North Carolina is known as a land of natural wonders. None more alluring than the cascading falls found in mountain towns, and there are plenty of waterfalls in NC to enjoy. Nestled within the Blue Ridge and Smoky terrains are stunning feats of rushing waters sure to captivate. You can explore these beautiful bounties while traveling the Carolinas, here are our favorites waterfalls in North Carolina to check out!
Beautiful Waterfalls in NC
Looking Glass Falls
Located near the tiny town of Brevard, these falls are breathtaking. They are visible from the scenic road of the Blue Ridge Parkway, so you can do a quick pass by or pop out to enjoy the stunning sight up close and personal. At 60 feet tall, these falls are a force of nature. The walk to the overlook is easily accessible and you can even take a quick dip to cool off in the shallow pool at the base.
Get ready to take a gander at North Carolina’s largest waterfall tucked away in the lush Nantahala National Park. The Upper and Lower Falls are each over 400 feet tall, and a popular hotspot for photo ops. From the parking lot to the observation deck is only a quarter mile. If you have time, you can head down some stairs for an even better vantage point below and take in the immense power and allure of these falls in their entirety.
This waterfall is a very special North Carolina pastime. It flows down 60 feet of very smooth rock, creating one of the world’s most wonderful natural waterslides. The incline isn’t very steep, and it leads right into a refreshing pool of clear waters at the end. It’s the perfect way to cool off in Pisgah National Forest and get a good rush of adrenaline for all the adventure seekers. There are observation platforms as well, in case you prefer to stay dry while enjoying these falls.
These falls are named after a lone tree which grows at their base. Here the journey to get to the spectacular cascades is just as stunning. The natural scenery surrounding this Blue Ridge Parkway is enchanting in any season, from wildflowers blooming to fall foliage. It’s a three-mile trek round trip with a fair amount of elevation gain as well. The bridge before the waterfall offers an idyllic vantage point to view all 70 feet of these rushing cascades.
Dry Falls are an unforgettable experience located in the quaint hamlet of Highlands. It’s an easy quarter mile hike to get to them with a verdant and vista filled walk along the way. They provide a rare and unique opportunity to actually walk behind the waterfall itself, hence the name. Though you may be met with a bit of mist spraying from the cascading waters, it’s all part of the fun. It’s really an up close and personal encounter you won’t find anywhere else. It’s only about 75 feet tall, but it feels impressive nonetheless, especially when viewing the intense river rushing over the rocky cliff from below.
Rainbow Falls is one of the best waterfalls in North Carolina set in the gorgeous Gorges State Park. The water flows down 150 feet over the mountainous ledge. In doing so, the sunshine hits the mist creating a captivating sight of rainbow colors bouncing off the water. It’s easiest to see during midday, and you’re sure to come out with some stellar photographs. The trail is strenuous with a steep descent but worth it, at one and a half miles long each way. Pack a picnic for post hike or go for a swim a bit farther down the river. See if you can spot the lesser-known Hidden Falls along the way.
Skinny Dip Falls
Though the name may be misleading for just how scantily clad you should be at these falls, they do offer several scenic swimming holes for a refreshing dip in nature. They’re nestled high in the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, and the trail is only about one mile there and back. The setting here is pretty and peaceful, for a serene way to soak up the Carolina landscape. There are several wooden platforms to look out over the waterfall before you plunge into one of the pools. The trailhead is not marked, so just find the Mountains to Sea Trail sign at the Looking Glass Rock parking lot.
Moore Cove Falls
Set near the town of Brevard in Pisgah National Forest, these freestanding falls provide a pristine and rugged peek into the natural wonders of North Carolina. Often overlooked at only 50 feet tall, the magic of Moore Cave lies in beautiful cliffs and secret cave just behind the falls. You can venture in to explore and enjoy the experience of listening to the gentle cascade echoing inside. This is a magical escape from reality into the wonderful world of waterfalls.
Mingo Falls is one of the most scenic waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains, nestled near the small town of Cherokee, North Carolina. It’s about 120 feet tall, it streams down the craggy rock face giving it a graceful and grand appearance. A small footbridge over Mingo Creek offers a fantastic vantage point to take in the views of this beauty. The trail is only half a mile there and back, making it a very accessible pick. It’s best to visit after some big rains.
One of the most stunning waterfalls in NC. Set in Saluda, Pearson’s Falls are a 90-foot cascade flowing down a set of boulder made stairs for a dramatic picture. The paved trail is short and easy, running alongside the babbling brook that creates the falls, making for a very tranquil journey. There are even several benches to stop for a relaxing respite in this peaceful reserve. It’s maintained by the Tyson Garden Club, who present this excursion as a botanical garden, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for native and rare flora species, there are over 200. As it’s one of the few private waterfalls, be sure to check the schedule for admission hours.
Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls are found in Nantahala National Forest. Located right on the roadside, they’re hard to miss and easy to enjoy. There’s a short spur loop trail to try as well, that will take you behind the falls for a unique vista, either by car or by foot. It’s about 45 feet tall, and quite popular among passersby. The volume of water is less intense than others, making it safe to walk around and stand behind, a rare and idyllic waterfall encounter to be sure.
Just east of Cherokee, you’ll find the magnificent Soco Falls. It’s a two for one special, as it’s the magical meeting point of separate rivers that conjoin to make twin falls flowing 120 feet down rocky cliffs and coming together as a single stream. You can spot it from the road, so it’s easy to pull over for a pretty pic. There’s also a short trail that takes you to an observation deck for a bit of a better view. If you’re feeling very adventurous there’s a more strenuous hike that ends at the bottom of the waterfall.
Close to Asheville, a great jumping off point for many of these falls, is the dazzling High Falls in Dupont State Recreational Forest. It’s 150 feet tall and very wide. This Asheville waterfall makes quite a splash, literally. The trek to arrive is a little over a mile and moderately difficult. The trail here extends to take you past several other waterfalls on this list as well, including Bridal Veil Falls and Triple Falls. It’s a great option for a winter visit as well, since the icy formation from the falls appear as actual works of art.
Triple Falls is located on the Little River in Dupont State Recreational Forest. Aptly named, it does have three distinct tiers flowing into the cascade from different angles. In total the drop is 125 feet. The start of the trail follows along the river and turns into a steep ascent towards the end. You may recognize this waterfall from its brief appearance in the film Hunger Games.
However, even more exciting is the fact that you can have the rare chance of standing right in the middle of the falls on a flat rock plateau below. The surface can be slippery and the current strong so be careful here. From the trailhead, this trek is a little over two miles round trip with the option to extend to see its neighboring cascades.
While these falls are on the shorter side, at only 15 feet tall, they are incredibly wide offering a unique rectangular shape you won’t find at other cascades. It’s worth seeing, especially if already visiting the Little River at Dupont State Recreational Forest. The trail to these falls is only a quarter mile on its own. You can take in the scenic setting from many viewpoints here, from the side, from above, and from the front. They offer an added historical allure as they’re said to be named after Edward Hooker who ran a mill on the river in the 1800s.
Ensconced in Nantahala National Park near Highlands, Glen Falls are a secret gem of all the best waterfalls in North Carolina. This Blue Valley triple waterfall offers three separate and stunning sections. The upper falls are the most impressive, dropping at 70 feet. The middle falls from 60 feet and the lower portion flows down just 15 feet more. The hike is two miles round trip, and it offers an array of awe-inspiring surroundings. There is an elevation change of 400 feet throughout, however with plenty of switchbacks the trail never gets too strenuous.
Linville Falls are famously popular for their spectacular setting at the Linville Gorge, often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Southern Appalachians. Right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, these falls are 90 feet high. The hike is a little under two miles round trip, with several sweeping lookouts along the way. The Chimney View Overlook lets you take in this captivating three-tiered beauty in its entirety. Jagged cliffs and dense forest add to the allure of this natural attraction.
Lower Falls at Graveyard Field
This is a perfect pick to soak up the scenery of the surrounding mountains. The trek is a mere third of a mile, and it’s easily accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Yellowstone River flows 60 feet down a series of ledges into a deep clear pool at the base. You can hike down to the bottom for a serene swim or simply enjoy the sights from the observation deck provided. You can also continue onto a longer trail that will take you to the much smaller upper falls. The area is named for its tree stump filled appearance resulting from large storms and logging over the course of several centuries.
Catawba Falls are found in Pisgah National Forest. They offer upper, middle, and lower sections, for breathtaking panoramas all around. The trail is two miles and takes you right to the base of the majestic 100-foot falls, where there’s a calm and cool pool for a summer swim. A stunning sight to behold, the Catawba River cascades over a wide mossy and boldered scene, appearing as if there are dozens of smaller waterfalls making up this magnificent marvel.
Elk River Falls
Set close to the border of North Carolina near the charming town of Banner Elk in Beech Mountain, Elk River Falls are a 50-foot cascade rushing over rockface. The wide oval plunge pool at the bottom is certainly a highlight here, surrounded by smooth rock perfect for sunbathing on after a swim in the calm wading waters. The hike is short but steep and leads right to the breathtaking base of these falls. There’s an easy trail that takes you to the top of the falls as well for a beautiful bird’s eye view.