The 55 Best North Carolina Waterfalls to Visit

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[Updated September 13, 2023] Chasing waterfalls in North Carolina is serious business.

Transylvania County (which rightfully bill itself as “the Land of Waterfalls”) alone has an estimated 250+ NC waterfalls within its boundaries.

The massive Pisgah National Forest and Nantahala National Forest are both chock full of alluring cascades.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, the nation’s two most visited national park units, also feature some of the best waterfalls in NC.

Then there are the many stellar NC state parks, municipal parks, and memorial parks that offer enticing NC waterfall hikes, ranging from relatively easy hiking trails to more strenuous treks. 

In short, there are hundreds of impressive falls in NC (particularly Western North Carolina) to choose from.

Which may explain why so many nature lovers from North Georgia and throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains make frequent NC waterfalls road trips.

If you love chasing waterfalls as much as we do, read on for our guide to the 55 Best North Carolina waterfalls to visit, including details on the hiking trails to them and the mountain towns they’re closest to.

READ MORE: The 25 Best Western NC Small Towns To Visit (and Live In!)

Best North Carolina Waterfalls Guide

(Arranged Geograhically)

  1. Catawba Falls
  2. Dill Falls
  3. Douglas Falls
  4. Falls Over Dam on Reems Creek
  5. Glassmine Falls
  6. Graveyard Fields
  7. Skinny Dip Falls
  8. Daniel Ridge Falls
  9. High Falls
  10. Looking Glass Falls
  11. Moore Cove Falls
  12. Sliding Rock Falls
  13. Triple Falls
  14. Bridal Veil Falls
  15. Elk River Falls
  16. Glen Burney Falls
  17. Hebron Falls
  18. Otter Falls
  19. The Cascades
  20. Crab Orchard Falls
  21. Big Creek Falls
  22. Crabtree Falls
  23. Falls on Whiteoak Creek
  24. Roaring Fork Falls
  25. Setrock Creek Falls
  26. Chasteen Creek Falls
  27. Indian Creek Falls
  28. Juney Whank Falls
  29. Mingo Falls
  30. Soco Falls
  31. Tom’s Branch Falls
  32. Big Bradley Falls
  33. Hickory Nut Falls
  34. Little Bearwallow Falls
  35. Little Bradley Falls
  36. Pearson’s Falls
  37. Dry Falls
  38. Flat Creek Falls
  39. Rainbow Falls
  40. Schoolhouse Falls
  41. Sliver Run Falls
  42. Upper Whitewater Falls
  43. Big Laurel Falls
  44. Cullasaja Falls
  45. Ranger Falls
  46. Bon Ami Waterfall
  47. Dugger’s Creek Falls
  48. Grassy Creek Falls
  49. Linville Falls
  50. Tom’s Creek Falls
  51. Upper Creek Falls
  52. Stone Mountain Falls
  53. Lower Cascades
  54. High Shoal Falls
  55. McGalliard Falls

READ MORE: The 15 Best Campgrounds in North Carolina

Catawba Falls - NC waterfalls
Catawba Falls, photo via Canva

Waterfalls Near Asheville NC

1. Catawba Falls– Where there’s a 100-foot cascade, there’s good reason to take a hike. The trail to Catawba Falls is 2.4 miles out-and-back, with a moderate difficulty rating due to rough surfaces. The change in elevation is less than 400 feet. Catawba Falls meanders its way down a mountainside clad with the hardwoods of Pisgah National Forest.

2. Dill Falls- With less than a mile of hiking out and back, it’s possible to spot the 50-foot Dill Falls. Despite the short distance, the route does get a moderate rating due to a quick change in elevation. Found in the Nantahala National Forest, Dill Falls spills over rock before splashing into a shallow, boulder-strewn pool at the bottom.

3. Douglas Falls- Douglas Falls can be accessed from Pisgah National Forest or the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Pisgah National Forest hiking trail from FS 74 is the shorter of the two, at 1.1 miles round-trip. Douglas Falls is 70 feet tall and comes down in a long, narrow plunge. The trail is easy enough, but gets a moderate rating for the terrain.

