Sometimes, the best adventures are in your backyard. This seems to be especially true for Charlotteans, who are sandwiched between the ocean and the mountains—two outstanding locales for novelty, beauty, and recreation. These western North Carolina waterfall destinations beckon to the intrepid traveler who’s ready to brave the Blue Ridge and mount the peaks of the Nantahala in order to drink in a million-dollar view.
On the border of the Carolinas, Whitewater Falls lays its claim as the tallest waterfall east of the Rockies, plummeting over 800 feet. This descent occurs over the course of two drops, one on each side of the border.
The Linville Gorge wilderness area has some of the best hiking in North Carolina. A spiderweb of hiking trails offers views from many vantage points of the always popular Linville Falls. Here, water plunges down a 45-foot drop at one of the highest volumes in the Blue Ridge.
Located near Highlands, Glen Falls is composed of three sections accessible via a two(ish)-mile out and back trail with four scenic views.
Hike a 2.5-mile loop studded with ferns and wildflowers to view Crabtree Falls, where water tumbles down a rugged cliff in beautiful rivulets shrouded in fine mist.
Frankly, it’s hard to know where to look when standing before Catawba Falls in Pisgah National Forest. The headwaters of the Catawba River careen over multiple ledges, splitting and rejoining in a beautiful dance.
DuPont State Forest is teeming with waterfalls, but perhaps none are quite as stunning as High Falls which towers over 100 feet above the pool at its base.
Looking Glass Falls
Near Brevard, along a spur jutting off Highway 26, Looking Glass Falls is a 60-foot, single-drop waterfall. It features one of the state’s best swimming holes at its base.
Moore Cove Falls
Tucked away in Pisgah National Forest, Moore Cove Falls features a tall but thin stream of water that shoots past layers of stacked rock. Part of this waterfall’s popularity stems from the ability to walk behind the falls for a stunning (if wet) view.
The river that feeds Rainbow Falls bounces off numerous rock ledges. The falls drop over 100 feet and creates a stunning view. Named for the rainbows that form in the waterfall’s mist, this Pisgah National Forest landmark is a must-see.
Sliding Rock is the place to visit with kids. Located just north of Looking Glass Falls, these gradual “falls” form a natural water slide. The slide shoots adventurers into a pool waiting at its base.
Looming over the scenic White Oak Mountain Road in Columbus, Shunkawauken Falls is a great destination for those who are unable or unwilling to hike to a waterfall view. Visit after rainfall for the most impressive display.
Outside Highlands in the Nantahala National Forest, Dry Falls offers visitors the chance to wander behind the water as it drops 65 feet off of an impressive rock outcropping.
High Shoals Falls
South Mountain State Park is a short, one-hour drive from Charlotte and is home to High Shoals Falls. The High Shoals Falls loop trail is less than three miles but is packed with views. Consisting of boardwalks that crisscross over the rushing river, short rock scrambles, and earthen trails shrouded in mist from the falls, this trail is perfect for hot summer days and earns a place as a top western North Carolina waterfall.