Breathtaking Waterfalls of North Carolina You Should Not Miss

Coming to North Carolina for a few days? The all-famous, mesmerizing waterfalls of North Carolina must be on your bucket list. Most of them are quite easy to access from the basic trails while some of them have difficult trails with long and steep paths! Either way, you get to have loads of fun exploring nature and indulging in plenty of recreational activities. Let’s get started with our list of the best waterfalls in North Carolina.

Each of the mentioned waterfalls is distinctive from the others. Based on your personal preferences and our reviews, you can choose the right one for your next trip!

The 10 Incredibly Beautiful Waterfalls of North Carolina

There are over 270 waterfalls in North Carolina. The following 10 are the most sublime ones.

Upper Whitewater Falls

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PERFECT FOR: Spotting the Tallest Waterfall in NC
Upper Whitewater Falls
Upper Whitewater Falls. @Glenn Marsch

If you want to spend your day in an aesthetically-pleasing environment, the Upper White Waterfalls of Nantahala National Forest should be on top of your list. You will be surrounded by lush greenery and plenty of “Instagrammable” spots.

The hike itself is among the stunningly beautiful experiences you will have here because of the surrounding mountains as well as the views of Lake Jocassee. Besides, the windflower forest also gives a pleasant vibe and lets you enjoy the serenity.

Primarily, there are two waterfalls in the area including the Upper Whitewater Falls and the Lower Whitewater Falls. The Upper Whitewater Falls has a height of 411 feet while the lower one has a height of 400 feet. For its spectacular view, most people visit the Upper Whitewater falls. Although disputed, the Upper Whitewater Falls is claimed to be the tallest waterfall East of the Rockies Mountain.

Basic facilities such as parking, wheelchair access, and clean washrooms are present here so you can even take an elderly with you. The trek to the waterfall is stroller-friendly making it convenient for parents to carry their babies. Besides, being just half a mile for the round trip, it becomes a convenient family-friendly place.

One important thing to keep in mind is the drive time which is around 1.5 hours from Asheville. If you ever visit North Carolina, make sure you don’t miss out on this heavenly spot on Earth.

Rainbow Falls

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PERFECT FOR: Spotting the Spectacular Display of Rainbow
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Rainbow Falls

One of the most picturesque waterfalls in North Carolina is the Rainbow Falls. It is known for its frequent display of rainbows seen as a result of mist released from the 150-foot waterfall. The Rainbow Falls is located 55 miles from downtown Asheville in the Pisgah National Forest close to Gorges State Park.

The hike is approximately 3 miles for the round trip. If you are truly looking for a postcard view, don’t hesitate to go for the long hike. Prepare to have your feet wet on the way because you will be crossing numerous creek crossings. On the trail, you get to see the hardwood forest, Horsepasture river, and greenery everywhere. The mountains in the background are an extra!

Once you reach Rainbow falls, you will experience a splash of mist with a cool breeze. The sound of water falling from such high ground is just awesome! Take pictures, have a snack, and just enjoy the beautiful view. If you aren’t tired, you can proceed on the same route for 10 minutes towards Turtleback Falls and Drift Falls.

The best time to visit Rainbow Falls is between June and October. However, as the weather is too hot and there isn’t much shade, it is advised to keep extra water with you. Portable toilets are set up in different spots. Pets are allowed but only with a leash. With numerous spots for picnicking and taking photographs, it has become one of the most popular waterfalls in North Carolina.

Linville Falls

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PERFECT FOR: Scenic Beauty and Photography
Linville Waterfall
Linville Waterfall. @Hemant bhor

If you are an inexperienced hiker, you should consider Linville Falls for spending the day. Located in Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, it presents some of the most scenic views for visitors. The water drops from a height of 90 feet into the Linville Gorge. Jagged cliff walls, hanging trees, chirping of birds, and multiple viewpoints of the waterfall really give a mesmerizing view.

From the visitor’s center, the Erwin’s View Trail is a 1.6 miles journey round trip. This is the easiest trail highly recommended for those that are traveling with children. While you might see the waterfall at many points during the hike, the best view comes around the Chimney View Overlook where you can see the entire surrounding area as well.

Linville Falls is open year-round but the best time to visit is between August and October. The atmosphere is cool and breezy while the leaves are changing their color in the Fall season.

Convenience is another big plus at Linville Falls. Multiple facilities for the visitors including restrooms, picnic points, a visitors’ center, multiple parking spots, and general stores are present here. Linville Falls are just an hour’s drive from Asheville allowing you to reach there in no time! If you are looking for one of the most beautiful waterfalls in North Carolina, Linville Falls are just the right place to hang out. Also, check out different waterfalls in Ohio if you happen to be there.