4. Walker Falls- Douglas Falls is the most popular of the NC waterfalls in this area. But it’s the ride out– and the 10 waterfalls on the left side of FS74– that are the journey’s real highlight. Douglas Falls is 70 feet high, but often has a fairly modest flow. Walker Falls is bolder, cascading down the mountain in a series of spectacular drops.

READ MORE: The 25 Best Places for Horseback Riding In/Near Asheville NC

Reems Creek Falls in Weaverville NC
Reems Creek Falls in Weaverville NC, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

5. Reems Creek Falls– Unusual on this list, this waterfall isn’t actually natural, but flows over a historic dam at Lake Louise Park in Weaverville NC. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty one to visit. It once was part of a grist mill, and it still has an old red waterwheel sitting next to it. In short, this picturesque spot isn’t really a hike, but more like a quick walk.

6. Glassmine Falls- This is one of those waterfalls that’s great for those who don’t want to hike at all. It’s a 200-footer that can only be seen from a distance via the Blue Ridge Parkway overlook named for it (at Milepost 361.2). The 200-foot path to the waterfall overlook is paved and climbs about 20 feet. Note that this waterfall all but disappears during extended dry periods. 

7. Graveyard Fields- Accessed at MP 418 on the BRP, the Graveyard Fields Loop is one of the more popular North Carolina hiking trails with waterfalls near Asheville. The loop is 3.2 miles, and is rated as moderate due to a few obstacles in the trail and some elevation change. Note that there are several waterfalls to see on this hike, but go early if you want to beat the crowds. 

READ MORE: The 30 Best Things to Do in Asheville NC

Hiking to Triple Falls in DuPont State Forest NC - Best North Carolina waterfalls
Hiking to Triple Falls in DuPont State Forest, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Waterfalls Near Brevard NC

8. Daniel Ridge Falls- Also commonly called Toms Branch Falls or Toms Spring Falls, Daniel Ridge Falls is in Pisgah National Forest near the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education. The hike to this one is easy and about a mile out-and-back (or a 5-mile loop). The waterfall is a 100-foot showstopper, with water splashing its way down an imposing rockface.

9. High Falls– At 150 feet, High Falls is the tallest of the waterfalls in Dupont State Recreational Forest. It’s very relaxed to reach from the forest headquarters, with just over a half-mile of hiking on well-maintained trails. Once there, clambering around at the base of the falls is an option, and there is a cool covered bridge near the top.

10. Looking Glass Falls- Located Pisgah National Forest, just down US-276 from the Cradle of Forestry, Looking Glass Falls scarcely takes getting out of the car to see. It’s a true roadside attraction, with a short series of steps to reach the base. Bold and 60 feet tall, this waterfall is just a few miles off the BRP on the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway.

Looking Glass Falls
Looking Glass Falls, photo by Captain Kimo is licensed via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

11. Moore Cove Falls- One of the most popular waterfalls in Pisgah NF, Moore Cove Falls is about 50 feet tall, with the added bonus of being able to slip behind it. The hike is just under 1.5 miles, with an agreeable surface and only a moderate climb. The trailhead for this waterfall is on the same route (US-276) as Sliding Rock Falls and Looking Glass Falls.

12. Sliding Rock Falls- This is an extremely popular 60-foot waterfall that slips smoothly down a rock face and drops into a deep pool to form NC’s best natural waterslide. The path down is paved, maybe a 1/4-mile long with little change in elevation. During the summer, a line of swimmers usually waits to slide down the falls, for which there is a small day use fee.

13. Triple Falls- With three different plunges as the Little River drops 75 feet, Triple Falls is another one of the great Dupont State Forest waterfalls. To see it, take the 3-mile, 3-waterfall hike, with Hooker Falls and High Falls sandwiching Triple Falls. In our team’s opinion, this is arguably the best waterfall in North Carolina.

