The 15 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Waterfalls in North Carolina

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North Carolina waterfalls are both plentiful and stunning as they cascade down the state’s ruggedly majestic peaks, including the Blue Ridge Mountains, Great Balsams, Black, and Craggies.

In fact, the waterfalls of North Carolina are flowing all over the western side of the state!

Of course, if ever there were a perfect scenic road for soaking in NC’s natural wonders, the Blue Ridge Parkway is that route.

The historic road cuts right through the state’s Western ridges, ranging from the Virginia border all the way down to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

In the 250+ miles of parkway that traverses WNC, you’ll find some of the best waterfalls in North Carolina are at your disposal. Including them on your Blue Ridge Parkway itinerary is an absolute must!

Fear not, for we have created this convenient list of the best Blue Ridge Parkway waterfalls in NC to help you plan your ultimate BRP road trip…

READ MORE: The 20 Best Western North Carolina Waterfalls for Hiking

Boone Waterfalls to Burnsville Waterfalls (Mileposts 271-344)

The stretch of Blue Ridge Parkway that meanders from Boone to Burnsville (NC-80) is riddled with amazing scenic overlooks, epic BRP hiking trails, and several of the best NC waterfalls. In just over 70 miles, you won’t drive 15 minutes without crossing paths with an entry from our illustrious list.

Cascades Waterfall Trail
Cascades Waterfall, Photo by Dawson Tozier

Cascades

BRP Milepost 271.9

Trailhead 0 Miles from Parkway

Situated at E.B. Jeffress Park in Deep Gap, the waterfall simply known as Cascades is one of the premier Boone NC attractions.

The falls are actually located about 15 miles northeast of the beloved mountain town, but still Boone has claimed this beautiful NC waterfall as its own.

The Cascades Trail is accessible directly from the Blue Ridge Parkway. The easy out-and-back trail is barely over a mile, taking visitors to multiple overlooks of this series of falls formed by the aptly named Falls Creek.

Not only is the trail short and gentle, but it’s also informative, with signs on the notable flora of the area.

READ MORE:  The 15 Best Things to Do in Boone NC (Blue Ridge Parkway MM 291.8)

20 Western North Carolina Waterfalls - Elk River Falls
Elk River Falls, photo by Emma Gallagher

Elk River Falls

BRP Milepost 292

Trailhead 15 Miles from Parkway

Though it requires a short 15-mile detour from the parkway, Elk River Falls holds the kind of natural beauty that unquestionably demands getting off the beaten track for a few minutes.

It’s the quintessential plunge waterfall that dives into an incredible pool. And once you reach the Elk River Falls trailhead, the hike to the gorgeous falls is ever so brief.

This leaves plenty of time for dangling your feet in the water while nibbling on a sandwich and sipping something cold. There’s also a fleet of inviting rocks upon which to sprawl while gazing at the falls.

Elk River Falls is just a short drive from Banner Elk and other top High Country destinations that double as ski and snow-tubing resorts in the winter, such as Seven Devils and Sugar Mountain.

It’s also possible to walk across the border into Tennessee from the falls.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Places for Snow Skiing in North Carolina

Hebron Falls
One of the many unique features at Hebron Falls, Photo by Dawson Tozier

Hebron Falls

BRP Milepost 296.4

Trailhead 0 Miles from Parkway

Also known as Boone Fork Falls, Hebron Falls is located within the lovely Julian Price Memorial Park, right on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

For those who like a lingering, lounging series of pools and plunges rather than an all-out drop of a waterfall, this one is impressive.

The Boone Fork Trail is 3.2 miles, out-and-back, but it can also be done as a 5.4-mile loop. The trail tunnels through rhododendron thickets and involves adventurous creek crossings while traveling beside both Boone Fork and Bee Tree Creek.

The trail to Hebron Falls is near the Julian Price Lake and picnic grounds, a wonderful place to have lunch and enjoy the mountain scenery before or after visiting the falls.

READ MORE: 40 Fascinating Facts About The Blue Ridge Parkway

Otter Falls NC
Otter Falls, Photo by Dawson Tozier

Otter Falls

BRP Milepost 305.2

Trailhead 10 Miles from Parkway

Considered a must-see stop for those visiting Boone, Blowing Rock, or Banner Elk, Otter Falls is located in Seven Devils, which is renowned for snow-tubing in the winter and hiking in the summer.

The falls dive off a rock ledge and splash down onto a mossy rock face below.

The hike there is a pleasant walk along wide paths, roughly half a mile to the falls and the same back out.

While the waterfall doesn’t offer the grand display of nearby giants like Linville Falls and Crabtree Falls, it is hardly humble. In fact, Otter Falls is truly stunning.

Exploring the areas around this easy-to-reach waterfall can easily occupy a day or a week. Your itinerary in the area could also include a zipline adventure and/or exploration of Grandfather Mountain State Park.

