Western North Carolina, with its hundreds of thousands of acres of national forests, national and state parks, and other public lands, is home to the bulk of the best NC waterfalls. The Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests comprise most of this land, and in the Brevard area of North Carolina alone, there are over 250 different falls.
You can experience waterfalls you can swim in, ones you can see from the road, and others that involve a scenic hike first. These are 16 of our favorites.
Looking Glass Falls
Do go chasing waterfalls in Western North Carolina’s gorgeous, cascading, 60-foot waterfall just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Brevard. Looking Glass Falls is one of the most popular and beautiful waterfalls of the state and a crowd favorite. Check it off your list whether you wish to gaze from the parking area, go in for a closer look with a short walk, take photographs, or even take a dip.
Experience the Great Smoky Mountains on the Cherokee Indian Reservation with one of the tallest waterfalls in NC, standing at 120 feet. Free to the public and open every day, Mingo Falls is a perfect place to get away and explore for a weekend. The trek to the top is steep but quite short, making it an obtainable challenge.D
Hebron Rock Colony
Break out your hiking shoes to see a waterfall during this 2.8 mile trail located near Blowing Rock. Hike, birdwatch, or bring your dog to this North Carolina mountain destination. The spot is marked as moderate which means it’s perfect for the whole family and even has a picnic area you can enjoy.
Immerse yourself in nature at Little River’s third distinct cascade in the DuPont State Forest nestled southeast of Brevard. Featured in the drama Last of the Mohicans, Triple Falls totals nearly 125 feet. The trail is an all-levels hike at just 2.3 miles.
Hike the quick, 14-foot Hooker Falls waterfall that functions as a ledge for the Little River to flow fully into Cascade Lake further along. Sitting wide and symmetrical, Hooker Falls is the last of the series of three waterfalls at DuPont State Recreational Forest in Brevard. The falls drift into a watering hole.
Connect with your surroundings at DuPont State Recreational Forest through hiking or biking this 1.2 mile stretch. Watch as High Falls slides 125 feet down sheer granite—High Falls is stop number one of this Asheville forest’s three waterfalls.
Carve out 1.5 or 2.5 hours for this scenic loop trail near the boundary of McDowell and Yancey counties. The hike is considered moderate to strenuous with a precipitous incline and rocky terrain. Reward yourself at the end with the views of this stunning waterfall that sprawls down over the 60-foot rock.
Bring the family on this short but spectacular hike behind a waterfall on the Cullasaja River near Highlands, North Carolina. What makes this path unique is that the path leads through the ledge behind the waterfall as it falls before your eyes for a different perspective.
Bridal Veil Falls
Escape the regular day-to-day with a trip to a waterfall that sticks out as the only one in its state, North Carolina, that you can drive a car under. Located northwest of Highlands in Nantahala National Forest, this 120-foot waterfall offers an observation deck and flat rocks at the base for optimal viewing. When it comes to easy access to NC waterfalls it truly doesn’t get easier than Bridal Veil Falls.
Escape to the Blue Ridge Mountains to see one of the most breathtaking waterfall settings in the Pisgah National Forest, adjacent to Gorges State Park. During the two-mile walk around the river, this is just one of a series of cascades to see. Rainbow Falls towers boldly at 150 feet and the hike offers a forest packed full of wildflowers to admire on your way.
Moore Cove Falls
The Moore Cove Falls are nestled in the picturesque, fern-covered mountains of the Pisgah National Forest, just outside of Asheville. Locals have dubbed it, “the land of the waterfalls.” Perhaps the most beautiful of the falls, and the most accessible, is Moore Cove. Hike through scenic, family-friendly trails to get to the breathtaking 50-foot, free-falling waterfall.
Graveyard Fields Falls
Graveyard Fields, located on the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a favorite hiking spot for outdoor enthusiasts and novices alike. Along the trails, you’ll find two majestic NC waterfalls: the Upper Falls and the Second Falls, both of which are surrounded by colorful wildflowers and lush forested areas. At the Second Falls, the water cascades down massive boulders into a crisp pond. It’s the perfect spot for taking a dip during a warm summer hike.
Hunt Fish Falls
Hunt Fish Falls is a small waterfall (wider than it is tall) that ends in a massive pool, making it perfect for sunbathing or swimming during summer months. Located in the Pisgah National Forest, this trail is a little off the beaten path, but totally worth the hike. It’s the perfect spot to hang out, relax, and listen to the gentle rushing of water cascading into the pond.
Harper Creek Falls
Harper Creek Falls is a stunning, two-tiered, 50-foot high waterfall located on the outskirts of Collettsville, NC. The falls sit between large stretches of bedrock and massive boulders, with tall trees shading the oasis. At the base of the beautiful cascade, is a crystal clear plunge pool. The hike here starts out difficult and straight up but levels out after only a quarter of a mile. Then hikers can hike along the edges of Harper Creek enjoying plunge pools and riffles, small waterfalls, and amazing swimming holes. Two miles in the falls await. You can swim at the bottom, hike to the middle, or take the Mountains to Sea trail to see from above. This is one of the our favorite NC waterfalls for sheer scale and solitude.
The aptly named Paradise Falls sits shrouded by a beautiful expanse of trees in the Nantahala National Forest. Though a stunning sight to see, this hidden gem is not for the faint of heart. The trail leading to the 100-foot falls can be somewhat difficult for the inexperienced hiker. If you’re looking for an adventure, challenge yourself to the climb: The view is well worth the trek.
Dubbed “the most popular waterfall in the Blue Ridge Mountains,” Linville Falls is a natural wonder to all who visit. The stunning three-tiered, 90-foot waterfall pours into the Linville Gorge, a massive ravine. View the breathtaking falls from one of five different overlooks, all surrounded by a gorgeous variety of white pine, oaks, hickory, and birch trees.
Additional contributors: Sam Husted and Erika Nesto