with needs via the live chat function on their website, by phone at 800-648-4523 or by emailing [email protected]. You can also follow on their Facebook and Instagram for updates.
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.
NOTE: If you want to leave most of the thinking to the experts, or you want to try a more adventurous experience like canyoneering or waterfall repelling, contact a tour company like the folks at Pura Vida Adventures, Green River Adventures, or other similar groups ASAP for a guided tour. Spots are already filling up with Pura Vida for June & July 2020.
As with all things NC MOUNTAINS, we look to the amazing ROMANTICASHEVILLE.COM for photos and views, places to stay, rent, visit, eat, the latest on local openings and COVID safety, and more. Please follow them on instagram at @romanticasheville! And check out their post here on 60+ waterfalls near Asheville to visit.
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… but don’t do that- explore a little! 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 also 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.
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. This can be a dangerous one though, especially after heavy rain, again, please be safe. A reader wrote in and shared this article which clearly shows the dangers of jumping off & in.
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, some have lost their lives. 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 or even an afternoon of tubing. 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 still 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).
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. For an extended stay, Old Edward’s Inn is a classic.
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.
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.
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 both of the Carolinas.
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 which, fun fact, was also made famous in film. You might recognize some of the Lake Lure scenery from Dirty Dancing.
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 area waterfalls along the way. 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. Bath suits required.
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.
Cathedral Falls: Balsam Grove, NC. Also know as Bird Rock Falls, Cathedral Falls gets its name from the towering cliff walls that surround the waterfall and act as nature’s speakers for the most ridiculous noise maker you’ve ever heard. The sound of rushing water is amplified by this unique formation.
Big Bradley Falls: Saluda, NC in the Green River Gamelands. Be prepared to get a little walk as there is a stream crossing at the beginning of the hike. But with NC summer weather decidedly here to stay, a nice dip in mountain water was totally welcomed on this hike. At ~3 miles with only slight elevation to an overlook of the falls, this is a hike that accessible for beginners but with views the pros can appreciate. Green River Adventures offers multiple ways to play here, including family-friendly excursions plus more adventurous offerings like repelling down the falls- not for the faint of heart.
FINAL WORDS ON WATERFALL SAFETY:
Although they’re one of nature’s more accessible wonders, waterfalls are nothing to take lightly and proper safety should be practiced every step of your hike. Caution is key. There’s a reason waterfalls are called “drowning machines” by the authorities and first responders. Here are a few rules for your 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