Want the top tips for finding the best waterfalls in NC? We’ve got you covered.
North Carolina is known for a lot things, our hospitality, our food, the classic Southern charms. But we are also incredibly well-traveled for our scenery. Fall is a great time to visit any of our hundreds of waterfalls. In the North Carolina mountains, Transylvania County alone is host to 250, giving it the accreditation of the “Land of the Waterfalls”. With so many waterfalls to choose from, we’ve narrowed down the list to only ten of the best waterfalls in North Carolina.
This is perhaps the most photographed waterfall in NC. A moderate hike of 1.6 miles round-trip offers four overlooks.
- Where it is: Just off Milepost 316 on the Blue Ridge Parkway
- How to Access: Hike
One of the best waterfalls in NC for fall foliage. You can hike around this waterfall while enjoying the beautiful fall scenery.
- Where: Off Milepost 339 on the Blue Ridge Parkway
- Access: Just under a mile hike
You can enjoy the 150ft falls safely perched on a nearby boulder at its base or top. It’s also one of the best waterfalls in NC for swimming.
- Where: Pisgah National Forest
- Access: A hiking trail from Gorges State Park
This seemingly oxymoron of a waterfall has two great features: it’s roadside and you can walk behind it.
- Where: Nantahala National Forest along US Highway 64 near Highlands
- Access: Just a short walk from the road.
Looking Glass Falls
Looking Glass Falls is one of the most popular and beautiful waterfalls in NC and also the easiest to view.
- Where: Forest Heritage Scenic Byway near Brevard
- Access: Roadside
This hidden oasis is one of the best waterfalls in NC for swimming and relaxing, but be aware as the name implies it’s rather hard to find.
- Where: Deep in the Nantahala National Forest near the Georgia state line.
- Access: About a half-mile hike from the parking area.
Elk River Falls
This 50ft waterfall is another of the best waterfalls for swimming and sunning on the rocks as the water spills out into a picturesque oval pool surrounded by tons of boulders.
- Where: Near Beech Mountain and Banner Elk in the Pisgah National Forest
- Access: A short very easy five-minute walk.
Quarry Falls (AKA Bust Your Butt Falls)
The nickname for this place is not evenly remotely kidding. It’s a popular swimming hole and natural slide, but be careful as the boulders are extra slippery around this falls.
- Where: Along US Highway 64 near Highlands
- Access: Just a short walk over some rocks at a couple pull-offs for parking.
Laurel Creek Falls (AKA Trash Can Falls)
Don’t let the nickname fool you. These falls are pristine, beautiful and make for a pretty awesome swimming hole. Although you should be careful with inexperienced hikers around here as the boulders can be somewhat difficult to navigate.
- Where: About 15 minutes outside of Boone along US 321
- Access: A somewhat difficult hike
The highest waterfall east of the Rockies, Whitewater Falls plunges 411 feet near Cashiers in Nantahala National Forest.
- Where: 155 miles Southwest of Charlotte near Cashiers
Access: A short walk from from the parking lot that is wheelchair accessible.
Words by: Ellie Barker