[Updated August 20, 2022] Spend any time in the Blue Ridge Mountains you’ll quickly realize that Westen North Carolina waterfalls are a big thing here.
Waterfalls in NC can be as literally big– as in over 800 feet high– as they are numerous. You’ll find approximately 250 waterfalls just in the 381-square-mile Transylvania County, located just south of Asheville!
Of course, this is but one small county in the area. A proper western North Carolina waterfall tour might take visitors from the Transylvania waterfalls near Brevard north up the Blue Ridge Parkway to the beautiful waterfalls near Boone.
Long story short, waterfalls in NC are pretty much everywhere.
Suffice it to say that the job of narrowing the list down to just 33 of the best Western North Carolina waterfalls for hiking was a tough one.
Our collection of falls offers an eclectic mix of trekking trails, swimming pools, deep plunges, and rock slides.
So let’s dive in and explore some of the most incredible waterfall hikes in NC!
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Waterfalls Near Asheville NC
The most famous western North Carolina waterfalls are those found in and around Brevard, the seat of Transylvania County.
But there are plenty of falls to see in the region that encompasses Brevard, Asheville, and Hendersonville, all of which are located within 35 miles of each other.
READ MORE: The 35 Best Things to Do in Asheville NC
1. Catawba Falls
The headwaters of the Catawba River leave a lasting impression as they tumble down mossy rocks, etching their way through the wildlands of western North Carolina.
Located just 25 miles east of Asheville, Catawba Falls is in Pisgah National Forest, on a shady hiking trail near Old Fort (just off of I-40).
While they all get listed under the name Catawba Falls, there are actually many different falls to enjoy along this top NC waterfall hiking trail.
The Catawba Falls Campground is a popular spot for camping in Asheville NC..
2. Crabtree Falls
Reaching the falls requires a bit of hiking, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
You’ll marvel at the view as waters from Crabtree Creek come cascading over the 60-foot rock face.
There’s also a bridge that goes across the creek below the falls, and a wonderful collection of rocks at the base to use for picnics or simply enjoying the view.
Waterfalls Near Brevard NC
3. Daniel Ridge Falls
A skyscraper of a waterfall, Daniel Ridge Falls tops 150 feet and is easily accessed via the Daniel Ridge Loop Trail.
The falls are located in the southern portion of Pisgah National Forest, near Brevard. Daniel Ridge Falls is a small collection of thin lines of water, plodding and plunking down a stunning rockface.
If the waterfalls are all that’s on your itinerary, they can be viewed via a 1-mile, in-and-back hike.
But if you have time it’s worth doing the entire 4-mile loop, which offer plenty of other natural beauty to behold.
4. French Broad Falls & 5. Mill Shoals Creek Falls & 6. Bird Rock Falls
Though they’re located on private property, visitors are allowed to stop and behold dueling waterfalls at the Living Waters Ministry.
French Broad Falls is on the North Fork of the French Broad River. To its right is another waterfall fed by Shoal Creek, a.k.a. Mill Shoals Creek Falls.
Also, just about a quarter-mile away via trail you’ll find a third notable NC waterfall: Bird Rock Falls. Three for the price of one trip is hard to beat!
7. Graveyard Fields
One of the most popular places to hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway (Milepost 418.8), Graveyard Fields has a 3.2-mile loop trail, mostly above 5,000 feet.
The hike has both an Upper Falls and a Lower Falls (aka Second Falls) that should be a big draw for any waterfall lover, and Graveyard Fields is an idyllic picnic spot.
Though stats are hard to find, Upper Falls easily surpasses 50 feet, and Lower Falls, which is also quite large, has a great NC swimming hole at the base.
These are two of the most impressive waterfalls in N.C., and this hike ranks right up there as one of the best hikes, period, in the state.
8. Hooker Falls, 9. High Falls & 10. Triple Falls
If you’re looking for jaw-dropping sights in NC’s Blue Ridge region, these three amazing Brevard waterfalls are hard to beat.
All can be viewed during an easy to moderate 3-mile hike in Dupont State Recreational Forest, which is about 40 miles south from Asheville.
Hooker Falls is a wide waterfall that plunges into a small lake. Triple Falls offers a three-tiered drop of over 120 feet. But High Falls beats that with 150 feet of cascades.
Each has great observation options, including swimming at Hooker Falls. Just note that there are no lifeguards there, so be mindful of safety and use the buddy system.
11. Key Falls
Measuring around 50 feet high, Key Falls forms when a small creek begins its journey down a stepped rockface en route to the river.
This waterfall is on the private property of Key Falls Inn, but the owners kindly give visitors access to it even if they’re not staying at the B&B.