Looking Glass Falls

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PERFECT FOR: Recreation and Photography
Looking Glass Falls north carolina
Looking Glass Falls

A “must-see” waterfall located in Western North Carolina is the Looking Glass Falls. It got its name from a rock where water freezes during the winter and reflects like a mirror when the sun shines at it. Framed with a towering cliff, the height of this waterfall is 60 feet. Given the easy access via road from the US 276 highway, visitors can come at any time of the day and access the main trail.

Although there are viewpoints on the highway, you can go further via the trail for a closer look and some amazing photographs as well! The journey to the waterfall is a quarter mile only. You’ll get to enjoy some of the most scenic views, vibrant wildflowers, and green moss. The continuous cool spray of mist from the waterfall along with a clear view of the pool really makes it worth viewing.

Winters are the best time to visit the Looking Glass Falls if you want to have a “look” at the “Looking Glass”. During summer, try visiting during the afternoon as the sun comes up over the waterfall assisting adding to the beauty of the entire area. Swimming is allowed but at your own risk. Remember to not climb any rocks because they are slippery.

If you are looking for something extra, we recommend you visit in the early morning to enjoy the hypnotizing view of fog, rising sun, and serenity. To avoid crowds, visit during the weekdays and you won’t face any parking problems as well.

There aren’t any proper restrooms or general stores so plan accordingly. Overall, it’s a great place for a picnic or even a trailside breakfast!

Related Read: The 8 Most Gorgeous Waterfalls Of Indiana

Dry Falls

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PERFECT FOR: Unique View of a Waterfall
Dry Falls
Dry Falls

You can easily see any waterfall from the front, but if you want to see the backside of a waterfall, Dry Falls are your To-Go Destination! The viewing platform of this waterfall is located on the water curtain allowing you to view the waterfall from a unique angle at the back of the waterfall. The best part? The hike to this waterfall is an easy one—quarter mile for the round trip making it child-friendly, pet-friendly, and wheelchair-friendly as well. Fun for the whole family is guaranteed!

Dropping from a height of 65 feet from an overhanging rock, the Dry Falls gives away a bright and scenic view of the white waters falling on the rock bed below. With plenty of shade and a breeze of mist from the waterfall, it becomes a great picnic spot during the summer. You can also explore the shallow cave on the backside and sit around for a snack.

One can easily access the Dry Falls from Highway 64 between Franklin and Highlands. However, there is an extra rush of visitors during the middle of the day as well as during the holiday season. Plan for weekdays during the evening as this is one of the best times to visit the Dry Falls.

Keep in mind that there aren’t any major facilities available over here except for parking. Even that gets limited during peak hours. It takes about 1-1/2 hours to get to Dry Falls from Asheville so plan accordingly.

Soco Falls

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PERFECT FOR: Short Hike Fans
Soco Falls
Soco Falls

The Soco Falls is truly a hidden gem of North Carolina, particularly because they are double waterfalls that plunge together. Located between Maggie Valley and Cherokee Indian Reservation, The Soco Falls have emerged as a famous tourist attraction in North Carolina. The buzz of these waterfalls can be heard from far distances as the two drop from a height of 120 feet. Truly, they are “Two Good to be True”. – (pun intended)

Soco Falls isn’t for everyone because of the difficult trail. While the basic observation deck is an easy one, the path going further down is steep and slippery. Ropes are set up on the second trail for better control and balance.

From the parking area, it is a 1-mile journey for the round trip. Once you reach the bottom of the waterfall, you can spend some time here. The sound of gushing water followed by scenic views makes the perfect evening for anyone.

The Soco Falls is open for visitors year-round from dawn to dusk. It can take you about an hour to reach here from Asheville. Drivers need to have undivided attention because there is quite a small sign about the location of the falls on Highway 19 — often, missed by the drivers. Just keep in mind that the falls are approximately 10 miles East of Cherokee and 5.5 miles West of Maggie Valley.

There aren’t any shops over here so you should carry all your picnic items accordingly. Most people who visited the Soco Falls highlighted them as one of the best waterfalls in North Carolina which is why they made it to our list as well. After experiencing the stunning double waterfalls of Soco in North Carolina, you can also plan a trip to Connecticut to discover more of nature’s beauty in the form of gorgeous waterfalls. 

Widow’s Creek Falls

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PERFECT FOR: Families with Children
Widow’s Creek Falls
Widow’s Creek Falls

The Widow’s Creek Falls is undoubtedly one of the prettiest waterfalls in North Carolina with plenty of space to roam around. This waterfall is located in Stone Mountain State Park at 3042 Frank Pkwy. With the falls just a mile away from the parking, you’ll be able to hear the soothing sound of the water dropping from a height of 25 feet.