14. Bridal Veil Falls- Another of the Dupont State Fores waterfalls, Bridal Veil Falls is a 100-foot-tall product of the Little River. The hike to the falls is long (over four miles round-trip), but gentle. This is a really popular and attractive waterfall, and has been featured in Hollywood flicks like The Last of the Mohicans and The Hunger Games.

READ MORE: The Ultimate Pisgah National Forest Camping Guide

Couple at Elk River Falls in Banner Elk NC
Couple at Elk River Falls, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Waterfalls Near Boone/Banner Elk/Blowing Rock NC

15. Elk River Falls- This classic waterfall plunges 50 feet into a magical pool of water, which is open for swimming and surrounded by great boulders to lounge on. The hike to it is less than 1/4 mile, but it’s possible to continue on the trail past Elk River Falls and enter Tennessee to see Jones Falls. The full trail 3.4 miles round-trip.

16. Glen Burney Falls- Located right in the town of Blowing Rock, Glen Burney Falls is a 40-foot waterfall with thick rivulets streaming over a rock face. The hike is 2.4 miles round-trip and a bit challenging due to 500+ feet of elevation. The 60-foot Glen Marie Falls is 1/4-mile further down the trail, offering a three-mile hike with two waterfalls!

17. Hebron Falls- A tough Boone NC hiking trail with amazing cascades, the Boone Fork Loop is 5 miles, with a lot of elevation. On the way you’ll pass the 25-foot Hebron Falls as it works its way over massive boulders. Hebron Falls is also called Hebron Colony Rocks, and the trailhead is in Julian Price Memorial Park at BRP Milepost 296.4.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Things to Do in Blowing Rock NC

Otter Falls Trail near Banner Elk and Boone NC
Otter Falls Observation Deck

18. Otter Falls- Located in the Town of Seven Devils, Otter Falls is maybe 25 feet at a stretch. But it performs a beautiful drop from mossy overhanging rock and splashes down into a small pool. Otter Falls is in a small local park with a few short trails that can be combined to make a nice, roughly one-mile hike with moderate elevation gain on the way back out.

19. The Cascades- One of the more popular waterfalls to visit in Boone NC, The Cascades is one of the best Blue Ridge Parkway waterfalls. It’s accessible right from the parkway, and has a gentle one-mile loop trail with paved and gravel sections. The trailhead is a few miles north of Boone in EB Jeffress Park off Deep Gap (Milepost 271.9).

20. Crab Orchard Falls- The 1.5-mile round-trip hike to Crab Orchard Falls has some sections steep enough to make it a moderate hike. This waterfall is actually located on private property, but the owners allow eager cascade enthusiasts to check out this beauty as it steps down rock ledges en route to a lovely little pool.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Waterfalls Near Boone NC

Roaring Fork Falls near Burnsville NC - waterfalls in North Carolina
Roaring Fork Falls, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Waterfalls Near Burnsville NC

21. Big Creek Falls- Big Creek Falls is located in the Appalachian Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest. It’s 20 feet tall, with a high volume of water squeezing between boulders for a quick cascade before plunging. The hike to Big Creek Falls is just one-tenth of a mile, but it is fairly steep and rough terrain.

22. Crabtree Falls- There’s a shorter out-and-back route for seeing Crabtree Falls, but the 2.5-mile loop trail is only slightly longer and offers a bigger payoff. Not only do you get to visit the base of the falls, but you can also look down from the top before crossing Crabtree Creek on the way back to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

23. Falls on Whiteoak Creek- Pisgah National Forest waterfalls continue to impress with the Falls on Whiteoak Creek. This waterfall is rather remote in the forest, but it isn’t difficult to reach. The hike is not even a tenth of a mile, and the waterfall is a lovely tiered drop that puts on a show as it weaves down to a splash pool.

24. Roaring Fork Falls- Roaring Fork Falls is in a nondescript location, but it’s quite a stunner and rarely crowded. It’s 100 feet high, and slides down a rocky spot in the middle of a forest that’s dotted with colorful wildflowers. The easy hike to it is just 1.4 miles round-trip, and there’s a nice pool at the bottom with boulders that make a great picnic spot. 

25. Setrock Creek Falls- This waterfall takes a few miles of driving off the beaten track, but the hike to Setrock Creek Falls is a 1.1-mile jaunt with very little change in elevation on a manicured walking path. The waterfall is a 75-footer in the Burnsville area of Pisgah National Forest, and is located off the main trail to the summit of Mt Mitchell.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Burnsville NC

Mingo Falls in Cherokee NC, photo by Jason Dominy
Mingo Falls, photo by Jason Dominy

Waterfalls Near Cherokee/Bryson City NC

26. Chasteen Creek Falls– An excellent hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Chasteen Creek Cascades can be accessed from the Smokemont Campgrounds, starting at the Bradley Fork Trail. At 3.6 miles, the cascades trek is long enough to be challenging, but is relatively gentle in every other way.

27. Indian Creek Falls- Part of a 3-waterfall hike in the Deep Creek area of Great Smoky Mountains NP, Indian Creek Falls is a 1.6-mile, out-and-back walk. But the trail has a mild incline, leading to a 25-foot waterfall that takes a pretty tumble down a rock face. There’s also a great island for snacking in the middle of the creek at its base.

28. Juney Whank Falls- There’s a side trail from the Deep Creek parking area in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s about 3/4 of a mile, but with enough slope to make it moderately difficult. From a footbridge on the trail, hikers can see both sections of Juney Whank Falls as it descends some 90 feet.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Cherokee NC & the Qualla Boundary

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

29. Mingo Falls- Towering at 120 feet, Mingo Falls is an impressive waterfall in the Qualla Boundary (a.k.a. NC’s Cherokee territory). It tumbles down a very mossy rock face, growing wider along the way. There’s a free parking area for visiting Mingo Falls, and the round-trip hike is less than half a mile, with a bit of roughage along the trail.

30. Soco Falls- Though Soco Falls is notably shorter than Mingo Falls, this 30-foot waterfall splits into two distinct plunges that merge beautifully at the base. Soco Falls has a very short, very easy walk to a viewing platform, with the option for a more clambering and slippery route (with rope holds along the way) down to its base.

31. Tom’s Branch Falls- Another waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains, the 60-foot Tom’s Branch Falls hits, dips, and dives down to Deep Creek. It’s fed by a creek that runs perpendicular to Deep Creek, creating a very unusual visual. Tom’s Branch Falls is easy to reach via a 1/4-mile flat road , or it can be part of the 3-waterfall hike.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Bryson City NC & Swain County

Hickory Nut Falls - best waterfalls in NC
Hickory Nut Falls, photo by danbodenstein via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Waterfalls Near Hendersonville NC

32. Big Bradley Falls- Located 15 miles from Hendersonville, the 2.2-mile hike to Big Bradley Falls is very steep at times. So it can be dangerous and requires some rock-climbing skill. But for those who are into that stuff, this could be a cool adventure. Note that there is a smaller (but still attractive) waterfall on the way there that’s better suited to all ability levels.

33. Hickory Nut Falls- It’s incredible when a 350-foot waterfall isn’t the main attraction at a state park, but such is the case at Chimney Rock State Park. Nevertheless, Hickory Nut Falls is very impressive and requires just a short, 1.4-mile hike with an easy-to-moderate difficulty rating. This is one of the tallest waterfalls in the state of North Carolina.

34. Little Bearwallow Falls- This waterfall is another 100-footer to add to you NC waterfalls bucket list. The 2.2-mile hike is rated as moderately difficult due to slope and rough terrain, including a few stream crossings. Little Bearwallow Falls is best seen after a rain or during wetter weather, particularly when surrounded by fall colors in October.

35. Little Bradley Falls- The trail to Little Bradley Falls in Saluda NC winds through dense forest and alongside Cove Creek. It’s about 2 miles round-trip, and easy enough for families with kids to hike. There’s a nice swimming hole on the way to the falls and a few creek crossings, so good water shoes are a must.

36. Pearson’s Falls- Located between Saluda and Tyron, the 90-foot Pearson’s Falls attracts 30,000 visitors a year. It’s on a 300-acre botanical preserve packed with rare North Carolina wildflowers and plants. The 1/2-mile hike is easy and on a well-maintained trail, but there is an entrance fee required ($5 for adults, $1 for children).

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Hendersonville NC

Rainbow Falls in Gorges State Park, NC - best NC waterfalls
Rainbow Falls, photo courtesy Explore Asheville

Waterfalls Near Cashiers NC

37. Dry Falls- Dry Falls is most certainly wet— gushing, really— but it’s named for the fact that visitors can walk behind it and stay dry. This popular North Carolina waterfall is a roadside attraction, with a short, paved walkway to it and plenty of space to see it. Dry Falls is formed by the Cullasaja River, which also creates several other nice waterfalls in the area.

38. Flat Creek Falls– Not to be confused with Flat Creek Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains, this one is near Rosman NC in Nantahala National Forest. The hike to reach it is over 5 miles, with 1,000+ feet of elevation change. Getting to it requires stamina, but it’s a stunning 200-foot waterfall that won’t have a crowd around it!

39. Rainbow Falls-  This 150-foot waterfall releases so much mist into the air that onlookers commonly see rainbows in front of it. The hike to Rainbow Falls begins in Gorges State Park, but the 1.5-mile trail (three miles roundtrip) leads into Nantahala National Forest. It’s hilly enough to be called moderate, and it’s worth continuing past Rainbow Falls to see Turtleback Falls.

40. Schoolhouse Falls- At 2.5 miles, the  Schoolhouse Falls trail gets a moderate rating due to the incline on the way back out. The waterfall is tucked away in Panthertown Valley, but it’s totally worth the exploration. It’s a walk-behind model with a great swimming hole in front of it, so it’s a really good spot for a picnic.

41. Sliver Run Falls- This waterfall is only 25 feet high, taking a short plunge and then sliding down a tilted rock face before splashing into a large pool. The pool is inviting for a swim, and offers a small beach area for visitors to enjoy. The hike here is short and easy, but that means it can get crowded when the Blue Ridge Mountains weather turns warm.

42. Upper Whitewater Falls- The first of two 400+ foot plunges that make up the tallest waterfall in North Carolina (and east of the Rockies), Upper Whitewater Falls is in NC while the lower section is in SC. The upper falls can be viewed from two platforms: the first is a 1/4-mile hike on a paved path, while the second requires taking 154 wooden stairs down.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Lakes in the North Carolina Mountains to Visit

50 NC Waterfalls - Cullasaja Falls
Cullasaja Falls, photo by NC Orchidvia CC BY 2.0.

Waterfalls Near Franklin NC

43. Big Laurel Falls- Despite its name, Big Laurel Falls is not among the biggest waterfalls on this list. But it is arguably among the most beautiful North Carolina Waterfalls. It’s 35 feet high, dropping down in two plunges to a ledge before sliding down a mossy rock face. The hike to it is about a mile round-trip, with some rough terrain and incline to tackle.

44. Cullasaja Falls- Multiple streams feed into the 250-foot Cullasaja Falls as it tumbles and turns down a long rock face, cutting through the Nantahala National Forest. There is a viewing platform for this one at the roadside (US-64), which has just one small pull-off on a rather curvy road. In our opinion, this is a ridiculously attractive waterfall.

45. Ranger Falls- Cascading down several rock ledges, Ranger Falls is formed by Skitty Creek in the Nantahala National Forest. The hike to reach it is 1.1 miles each way, and the trail has some rough terrain and slopes that give it a moderate rating. The top of the waterfall is curtained by wildflowers such as mountain laurel and rhododendron.