Nevertheless, there is a good restaurant—The Pavillion—there if you want to take in a nice dinner.
12. Looking Glass Falls & 13. Skinny Dip Falls
When you’re visiting one of the beautiful waterfalls near Asheville, another one is usually just around the corner.
That’s certainly the case at Looking Glass Falls, which is in Pisgah National Forest.
This bucolic setting, located just outside the Brevard city limits, boasts plenty of falls. But Looking Glass Falls is especially popular because of its drive-up viewing option.
Right across the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Looking Glass Falls Overlook you’ll find the trailhead for nearby Skinny Dip Falls, which might be a bit more exciting.
Despite the name, skinny-dipping is discouraged here, but swimming is allowed.
14. Moore Cove Falls
Easily overlooked in the waterfall-laden Transylvania County and Pisgah National Forest, Moore Cove Falls is a respectable 50-footer that visitors can walk behind.
The trailhead to Moore Cove Falls is right off of US-276 (the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway) and within a couple of minutes’ drive from Looking Glass Falls.
The hike to this waterfall is a 1.5 roundtrip hike that crosses over Moore Creek several times on the route.
Listed amongst the Asheville waterfalls, this beauty is nearer to Brevard, and it pairs well with a visit to the Cradle of Forestry.
Waterfalls Near Highlands NC
Further east, as North Carolina tapers towards Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge peaks climbs higher and the water falls in lovely fashion.
Highlands, Cherokee, and Cashiers all have incredible cascades within an hour’s drive.
15. Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls is fairly famous because cars can pass right under it while driving along US-64.
The effect of the falling water creates the sort of white veil that give the falls its name.
This one is not to be confused with another famous North Carolina waterfall, Bridal Veil Falls, found in Dupont State Recreational Park.
16. Dry Falls
Generally, people visit Bridal Veil Falls on their way to Dry Falls, another of the waterfalls near Highland, NC in the Nantahala National Forest.
It’s actually less than a mile away! Dry Falls stands a total of 80 feet, with about half of that in an all-out plunge.
Though this one isn’t drive-under, visitors can walk beneath the plunge and see the waterfall from the mountain’s vantage point.
Waterfalls Near Cashiers NC
17. Rainbow Falls & 18. Turtleback Falls
Located in Gorges State Park, near NC’s southern border, Rainbow Falls is famed for the mist that creates daily rainbows in front of it.
The waterfall is accessed by a 3-mile in-and-out hike, which includes another noteworthy waterfall (Turtleback Falls) just beyond it.
Turtleback Falls has a nice swimming spot located right at its base.
There are even more waterfalls to be found upriver, but these two are the highlights.
19. Schoolhouse Falls
Nestled in a valley with a mountain stream and rhododendron thickets, Schoolhouse Falls is another cascade in Nantahala National Forest.
In my opinion, it’s one of the best treasures in Panthertown Valley. It can be reached via the Cold Mountain Gap Trailhead, just east of Cashiers, NC.
The beautiful waterfall has an equally attractive rock pool at its base. The hike to the falls is under three miles round-trip.
20. Silver Run Falls
For those who aren’t big fans of hiking to waterfalls, Silver Run Falls might be an optimal choice. It requires less than a quarter mile of trekking round-trip.
One of the many waterfalls near Cashiers NC, Silver Run Falls checks a lot off the list.
The water plunges about halfway down the falls before hitting a smooth rock face, then gliding into a refreshing rock-lined pool at its base.
It’s also very nice to see in the winter, when ice formations start to change its appearance dramatically.
21. Whitewater Falls
Famous for being the tallest waterfalls east of the Rockies, Whitewater Falls is so grand that it straddles two different states.
Upper Whitewater Falls is located in the state of North Carolina, but the base of the falls—some 811 feet down—is in South Carolina.
Upper Whitewater Falls has a 400-foot plunge all its own. It can be accessed from the town of Sapphire, off US-64, not far from Gorges State Park.
Waterfalls Near Cherokee NC
22. Soco Falls
Located between Maggie Valley and the Cherokee Reservation, Soco Falls is a double waterfall that merges at the base before cascading down some strewn boulders.
It’s just past the Blue Ridge Parkway (right off of US-19), heading south from Maggie Valley.
The trail is short, but steep and sometimes slippery.
Nevertheless, once you arrive, you’ll see two falls facing one another, which is just as amazing as it sounds!
23. Tom’s Branch Falls & 24. Indian Creek Falls & 25. Juney Whank Falls
It’s part of a trio, along with Indian Creek Falls and Juney Whank Falls, that make up the Deep Creek Three Waterfall Hike.
