A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Download a printable checklist of all 16 waterfalls here. Worth the Effort Catawba Falls The trail to this series of cascades runs about three miles round trip through lush, mossy

Madison County Championship Rodeo

Download a printable checklist of all 16 waterfalls here. Worth the Effort Catawba Falls The trail to this series of cascades runs about three miles round trip through lush, mossy

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Download a printable checklist of all 16 waterfalls here. Worth the Effort Catawba Falls The trail to this series of cascades runs about three miles round trip through lush, mossy

How to Find 16 of North Carolina’s Best Waterfalls

Download a printable checklist of all 16 waterfalls here.


Worth the Effort

Catawba Falls
The trail to this series of cascades runs about three miles round trip through lush, mossy forest shaded by 100-foot-tall trees.
3074 Catawba River Road
Old Fort, NC 28762
(828) 652-2144

Crabtree Falls is best viewed from a wooden bridge over Big Crabtree Creek. photograph by Thomas Moors

Crabtree Falls
A 2.5-mile loop trail to this waterfall takes hikers through rhododendron thickets. A bridge over the creek in front of the falls offers the best view.
Blue Ridge Parkway, Milepost 339.5
Grassy Creek, NC 28777
(828) 668-4282

Linville Falls
The Plunge Basin Trail from the visitor center leads to an overlook and then down to the bottom of the falls for close-up views.
Blue Ridge Parkway, Milepost 316
Linville Falls, NC 28647
(828) 348-3400

Mingo Falls
The quarter-mile hike to the 120-foot-high Mingo Falls is short, but it requires climbing 161 steps.
Mingo Falls Campground
71 Big Cove Road
Cherokee, NC 28719
(865) 436-1200

In Cherokee, mingo means “big bear,” and some people refer to Mingo Falls — a spectacular horsetail plunge in the Qualla Boundary next to the Great Smoky Mountains — as Big Bear Falls. photograph by Tommy White

Rainbow Falls
The three-mile round-trip hike from the Grassy Ridge trailhead, near the Gorges State Park parking area, leads to a 150-foot-tall waterfall that’s even more spectacular after a rainfall.
976 Grassy Ridge Road
Sapphire, NC 28774
(828) 966-9099

Schoolhouse Falls
A 2.5-mile round-trip hike in Nantahala National Forest takes you to small cascades that culminate in an 18-foot freefall. The hike consists of multiple trails, so a Panthertown Valley map is highly recommended.
Panthertown Trailhead
Hogback Spur A
Lake Toxaway, NC 28747
(828) 848-8711

Whitewater Falls
These falls are so huge that they straddle the Carolinas. The short hike to NC’s Upper Whitewater Falls yields stunning views of the 411-foot plunge.
NC Highway 281
Cashiers, NC 28717
(828) 257-4200

Kid-Friendly

Dry Falls
Take the kids on the easy, quarter-mile round-trip trail to Dry Falls for a chance to see the world from behind a waterfall.
U.S. Highway 64
Highlands, NC 28741
(828) 524-6441

Hidden Falls
At less than a mile round trip, Indian Creek Trail is one of Hanging Rock State Park’s shortest hikes, with picnic tables and restrooms nearby.
Hanging Rock State Park
1005 Visitor Center Drive
Westfield, NC 27053
(336) 593-8480

Hooker Falls
One of four falls on the Little River in DuPont State Recreational Forest, this one drops off a 12-foot ledge into a nice swimming hole.
Hooker Falls Access Area
210 Staton Road
Hendersonville, NC 28739
(828) 877-6527

For a relaxing experience, the Big East Fork of Pigeon River near Skinny Dip Falls offers idyllic spots to hang a hammock. photograph by Thomas Moors

Skinny Dip Falls
Don’t fret over the name — the swimming hole at this waterfall is 100 percent family-friendly. And the mile-long round-trip hike is easy.
Blue Ridge Parkway, Milepost 417
Canton, NC 28716
(828) 348-3400

 

Cameron Moors makes the most of the rushes at Sliding Rock near Brevard. photograph by Thomas Moors

Sliding Rock
This natural water slide dumps into an eight-foot-deep pool. You can participate, or you can watch from an observation area.
7851 Pisgah Highway
Pisgah Forest, NC 28768
(828) 885-7625

Drive-up Falls

Bridal Veil Falls
Before the highway was rerouted around this waterfall, you could drive behind it. Today, you can still drive up, park, and walk behind it.
U.S. Highway 64
Highlands, NC 28741
(828) 526-2112

When folks could still drive their cars behind the waters of Bridal Veil Falls near Highlands, Keith Fischer took his shiny red 1963 Ford Thunderbird for a spin through the mist. photograph by Emily Chaplin

Shunkawauken Falls
On the outskirts of Columbus is a 150-foot-tall waterfall that you can see from small pull-offs on both sides.
White Oak Mountain Road
Columbus, NC 28722
(800) 440-7848

Soco Falls
This double waterfall in the Qualla Boundary near Cherokee requires a very short walk from U.S. Highway 19.
Blue Ridge Parkway, Milepost 455.7
Maggie Valley, NC 28751
(800) 334-9036

Walker Falls
“Car hikers” love this 45-foot-tall roadside waterfall just north of Asheville — one of 10 falls along an 8.8-mile forest service road.
National Forest Service Road 74
Big Ivy Area
Near Barnardsville, NC 28709
(828) 877-3265