Asheville’s reputation as a forward-thinking, nature-loving town in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains precedes it.
Despite being only the 12th largest city in the state, Asheville still ranks among the most popular tourist destinations in North Carolina.
In addition to the famous Biltmore Estate, the mountain town has a fantastic collection of art galleries in the River Arts District, myriad downtown restaurants, an impressive flight of microbreweries, and a network of hiking trails that’d make John Muir palpitate.
While Asheville has all the pizzazz of a proper city, with the Blue Ridge Parkway running right through it, nature abounds both within and outside of the metropolitan area’s limits.
When we visit Asheville, waterfalls are among our favorite local attractions to explore. There are literally hundreds of waterfall hikes near Asheville– so many that you could spend weeks taking day trips and never see them all.
What follows are my personal picks for the best waterfalls near Asheville NC, from Dupont and Pisgah National Forest to small NC towns such as Balsam Grove and Barnardsville.
READ MORE: The Best Things to Do in Asheville NC
1. Bridal Veil Falls (4.5 miles)
One of the more well-known and beloved Asheville waterfalls, Bridal Veil Falls is formed by the Little River.
It begins with a small drop of about four feet before sliding down an ever-steepening granite rock face, ultimately plunging into a series of pools and making a final cascading run.
All in all, it descends some 120 feet. Yep, it’s just as amazing as it sounds!
Aside from warranting a visit for its sheer beauty, Bridal Veil– along with several other falls in Dupont State Recreational Forest– has the claim to fame of being featured in the film The Last of the Mohicans.
2. Catawba Falls (3 miles)
Old Fort, NC
Another of the most famous waterfalls near Asheville,100-foot-tall Catawba Falls is as noteworthy for the cascades you’ll see along the trail as it is for the main falls.
Formed by the headwaters of the Catawba River, this collection of plunges and pools sees water slipping and gurgling over moss-covered rocks along rhododendron-lined banks.
Catawba Falls is part of the fabulous Pisgah National Forest, which stretches from Boone all the way south to Brevard.
The trailhead to the falls is only about 26 miles from Asheville, with easy access from I-40.
3. Crabtree Falls (2.5 miles)
Little Switzerland, NC
A wooden bridge spans Crabtree Creek at the base of Crabtree Falls, providing an excellent view of this 60-foot mammoth as it trickles, traces, and trounces down the rock face.
There’s also a pile of inviting boulders strewn about, upon which hikers often stop for a bit of admiration and a snack.
Located right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, Crabtree Falls has a large campground, picnic area, amphitheater, and a moderate-to-easy loop trail that crisscrosses the creek a couple of times.
It’s also just a few miles from a great little mountain town called Little Switzerland.
4. Daniel Ridge Falls (4 miles)
Pisgah Forest, NC
Also known as Tom’s Spring Falls and Jackson Falls, Daniel Ridge Falls is a 150-foot ribbon of a waterfall that dances its way down a stunning rock face.
It’s one of the many great falls in Pisgah National Forest, as well as one of the 250-plus waterfalls in Transylvania County, NC.
Daniel Ridge Falls can be reached by a sometimes challenging (depending on recent weather conditions) four-mile hiking loop, or a more leisurely 1-mile in-and-out route.
A day trip can easily include some other great Asheville waterfall hikes on this list, especially Looking Glass Falls.
5. Douglas Falls & Walker Falls (1 mile)
People generally make the trip out to this quiet gravel road in the middle of Pisgah National Forest in order to see Douglas Falls.
However, one could argue that it’s the ride out– and the 10 waterfalls on the left side of FS74, particularly Walker Falls– that are the journey’s real highlight.
Douglas Falls is some 70-feet high, but usually has a fairly modest flow. Walker Falls is a little bolder, cascading down the mountainside in a series of spectacular drops.
This is a great trip for those more interested in seeing waterfalls than in hiking several miles to get to them.
6. Dry Falls (Roadside)
Dry Falls (which also goes by several other names) is formed by the Cullasaja River and offers up an impressive 65-foot plunge.
Since Dry Falls tumbles over a rocky outcrop, it’s even more fun because visitors are able to walk behind the falls in order to get a different perspective.
Located just a few miles north of Highlands, NC, Dry Falls is right on the side of the road (US 64) and only requires a short walking path to access the best views.
It’s in the Natanhala National Forest, and can easily be combined with a visit to Rainbow Falls (which you’ll find further down on the list).
