The great state of North Carolina is abundant with beauty from the mountains to the sea. It also offers up some of the most stunning waterfall hikes in the country. Now that autumn is approaching, you will want to add these scenic stops to your list of must do’s.
Located on the Cherokee Nation, between Cherokee NC and Maggie Valley NC along Highway 19, lies the majestic Soco Falls. Soco Falls is a double waterfall that is particularly beautiful because of the jagged rock formations. In the 1700s, Soco Gap was used by the Cherokee as the main entrance to their land, and also served as an outpost for ambushes.
The trail to the observation deck is a short, but steep, quarter-mile loop that is good for all skill levels; however, be very careful if you head down the trail from the observation deck to below. This area can be extremely slippery.
Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls Trail
Rainbow Falls sits in Gorges State Park and is easily one of Western NC’s best waterfall hikes. Plunging 125 feet below from the Horsepasture River, the mist from Rainbow Falls creates a magical rainbow that dances in the sunlight.
The hike to Rainbow Falls is a moderate 1.5 miles each way and then another 1-mile round trip back to Turtleback Falls. Use extreme caution as you approach the waterfall, as the water is very strong, producing a mist that makes the rocks quite slippery.
Triple Falls Trail at Dupont State Forest
Dupont State Recreational Forest is a nearly 11,000-acre forest located in Henderson and Transylvania counties. Within this lush forest lies Triple Falls Trail, a 2.3-mile trail good for all skill levels featuring this stunning 120-foot tall waterfall. Triple Falls also has a level rock surface, offering the opportunity to stand in the middle of the falls and safely enjoy the views of this cascading beauty.
This is a quick 1 mile round-trip hike from Hooker Falls parking area or 2.2 mile round-trip from High Falls parking area, which allows you to see High Falls along the way. Be sure to stop at the visitor’s center at High Falls for maps more info on other waterfalls to see on your visit.
Graveyard Fields Trail
Graveyard Fields Trail is a relatively moderate 3.3-mile hike located off of the Blue Ridge Parkway southwest of Asheville. This beautiful trail has views of surrounding mountains including Black Balsam Knob. The Yellowstone Prong is the source of the two waterfalls in a valley surrounded by wildflowers and the 6,000-foot peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
In 1925, a massive fire burned this recently logged area and left tree stumps that looked like gravestones, for which the area was named. This is a hike that is not to be missed!
Bust Your Butt Falls
This area is located on the Cullasaja River along Highway 64, near Highlands, and is part of a very scenic stretch of road called Mountain Scenic Waters Byway in the Nantahala National Forest. The falls plunge down into a deep pool below that is a popular swimming hole. There are many large rocks that offer great spots for sunning and picnicking.
Mingo Falls, also called Big Bear Falls in Cherokee, is one of the highest waterfalls in southern Appalachia at nearly 200 feet and is located in the Qualla Boundary, a land trust of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. It is roughly a 5-minute drive from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The hike up to the falls is relatively short at only a quarter-mile long but is an intense climb of 161 steps. Morning is a great time to visit, as the area is magically shrouded in fog. Don’t let the intense climb intimidate you. The reward will be well worth it.
Moore Cove Falls
This spectacular 50-foot waterfall is located off of U.S. 276 (Forest Heritage Scenic Byway) and is only 1 mile north of Looking Glass Falls in the Pisgah National Forest. You will find no signs for Moore Cove, but there is an information board in the parking area that will let you know you’re in the right spot.
This is one of the few waterfalls you can actually walk behind and stand underneath a large rock overhang to breathe in this enchanting view.
High Shoals Falls
Located in South Mountains State Park, south of Morganton is the very scenic High Shoals Falls. There are two different trail options, one being a 2-mile round-trip hike and the other a 2.7-mile loop, both with views of this breathtaking 60-foot cascading waterfall.
These trails meander you through the Jacob Fork River, through cliffs and rhododendron forests. Be sure to also check out Hemlock Nature Trail which runs parallel to the river with additional views and educational signs.
At only 1.4 miles, this is a kid-friendly trail that offers striking views of this 75-foot waterfall. You will also pass through the Cullasaja Gorge on the drive to Dry Falls, which is a beautiful scenic drive.
Dry Falls earned its name from the fact that you can walk behind it, which offers another perspective of these impressive falls!
Whitewater Falls, Jocassee Gorges
Just an hour outside of downtown Asheville sits Whitewater Falls, the tallest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains at 411-foot Whitewater Falls sits in two states, North and South Carolina, and you can see two waterfalls in one trip. Upper falls can be easily accessed by a pathway in North Carolina, and lower falls are accessed through South Carolina.
It is an easy quarter-mile walk to the top observation area. These are two of the most photographed waterfalls so bring your camera, take pics and impress your friends and family with these astounding views!
With North Carolina being home to over 250 waterfalls, it’s difficult to narrow down your list, but don’t forget to add these 10 hidden gems. Go outdoors this fall on a waterfall hiking adventure and cross these off your bucket list! If you prefer to hike in Western NC, check out our list of free hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway.