Charlotte Summer Bucket List Item: Visit a Nearby Waterfall. Here are 25 of Them.

FUN FACT: You could visit a North Carolina waterfall every weekend for several years without repeating your trip, since there are about 250 Waterfalls in Transylvania County and the Brevard area alone. They don’t call it the “Land of the Waterfalls” for nothin’. We’ve picked out 25 of our favorites that are accessible in various ways and with various degrees of difficulty below.

Most of our scoop comes from our all-time favorite resource for all-things NC Mountains, Highly recommend. Lots more specifics from them about each hike, approach and waterfall at the links. Follow them on @romanticasheville for sure.

Safety First

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 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 or swim in the waters above a waterfall, you can easily be carried over the falls
  • Keep a very close watch on your children and your pets
  • Be careful climbing on rocks near a waterfall as they can be quite slippery
  • Pack it in, pack it out. Please don’t leave your trash on the trails. There are often no trash cans in these forests because they negatively impact the wildlife. Come prepared to take all of your trash home with you.
  • Also please keep in mind that rains can change the scenery by increasing water flow after a big storm. Always a good idea to check the specific fall’s website or social media for updates before you go.

Hire a Guide

If you’re new to the area, or to waterfall hiking, try a tour service that specializes in waterfalls hikes, ideal for families, newbies and seniors. * Pura Vida Adventures * can also create a more expert level tour for those looking to hone skills in backcountry camping and hiking. We think you’ll like their attitude and response time more than some other options but google can connect you with others.

NC Waterfalls to Visit

For Beginners ~ An Easy Hike or Drive

High Falls: DuPont Forest. You can check out this powerful 150-foot-tall waterfall after an easy 1.2-mile hike from the parking area. Things to know about visiting a DuPont Forest Waterfall:

  • Please note that visitors are prohibited from climbing on rocks or wading above waterfalls. The DuPont Forest waterfalls are awe-inspiring but they are also dangerous.
  • Dogs must be kept on a leash, no matter how obedient your dog may be. Tickets are routinely given to dog owners who ignore this rule. 

Grassy Creek Falls: Also Dupont Forest. In a 1 mile round trip, you will see a multi-cascade waterfall. From High Falls, continue over the High Falls Covered Bridge and take the Buck Forest Road until it crosses the Grassy Creek Bridge. After the bridge, bear left on the graveled Lake Imaging Road. Look for a small foot trail on the left after only a short distance (there is an old roadbed which angles left off Lake Imaging Road before this footpath, saving a few steps). Follow the footpath down to the viewing location near the base of the falls.The Switzerland Inn is nearby with great views from their restaurant for your post-hike nosh.

Bridal Veil Falls: Nantahala National Forest. Near Highlands, 60 ft. Bridal Veil Falls is viewable from the road ~ and you can walk and stand behind it. Probably most glorious in the winter when it freezes over, the water level can be low in the summer depending on precipitation. However, with a lot of recent rain, it can be quite a cascade.


Dry Falls: Nantahala National Forest. Situated near the heart of Highlands, NC, this 75 ft. waterfall gets its name from the fact that you can walk behind it while staying [relatively] dry. The more recent rain, the more flow, the less dry you’ll stay!


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 and a wading area at the base.


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 you will have a chilly surprise after your slide. And it gets very crowded so be prepared for lines.

The lifeguards are on duty with changing rooms/restrooms open 9am-6pm 7 days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day. No Alcohol or Picnicking Permitted. If you can not swim, you can not slide! No exceptions!

Per the site (another great resource) The fee to access the parking area is $3 per person with kids 3 and under free. Parking is somewhat limited, so go early if you can. You are allowed to park along US276, but be sure both tires are off the pavement and don’t park in between the ‘No Parking’ signs. This is a US highway and heavy equipment uses this road, so pay attention if you walk in the road. You still have to pay even if you walk in. 


Moderate or Shorter Hikes to Reach the Waterfalls

Triple Falls, DuPont Forest. Triple Falls is near both High and Hooker Falls, and offers a unique opportunity to stand in the middle of a waterfall. To see this 120-ft. tall waterfall, you can either hike the one-mile round-trip from the Hooker Falls parking area or take the 2.2 miles round-trip from the High Falls parking area – and you’ll pass High Falls along the way. 

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 and 3 different cascade spots ~ stop for pics at the 2nd “middle” falls on this hike ’cause it’s a good resting spot. Plus, Glen Falls is also in Highlands, so you can still get ice cream afterwards- WHEW.


Crabtree Falls: Blue Ridge Parkway. About 3 miles total with an easy option to the bottom and more strenuous to the top.

Hickory Nut Falls: The famous Hickory Nut Falls (from the film The Last of the Mohicans) is located in Chimney Rock State Park and is one of the highest falls east of the Mississippi. A quick .75 mile hike will bring you to its 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 another fave film, Dirty Dancing.

High Shoals Falls: South Mountains State Park near Morganton. 40 miles of trails and an 80 foot waterfall. 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.


Log Hollow Falls: Pisgah National Forest. Secluded and only accessible via an unpaved, one-lane road, your pre-hike efforts just to get here will be rewarded with an short hike to multiple falls. Loggin Road Falls comes first then the trek gets tricky up to Discovery and Upper Log Hollow Falls.

Courthouse Falls: Pisgah National Forest. With only a .3 mile trail to a 45 foot drop, these falls are perfect for the person that wants a shorter hike with the same payoff of a grueling, high-climbing trail. SAFETY NOTE: while the fall appears to drop into a solid swimming spot, in reality it could sweep you under with its heady undercurrents. Look but don’t swim.

Elk Falls, AKA Big Falls: Pisgah National Forest. A quick 5 minute walk from the parking lot (steep in a few areas) will land you at these falls with a pool at the base. So, pretty easy hiking but potentially very dangerous, even deadly swimming in some areas, as the currents in the pool directly in front of the waterfall are too strong for wading.


  1. Do NOT get into the water above the waterfall since currents will take you over the waterfall
  2. Do not dive from the rock cliff – that has been deadly as people were trapped by unseen boulders and other objects underwater. A reader wrote in and shared this article which clearly shows the dangers of jumping off & in. 
  3. Do not attempt to swim under the falls or climb the rock face. The waterfall creates very strong currents in the very deep pool, pulling even strong swimmers under the water.
  4. Please be safe ~ this is not a joke.

Soco Falls: NC Smoky Mountains. Double your pleasure with a rare double waterfall right by the Cherokee Indian Reservation. An easy path down, particularly to the taller falls.


Experienced / Longer Hikes to the Waterfalls

Rainbow Falls: Pisgah National Forest via Gorges State Park. Although beautiful, safety should be especially considered at these spectacular falls. Rainbow Falls is a look but don’t touch experience where, sadly, several have lost their lives. A sobering reminder of nature’s power. If you want to get in the water, just a quarter-mile upstream is Turtleback Falls, a popular natural water slide, and less than a quarter-mile downstream is Hidden Falls, a serene swimming pool.

Harper Creek Falls: Pisgah National Forest. 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.

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!

Callusaja Falls: Nantahala National Forest. Just under 10 miles west of Highlands, the drive will wind you around the mountain with beautiful cliff-side views. There isn’t a sign to alert you to your arrival so just look for a small pull-off going toward Highlands from Franklin on US 64. At 250 feet high, this one is worth the steep hike down.

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.

Upper Whitewater Falls: The largest East of The Rockies at 811 feet in Cashiers, Upper Whitewater Falls stretches across both of the Carolinas.

Graveyard Fields: Blue Ridge Parkway. Very popular with hikers, can be crowded. Not as creepy as it sounds, the name comes from tree stumps toppled by high winds hundreds of years ago that look like gravestones. 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. Locals pick wild blueberries in August when in season.

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.


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. Located on the private property of Living Waters Retreat, heed the “Enter at Own Risk” signs but know they welcome cautious visitors for a walk to the falls.

In fact, ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK is the theme of this feature. Waterfalls have built in danger. Scoopcharlotte makes no claims or promises about the safety or appropriateness of any of these hikes or waterfalls for any reader, and all persons should research and evaluate the risk on their own before attempting any access.

And, as you can see from the photos, there’s no one better to inspire you with mountain views, news and falls than the folks at ROMANTICASHEVILLE.COM. Follow them for sure for all the NC Mountain News You Can Use.


scoop team
scoop team
This article was written by one of the many QC women who contribute to our website. They are out and about and around Charlotte digging up the latest & best scoop :)