7. French Broad Falls, Mill Shoals Falls & Cathedral Falls (0.7 miles)
Balsam Grove, NC
This is one of our favorite waterfall hikes near Asheville because it’s possible to see all three of these impressive falls in just .7 miles round-trip.
French Broad Falls and Mill Shoals Falls are right next to each other, with one fed by the French Broad (one of the nation’s three oldest rivers) and the other by Shoal Creek.
Only a quarter-mile up the creek you’ll find Cathedral Falls, a.k.a. Bird Rock Falls.
These western NC waterfalls are located on private land owned by Living Waters Ministries, but they do allow visitors to explore the falls at their own risk.
8. Graveyard Fields (3.3 miles)
Despite its rather ghoulish name, Graveyard Fields easily ranks as one of the best Blue Ridge Parkway hikes for NC day trips.
The main reason for that is the phenomenal fleet of falls you’ll find along the route (and some good wild blueberry picking, if you’re into foraging).
Located at Milepot 418.8, Graveyard Fields is a hugely popular Blue Ridge Parkway overlook. Its name comes from a vast collection of tree stumps that resembled gravestones after a massive fire in 1925.
The Fields have since revegetated, and now provide amazing views all year-round, particularly when Fall colors reach their peak.
9. Hickory Nut Falls (1.4 miles)
Chimney Rock, NC
Pushing into the North Carolina Piedmont, Hickory Nut Falls is a towering waterfall that measures over 400 feet.
The falls are visible from the roadside. But to get up close and personal, you’ll need to hike a short loop of 1.4 miles to the base of the falls.
It’s part of Chimney Rock State Park, which is home to one of North Carolina’s most recognizable rock formations.
The town of Chimney Rock is also a great place for families and souvenir enthusiasts. Lake Lure, which served as a main set for Dirty Dancing, is just a few miles away.
10. Linville Falls (1.6 miles)
Linville Falls, NC
One of our favorite Asheville NC waterfalls, Linville Falls is widely ranked among the most beautiful in the state.
It offers two very distinct viewpoints: A wide section plunges a few feet into a pool, with an amazing observation deck right at the water’s edge.
Another section dives into a gorge between two cliffs, and has distant observation decks to capture the whole scene. All of this is part of Linville Gorge, which is often referred to as “the Grand Canyon of the East.”
In short, the scenery here is stunning and worthy of the trip, even before you factor in one of the most breathtaking North Carolina waterfalls.
READ MORE: 30 Fascinating Blue Ridge Mountains Facts
11. Looking Glass Falls (0.25 miles)
Pisgah Forest, NC
Another one of the most popular waterfalls in NC, Looking Glass Falls requires nothing more than pulling a vehicle over to the side of the road for a quick stop.
It’s part of the vast collection of cascades in Pisgah National Forest and Transylvania County, which is known as the “Land of Waterfalls.”
Were it not so easy to reach, it’d feel much more miraculous to visit. Nevertheless, Looking Glass Falls is a notable 60-foot plunging waterfall that splashes into a rocky pool below.
The waterfall is especially beautiful on a frozen winter’s day, when icicles form at its sides.
12. Moore Cove Falls (1.5 miles)
Pisgah Forest, NC
Moore Cove Falls, which can easily be combined with a trip to Looking Glass Falls, is another plunging waterfall that dives some fifty feet.
Moore Creek is a small waterway, so the falls typically have a low volume of water.
That being said, there is an amazing cavern behind this Pisgah waterfall where visitors can watch the water drop from overhead.
The trailhead to Moore Cove Falls is about a mile north of Looking Glass Falls, and the trail is an easy, family-friendly hike along a lovely creek.
13. Pearson’s Falls (0.5 miles)
Located in a botanical reserve near the border with South Carolina, Pearson’s Falls is majestic as it rolls down a 90-foot rock face.
Pearson’s Falls is owned by the Tyron Garden Club. This non-profit organization is working to preserve a 275-acre tract of forest, with babbling springs and 300+ species of wild plants.
So there is a small fee to visit the site ($5). But your visit includes a ¼-mile trail to the falls, a wildflower sanctuary, and an insanely photogenic stone bridge (Ethel Chase Bridge) that spans Colt Creek.
14. Rainbow Falls (3.9 miles)
Rainbow Falls can be combined with a trip to Dry Falls, as well as a bonus waterfall/ swimming spot called Turtleback Falls, which is further down the Rainbow Falls hiking trail.
But really, Rainbow Falls (which is located in North Carolina’s newest state park, Gorges State Park) is a worthy attraction all on its own.