READ MORE: Top 10 NC State Parks in the North Carolina Mountains

Linville Falls in Linville Gorge Wilderness
Linville Falls, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Linville Falls

BRP Milepost 316.4

Trailhead 0 Miles from Parkway

Long considered supreme royalty within the NC waterfalls scene, Linville Falls not only ranks among the best waterfalls in NC, but also one of the most accessible.

Located right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, this multi-tiered wonder plunges into the Linville Gorge, America’s first ever designated wilderness area.

Linville Falls is a fun waterfall to see because there are lots of perspectives from which to enjoy it.

An observation deck offers a close up view of the upper falls, while the much taller lower falls can be seen from several different observation platforms at varying altitudes.

Linville Falls is a staging point along the Parkway: There’s a first-rate campground here and easy access to a plethora of dynamite day trips from this central location!

READ MORE: The 27 Best Waterfalls Near Asheville, NC

Toms Creek Falls, NC
Toms Creek Falls NC, photo by WNC Outdoors via CC BY-SA 3.0

Tom’s Creek Falls

BRP Milepost 331

Trailhead 9 Miles from Parkway

Not far from the Alpine mountain town of Little Switzerland, Tom’s Creek Falls is one of the many first-rate waterfalls found in Pisgah National Forest.

This cascade intermittently drops over 80 feet on its journey down the mountainside.

Although it’s located 9 miles off the BRP, this waterfall is well worth the extra effort. It boasts a grandiose aura that could only get lost in the fact that it’s situated between two monster cascades, Linville Falls and Crabtree Falls.

Considered on its own merits, Tom’s Creek Falls (not to be confused with Tom Branch Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park) truly earns its spot among the best waterfalls on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

READ MORE: Little Switzerland, NC: Cutest Mountain Town on the Blue Ridge Parkway (MM 334)

How to Get to Crabtree Falls - Sisters at Crabtree Falls
Crabtree Falls, NC Photo by Emma Gallagher

Crabtree Falls

BRP Milepost 339.5

Trailhead 0 Miles from Parkway

An amazing waterfall that ripples its way down an impressive rock face in the depths of the Pisgah National Forest, Crabtree Falls should not be missed by anyone able to make the hike.

The trail is about three miles, and it does involve some muddy slopes and slippery roots. But the hike is very well worth the reward.

Crabtree Falls towers over a boulder-strewn landing pad that invites hikers to clamber their way across to comfortable viewing seats. The show is 60 feet of water dipping and diving its way down sheer rock ledges.

Crabtree Falls doesn’t have a visitor’s center, but it does have an extensive campground as well as an amphitheater for ranger talks and demonstrations. Note that there is another Crabtree Falls in Virginia, so be careful not to confuse the two!

READ MORE: How to Get to Crabtree Falls Near Little Switzerland NC 

Setrock Creek Falls, NC
Setrock Creek Falls NC, photo via Canva

Roaring Fork Falls & Setrock Creek Falls

BRP Milepost 344.1

Trailhead 5 Miles from Parkway

Getting to Roaring Fork Falls puts you half the way to Setrock Creek Falls. So if waterfalls are on the agenda and deemed worthy of a detour, it makes sense to take in both of these beauties back-to-back.

To get there, take the exit onto NC-80 from the BRP and head north, looking for South Toe River Rd.

Roaring Fork Falls is nearly 100 feet high and equally as lengthy, the water taking prolonged curves on its way down a forest-lined rock slide. The hike is easy, about 1.4 miles round-trip, with a gentle elevation change.

Setrock Creek Falls is a little further afield– about two miles beyond Roaring Fork Falls. It’s a 75-foot cascade located right outside of the Black Mountain Campground.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes for NC Day Trips

 

Asheville Waterfalls to Cherokee Nation (Mileposts 362-456)

The Blue Ridge Parkway is considered astounding for the way it changes character as you drive along it. The elevation changes are massive around the Asheville area, dipping under 2500 feet and flying above 5000.

Note that the waterfalls in this section of the BRP sometimes involve hikes down into gorges. At other times, they’re viewed from high above.

READ MORE: The 27 Best Waterfalls Near Asheville, NC

Blue Ridge Parkway Waterfalls - Glassmine Falls
“Blue Ridge Parkway – Glassmine Falls Overlook – Close View of Waterfall” by jared422_80 via CC BY 2.0

Glassmine Falls

BRP Milepost 362.1

Trailhead 0 Miles from Parkway

Located just north of Craggy Gardens, about 20 miles from Asheville, the Glassmine Falls Overlook is right on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

It is the only way to get a look at Glassmine Falls, which drops some 800 feet (according to heavily disputed signs at the lookout) before ultimately disappearing into the wilderness below.

There is a drive-up overlook that provides one look. And for those willing to walk a few steps, a very short path takes visitors to a better viewing platform for an improved, wide-angle visual of the falls and the valley below.

Note that this waterfall is only truly impressive after recent rains, and is best seen with binoculars or a long-range photo lens.