Tom’s Branch Falls is a 60-foot cascade that hits Deep Creek perpendicularly when Tom’s Branch empties into it from the mountain above.
The stroll to Tom’s Branch Falls is on a wide, flat trail, and in the summertime, it’s known as one of the best places in North Carolina for river tubing and you’ll often see river tubers who are hiking up to float back down Deep Creek.
Waterfalls Near Banner Elk NC
Moving north of Asheville, the Blue Ridge Parkway climbs in elevation and slices through the upper reaches of Pisgah National Forest.
This area features some fantastic waterfalls, both large and small, and one or more of them is never far away.
26. Elk River Falls
Outside the tiny town of Elk Park, near Banner Elk, is Elk River Falls.
One of my favorite features in Pisgah National Forest, this 50-foot plunging waterfall has a wonderful swimming hole at its base.
The drive is a bit of detour, but the hike to the trail takes less than five minutes.
There are also comfortable, large and level rocks great for picnicking or sunbathing.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Banner Elk NC
27. Linville Falls
Another on the list of fabulous waterfalls along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Linville Falls is truly a showstopper.
It offers several different viewing platforms, including a very cool one that juts right out into the water.
To get yourself oriented, Linville Falls Visitor Center is on the Linville River at BRP Mile Marker 317.8. You’ll find the first-class Linville Falls campground there, and plenty of good hiking trails nearby.
The Linville Falls Trail leads to the Upper Linville Falls, and Linville Gorge Trail leads to Lower Linville Falls.
Waterfalls Near Boone NC
28. Boone Fork Falls
Reached via the Julian Price Memorial Park picnic area along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Boone Fork Falls is another great spot for those who like hiking to waterfalls.
It’s on a challenging 5-mile loop (the Boone Fork Trail), which also features a detour to Hebron Falls.
Like Hebron, Boone Fork Falls is formed when the Boone Fork Creek cascades over and around massive mountain boulders.
29. The Cascades
It’s along the Blue Ridge Parkway (Mile Marker 271.9), in E.B. Jeffress Park.
The Cascades can be accessed via an easy NC hiking trail of a little more than a mile, with a couple of viewing platforms from which to take in the impressive scenery.
The park is also a great place for an afternoon picnic.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Cabin Rentals in Boone NC
30. Glen Burney Falls
Blowing Rock is one of the most popular, long-standing tourist destinations in the North Carolina High Country.
Glen Burney Falls is also right in the town of Blowing Rock, on New Years Creek.
That said, the 2.5-mile, in-and-out hike to it is a little challenging, particularly on the upslope trek on the back.
Glen Burney Falls is a 40-foot waterfall that breaks up and spills over a rounded rockface splattered with moss.
For the effort of another quarter-mile of hiking, it’s possible to see Glen Marie Falls, a 60-foot drop that takes a hard left on its way down.
READ MORE: The 20 Best Things to Do in Blowing Rock NC
31. Hebron Falls
Note that the trail is highly trafficked, particularly on weekends, and requires about three miles of hiking.
But once you get there, the walk is well worth it: The falls has multiple drops as it bounces from boulder to boulder.
Waterfalls Near Elkin NC
32. Lower Cascades Fall
This is a bit of a jaunt from Boone and Blowing Rock (about two hours), but for those visiting Stone Mountain State Park, Elkin, or Mount Airy is much nearer.
Lower Cascades Fall is the most impressive of several nice waterfalls at Hanging Rock State Park, which also has a lakeside beach and its namesake Hanging Rock.
In short, a visit to this state park can easily fill a day or a weekend, and it’s also just half an hour from Pilot Mountain State Park.
Lower Cascades Fall drops about 35 feet into a very inviting pool in a little nook of mountain rock.
33. Stone Mountain Falls
Although it’s a bit of a drive away from some of these falls (around 55 miles), Stone Mountain State Park is well worth the detour.
Stone Mountain Falls is a 200-foot high sliding waterfall that has a nice wading pool at its base and several viewing platforms along the way.
It’s located on the Stone Mountain Loop Trail, which also includes the Hutchinson Homestead, summiting Stone Mountain, and spectacular views.
As you’ll see in our full story below, Stone Mountain State Park also has lots of other nice waterfalls to check out!
In the end, listing all of the best waterfalls in NC in one story is simply an impossible endeavor.
There are so many waterfalls worth visiting, both on and off the beaten track. And sometimes even a small cascade with a quiet pool really hits the spot.
That said, these 33 North Carolina waterfalls will never disappoint, providing all the right magic you for a great waterfall hiking adventure. –Jonathon Engels, lead image by Will Thomas via CC BY-SA 3.0