READ MORE: The 15 Best North Carolina Mountain Towns to Visit

Bon Ami Mine Tours at Emerald Village in Little Switzerland NC
The Bon Ami Mine at Emerald Village

Waterfalls Near Little Switzerland NC

46. Bon Ami Waterfall- The Bon Ami Waterfall is a (literal) sideshow to the gem mines in Emerald Village of Little Switzerland NC. But it’s a nice waterfall splashing down on rocks right beside a wide-mouthed cave, albeit a human-constructed one. It’s a cool place to visit in North Carolina, with a nice waterfall and much more to entertain the kids.

47. Dugger’s Creek Falls- Tucked into a canyon at the far end of the Linville Falls Visitor Center parking lot, Duggers Creek Falls is easily and often overlooked. But the little 15-footer offers something unique for minimal effort. The hike is a half-mile loop, with a nice bridge over the creek and the waterfall. It’s a great bonus to a Linville Falls visit.

48. Grassy Creek Falls- This lovely North Carolina waterfall is located on private land near Little Switzerland NC and Linville Falls, but it’s usually open to visitors. Access has been shut down before, due to visitors causing problems, so please be respectful. This waterfall is 30 feet, with two distinct plunges off of rock ledges down to a mossy rock creek bed.

Upper Linville Falls
Upper Linville Falls, photo via Canva

49. Linville Falls- In the running for the most impressive waterfalls on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Linville Falls is gorgeous, with the upper section dropping into a pool that suddenly swirls down a crack in a massive cliff. Hiking to the upper section is easy to moderate, with more difficult hikes for views from above and below the falls available.

50. Tom’s Creek Falls- Reached via an easy 1-mile round-trip hike in Pisgah National Forest, Tom’s Creek Falls is an 80-foot behemoth with multiple cascades and a proper observation deck. This is a good place to take young children or older relatives to an impressive waterfall without making them walk too much.

51. Upper Creek Falls- There is actually an upper and lower section to Upper Creek Falls, which tucks and tips some 50 feet on its way down rock ledges before taking a hard right near the bottom. The 1.5-mile out-and-back hike to this Pisgah National Forest waterfall is moderately difficult due to rough terrain, with plenty of roots and rocks along the way.

Waterfalls in the NC Piedmont

52. Stone Mountain Falls– Stone Mountain Falls is a premier attraction in Stone Mountain State Park– a 200-foot waterfall that slides down a granite rock. Hikers love to wade around in the knee-deep pool and/or picnic on the boulders strewn about the area. In our experience, this is a great finale to hiking the Stone Mountain Loop trail.

53. Lower Cascades– Located just north of Winston-Salem NC, Hanging Rock State Park has several great waterfalls. My personal favorite is the Lower Cascades, which conveniently pairs with seeing the Upper Cascades. This waterfall is accessed via a back entrance to the park, and there’s an amazing pool at the foot of the falls.

54. High Shoal Falls– Often listed among the best waterfalls near Asheville NC, High Shoal Falls is located near the town of Morganton in the northern reaches of South Mountains State Park. There’s a nice 2.7-mile loop to the 60-foot waterfall, with an observation deck and boardwalk that cross the Jacob Fork River just below the falls.

55. McGalliard Falls– McGalliard Falls is easy to miss because it’s in a small park in the tiny town of Valdese NC. But the waterfall has a 45-foot drop, and Meytre Grist Mill has a cool waterwheel near it. This waterfall is less than 10 miles from Morganton, with Lake James to the west and South Mountains State Park to the south. by Jonathon Engels; featured image of Crabtree Falls NC via Canva



Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

After visiting North Carolina for the first time, Senior Writer Jonathon Engels and wife Emma spent 2 years exploring Western NC in search of a homestead property. They first lived in Brevard, where Jonathon taught writing at Blue Ridge Community College and extensively explored the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest. For the last several years they have lived just off the BRP near Elkin, Southwest Virginia, and the NC High Country. The couple also volunteers with the Surry Old Time Fiddlers Convention, the Elkin Valley Trail Association, and Reeves Downtown School of Music.