Waterfalls and western North Carolina are almost synonymous. With hundreds of these cascading beauties flowing throughout the Pisgah National Forest, Smoky Mountains, and other parks, you won’t find a shortage of hikes to get a closer view. The best part is that these hikes are ideal for many people, regardless of age, experience, or fitness level.
Whether you love to experience nature firsthand, enjoy hiking, or want to enhance your amateur photography skills, you’ll find everything you want and more at the following 10 waterfall hikes near Asheville.
Triple Falls Trail
Located in the heart of waterfall country, DuPont State Recreational Forest is an excellent place to start your waterfall hiking excursion. While you’ll find many falls in the forest, Triple Falls is the show stealer. Featured in “The Hunger Games” and “The Last of the Mohicans,” this 120-foot waterfall is majestic. Plus, the hike to the falls is easy for kids and older adults.
To get to Triple Falls, park in the Hooker Falls parking lot. Trailheads will point the way for this 1-mile, round-trip hike. Winding its way through the Fraser firs and other 100-year-old trees, the trail isn’t paved, but taking care to watch your step should keep you safe. The trail ascends 120 feet, so you may need to take breaks along the way. However, the views are as picturesque as they come.
DuPont State Recreational Forest
1300 Staton Road
Cedar Mountain, NC 28718
Turtleback Falls Hike
Prior to 2009, Turtleback Falls was a relatively difficult destination to find. However, a trail built by the parks department provides access to one of the most amazing waterfalls near Asheville. Even better, you can get to Turtleback Falls after visiting Rainbow Falls. It’s only another 1/4 mile from Rainbow Falls, and from the parking lot, the easy to moderate journey is only 3.5 miles.
After getting to Turtleback Falls, you’re in for a treat. This popular swimming hole features a natural rock slide that propels you off a 20-foot cliff into the deep pool below. Note that the slide is for experienced swimmers only, as a strong current exists in the swimming hole after landing.
Gorges State Park
976 Grassy Ridge Road
Sapphire, NC 28774
Catawba Falls Trail
If you’re into fantasy books and movies, you’re in for a stunning sight when you get to Catawba Falls. Surrounded by forest and lined with the green hues of algae, Catawba Falls seems like a destination out of a fairy tale novel. It’s only a 1.5-mile trip to get from the parking lot to the falls.
Following a gentle stream, the relaxing hike has only a few moderate sections. Dogs are allowed on the trail, so if you have a furry friend, don’t hesitate to bring your pet along.
3074 Catawba River Road
Old Fort, NC 28762
Soco Falls is one of the more alluring sights near Asheville. It’s one of the only double waterfalls in the area, with water coming from two directions and uniting in the middle. The hike from the parking lot to the observation deck takes no more than five minutes. For a closer view or a photo op, head down the steep decline to the bottom. This short jaunt is recommended only for more active hikers.
U.S. Highway 19, south of the Blue Ridge Parkway (Soco Gap at milepost 455.7)
Maggie Valley, NC 28751
Linville Falls Hike
One of the longer hikes on our list, the 90-foot drop of Linville Falls is worth the effort. You’ll find five viewpoints to see one of North Carolina’s most photographed waterfalls, and to get to them all requires only a 4-mile hike. From the visitor center, two trails access the falls, and only one could be described as strenuous.
Warrior Lane (Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 316.4)
Marion, NC 28752
Hickory Nut Falls Trail
Like Triple Falls, Hickory Nut Falls was another waterfall featured in “The Last of the Mohicans,” and you can easily see why. Falling more than 400 feet from the top to the pool below, Hickory Nut Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. If you go at the right time of year, you may get a chance to see deer, wildflowers, and blooming rhododendrons on the 3/4-mile hike.
Chimney Rock State Park
431 Main St.
Chimney Rock, NC 28720
Rainbow Falls Trail
Pouring down an almost vertical, 150-foot rock face, Rainbow Falls is a true stunner. However, the trip to get there isn’t too shabby either. To get to this waterfall, you’ll have to head to Gorges State Park, next to Nantahala National Forest. The trail is a moderate 1.7-mile venture, but your mind will be easily preoccupied with the setting. Along the way, you’ll see massive trees and wildflower-filled meadows.
About a mile into the hike, the trails runs along the swift Horsepasture River, which is as beautiful as the other scenery. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you begin to hear the loud crash of the falls in the distance.
When you arrive, you’re greeted with a 150-foot waterfall that cascades into a boulder-filled pool. If the weather is hot, you can take a dip, or if you didn’t bring your bathing suit, take in the rays or have a picnic on one of the nearby rocks.
Gorges State Park
976 Grassy Ridge Road
Sapphire, NC 28774
Upper Whitewater Falls Trail
Situated in the middle of Nantahala National Forest, Upper Whitewater Falls is the tallest waterfall in the state, flowing 411 feet from top to bottom. In addition, the hike is one of the most accessible hikes, offering guests a 1/4-mile paved walkway ideal for children and wheelchairs. You can also take a staircase down to a second viewing area.
Upper Whitewater Falls
Nantahala National Forest
Topton, NC 28781
Moore Cove Falls Trail
Situated in the heart of the Pisgah National Forest, Moore Cove Falls is a gem. Many visitors head to the nearby Looking Glass Falls, leaving Moore Cove relatively empty. From the parking lot, you’ll find a simple 1.5-mile, round-trip hike. The best part about this 50-foot waterfall is that you can go behind it and get sprayed with a gentle mist in the process.
Moore Cove Falls
U.S. Highway 276
Brevard, NC 28712
Bridal Veil Falls Hike
With vantage points from the top, bottom, and the side, Bridal Veil Falls is perfect for taking pictures or enjoying the great outdoors. It flows more than 120 feet in total, including a 10-foot drop at the end. You’ll have to want to get here a bit more than the others, as the moderate hike winds for a 4-mile round-trip.
Bridal Veil Falls
Located along U.S. Highway 64 (Mountain Waters Scenic Byway and North Carolina Waterfall Byway)
You can’t find many places in the country where you can drive 30 minutes to an hour away from a large urban center and find the waterfalls you’ll witness near Asheville. As with any hike, make sure to exercise caution, but more than anything, enjoy the moment.