Dropping almost 150 feet, this photogenic Highlands NC waterfall crashes into a boulder-strewn creek bed and sends up a steady cloud of mist.
The sun often finds the right angle and shines through the mist to create rainbows coming off the falls. It’s so pretty, it’s like a grade-school notebook cover!
15. Skinny Dip Falls (0.9)
If you’re doing day trips from Asheville, Skinny Dip Falls makes a good combo with Graveyard Fields. Especially in summer, as the falls have a luxurious pool for swimming.
In fact, this waterfall is fed by the same Yellowstone Prong that flows through Graveyard Fields, which is just a mile away.
The trailhead is accessible via the Blue Ridge Parkway right across from the Looking Glass Rock Overlook (Milepost 417), which is yet another noteworthy stop.
The trail to Skinny Dip Falls is short and relatively easy. However, it should be noted that it might require a bit of scrambling over rocks and roots along the way.
16. Soco Falls (0.2 miles)
Maggie Valley, NC
Located on the Qualla Boundary, home of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Soco Falls is a gorgeous double waterfall near Cherokee NC.
These two plummeting falls face each other as they tumble down into the same rocky pool.
There is a short, but somewhat perilous walk down to a viewing platform. While not very long, the hike does require a moderate fitness level, steady footing, and using guide ropes.
Soco Falls is about an hour away from Asheville, for those willing to go slightly further afield. Mingo Falls, which is also in the Cherokee Reservation, is nearby as well.
17. Sunburst Falls & Pigeon River Cascades (Roadside)
A literal roadside attraction, Sunburst Falls actually flows underneath the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway.
In fact, driving the 76-mile byway makes for a fantastic day of exploring Asheville waterfalls, with a dozen different falls or cascades along or near the route.
Sunburst Falls is beautiful, diving into a very welcoming pool. But the setting, beneath a stone arch bridge built in the 1930s, is what makes Sunburst Falls a unique visit.
There are also steep trails that lead to beautiful Pigeon Rover Cascades above the bridge.
READ MORE: The Top 15 North Georgia Waterfalls
18. Tom Branch Falls (2 miles)
Bryson City, NC
Located in the eastern reaches of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tom Branch Falls is the most beautiful and easily accessed waterfall in the Deep Creek section of the park.
This 80-foot Bryson City waterfall tumbles down rock shelves, ultimately culminating into a cool, tree-lined pool.
Tom Branch Falls is actually the first waterfall on Deep Creek Trail. Getting to it takes just over a half-mile of hiking, in-and-out.
However, Deep Creek Trail can be a 4.6-mile loop, rated moderately difficult, leading hikers past more waterfalls on a rhododendron-riddled riverside romp.
19. Tom’s Creek Falls (1 mile)
Little Switzerland, NC
Not to be confused with Tom Branch Falls, Tom’s Creek Falls is located in Pisgah National Forest, not far from Linville Caverns.
Coincidentally, it is also an 80-foot waterfall that tumbles down various rock shelves before diving into a cool, tree-lined pool.
The hike to Tom’s Creek Falls is an easy 1.2 miles, and there’s an observation deck from which to view the falls.
A small spur also leads down to the base of the falls, where a comfortable gravel-sand deposit begs for a longer linger.
20. Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, & High Falls (3.6 miles)
“High-flying” and “grandiose” are the perfect words to describe this trio of waterfalls found along Little River in Dupont State Recreational Forest.
They’re all on the same 3.6-mile trail, and may just rank as the most impressive falls on this list. They can be seen on the big screen in films such as The Last of the Mohicans and Hunger Games.
Hooker Falls cuts a wide swath and dumps a tremendous amount of water over a 12-foot ledge into a very large, fast-flowing pool.
Triple Falls totals 120 feet, but drops in three distinct tears (and is possibly my favorite waterfall anywhere in the world).
High Falls is the tallest of the three at 150 feet, and has an amazing pile of rocks to explore at its base, as well as a covered bridge near the top.
Bonus: Upper Whitewater Falls (0.4 miles)
Out of respect for its status, Whitewater Falls simply MUST be included on the list.
Upper Whitewater Falls accounts for 400-plus feet of the waterfall’s North Carolina section, while Lower Whitewater Falls adds another 400-plus feet in South Carolina.
It’s the tallest waterfall east of the Rockies, and the Upper Falls can be accessed via a paved, quarter-mile walkway.
Ok, so the drive is about 90 to 120 minutes from Asheville. But how often does one get to say they’ve visited the tallest waterfall in the eastern United States?! —Jonathon Engels