READ MORE: Exploring Craggy Gardens, NC (Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 344.1, 382.5 & 384.7)

Douglas Falls

BRP Milepost 363.4

Trailhead 0 Miles from Parkway

Craggy Pinnacle, Craggy Gardens, and Craggy Dome are all tremendous Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks, and the views from any of these places are typically phenomenal.

For those looking to linger longer in the Craggies, there’s also a 7-mile hike to Douglas Falls.

Douglas Falls is one of those waterfalls that is simply a stream flowing right over a cliff and diving down into the rocks below. It offers that always-fun characteristic of allowing visitors to walk behind it.

Note that the hike there is strenuous and has a change in elevation in the vicinity of 2000 feet, so the trail is really recommended for experienced hikers only.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Pisgah National Forest Hiking Trails in North Carolina

Looking Glass Falls in Pisgah National Forest NC
Looking Glass Falls, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Looking Glass Falls

BRP Milepost 411.8

Trailhead 10 Miles from Parkway

Looking Glass Falls is one of the most popular of all the North Carolina waterfalls.

Not only is the 60-footer located in Transylvania County, the acclaimed “Land of Waterfalls.” But it is an easily accessed, literal roadside attraction on US-276, which is part of the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway.

To reach it from the Blue Ridge Parkway, head southeast from Downtown Asheville and take the exit for US-276, heading south towards Brevard.

Looking Glass Falls will be on the left-hand side about 10 miles down the road.

If you’re taking this detour, it’s worth knowing that there are a couple of other falls to check out nearby, including Moore Cove Falls and Sliding Rock (which you can actually slide down).

READ MORE: Pisgah National Forest: A Beginner’s Guide

Skinny Dip Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Skinny Dip Falls photo by Bret Love and Mary Gabbett

Skinny Dip Falls

BRP Milepost 417

Trailhead 0 Miles from Parkway

Famed as much for being a beloved swimming hole as for being the falls with the attention-grabbing name, Skinny Dip Falls requires just a short hike from the parkway at the Looking Glass Rock Overlook.

Skinny Dip Falls is a set of cascades that ultimately ends in a refreshing pool.

The hike to the falls is less than a mile round-trip, but the distant parking opportunities on warm summer days can make it a little further. The same goes for days when NC’s peak fall colors are on display.

The trail is very kid- and family-friendly, though there are lots of roots and rocks along the way. For that reason, among others, this is one of the most heavily visited Asheville waterfalls.

The scenery is beautiful, with gnarly rhododendrons branching out everywhere amongst mossy boulders, and the shade makes it just right for cooling off on hot days.

READ MORE: 20 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks in NC & VA

Graveyard Fields Lower Waterfall
Graveyard Fields Lower Waterfall by jadimages via canva

Graveyard Field Falls

BRP Milepost 418.8

Trailhead 0 Miles from Parkway

One of the most beloved Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks (as well as one of the top day trips from Asheville), Graveyard Fields is much more romantic and welcoming than its name would seem to suggest.

Graveyard Fields is fantastic for its wildflowers, blueberries, Black Bears, and waterfalls.

Its seemingly sinister name dates back about a century. The area’s trees were knocked down by a windstorm, then the stumps burned in a wildfire, leaving what looked like tombstones scattered across the landscape.

Since then, the area has recovered to become a stunningly fertile valley. It’s located some 5,000 feet above sea level, but surrounded by 6,000 foot tall mountain summits.

There is a short walk to one of the waterfalls here, but the 3.5-mile loop with multiple waterfalls and a mountain meadow is well worth the time and energy investment.

READ MORE: The Best Things to Do in Asheville NC

Soco Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Cherokee NC
Soco Falls, photo by Bret Love and Mary Gabbett

Soco Falls

BRP Milepost 455.7

Trailhead 2 Miles from Parkway

Located near the tourist town of Maggie Valley in North Carolina’s Cherokee Nation, Soco Falls is absolutely stunning and delivers remarkable ROI for such a short hike.

It’s actually a pair of twin waterfalls that both spill over stepped cliffs before leveling out at the shared base to skim betwixt mossy boulders.

There’s a short path right off US-19 leading to an observation deck for viewing the falls. But for more adventurous and sure-footed hikers, a short, steep trail descends from the deck directly to the bottom of the falls.

The trail down tends to be very muddy, with slippery roots. But there are ropes to hold onto as you carefully make your way.

From Soco Falls, the Blue Ridge Parkway continues for 13 miles before reaching Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited of all the US National Parks. What a grand finale! —Jonathon Engels

 

After visiting the Western North Carolina for the first time, Jonathon Engels and his wife Emma spent two years looking for a few acres of property there to establish a permaculture homestead. During that search, he explored the Blue Ridge Parkway, surrounding towns, and parks. He has taught at both Blue Ridge Community College and Surry Community College, is a member of a long-established land conservation community near the town of Dobson, volunteers at the Surry Old Time Fiddlers Convention, and continues to explore the Blue Ridge, a place he now lovingly calls home.