Wild flowers, plants, and breathtaking views are going to make your day! Pack some picnic lunch, sunscreen, and some swimming clothes with you. Wait! There’s more. You can also go rock climbing, camping, and even fishing on the river. The best time to visit Widow’s Creek Falls is during the summer because the water is cold.

If you have children with you, Widow’s Creek Falls is a great idea because of the numerous facilities over here which include the visitors’ center, shops, restrooms, and some areas for children to play around. You can also take your pets over here if they are on a leash.

Crabtree Falls

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PERFECT FOR: Experiencing a Difficult Trail
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Crabtree Falls. Image: Wikimedia Commons

The easily accessible waterfalls don’t thrill the enthusiasts much which is why Crabtree Falls is next on our list of best waterfalls in North Carolina. Located at Milepost 339.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Crabtree Falls gives a tiresome yet fun-filled hiking experience to visitors.

The fall got its name from the lone Crabtree that is found on the base of the fall. With a height of 70 feet, the view is amazing. The best part? There are plenty of spots to snap a few pictures including the bridge over the creek.

Be prepared for a long trail of 3 miles for the round trip. There is also a loop trail for those who want to explore even further. While it just adds an extra half-mile to the trail, you get to see plenty of other exciting views. The blooming flowers and earthy smell bring you a relaxing feeling. Just keep in mind that it is a difficult trail so you must wear footwear with maximum grip.

Although it is a one-hour drive from Asheville, you will surely be delighted to visit it. Take the kiddos and pack some snacks for a great time with the entire family. There are plenty of facilities over here including well-made restrooms, parking space for recreational vehicles, a visitors’ center, and shops as well. Crabtree Falls is emerging to become the most popular waterfall in North Carolina.

Recommended Read: 9 Grand Waterfalls In Oklahoma That You Must Visit

Triple Falls

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PERFECT FOR: Exploring Nature with 3 Waterfalls
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Triple Falls. Image: Wikimedia Commons

If you are just done with seeing a regular waterfall, head on to the Triple Falls located in DuPont State Forest. Three cascades bring a combined drop of water of about 120 feet. What’s cool? You can physically stand in the middle of the waterfall at a rock-level surface. Besides, this waterfall has been a former location for filming “The Hunger Games”.

There are two access points to the Triple Falls. You can either park at the Hooker Falls parking area for a 1-mile hike (round trip) or you can park at the High Falls parking area with a 2.2-mile hike (round trip). On your way, you will enjoy lush greenery with tall trees and the constant sound of fast-flowing water plunging from the three cascades.

Keep in mind that swimming is not allowed because of the currents. Generally, the waterfall is crowded on weekends which is why we recommend visiting mid-week. You can visit it during summer as well as winter because you’ll have a unique experience in both seasons.

The Triple Falls can become a great picnic spot for those that are not interested in swimming. It will take you less than an hour’s drive to reach here from Asheville. Most visitors have visited this waterfall more than once and suggested that it was always a new and refreshing experience.

Sliding Rock Waterfalls

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PERFECT FOR: Fun and Entertainment
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Sliding Rock Waterfalls. Wikimedia Commons

How amazing would it be to slide down a waterfall instead of viewing it from a distance? This is possible at The Sliding Rock Waterfalls located in Pisgah National Forest. Instead of falling directly from a height, the waterfalls on a 50-degree declining rock make it a sliding rock for the visitors. The 60-foot slide ends in an 8-feet deep pool and has become a fun activity for children as well as adults!

Instead of going to the beach, you can plan your next trip here. The Sliding Rock Waterfalls offer several recreational activities to visitors. It costs only $4 to enter the recreational area. You can hang around, play games, have sliding races, enjoy the scenic beauty, or visit The Cradle of Forestry — a large area dedicated to forest preservation and education.

The round trip is just 1.5 miles so you won’t be exhausted. Although the area is open year-round, the restrooms and lifeguards are present between the 2nd of May and the 15th of September which becomes the best time to visit the waterfall.  Keep in mind that picnicking is not allowed at the Sliding Rock Waterfalls because the waste can flow directly into the waterfall quite easily.

It is recommended to visit it early in the morning if you plan to visit on weekends because noon to 4 pm gets busy with loads of visitors. The weekdays are less rushy. For fun-filled family entertainment, you are invited to “The Plunge”.

After visiting all the mesmerizing waterfalls of North Carolina, you can also head to South Carolina and make a stop at some of the top resorts that will provide you with luxury and comfort during your stay.

Things To Consider Before Going On A Waterfall Trip

To ensure you have a safe and enjoyable trip on the waterfalls, take notes of the following things.

  • Safety First — Everyone wants to have fun when they go on a waterfall but not at the cost of safety. Most waterfalls have steep trails as well as wet rocks which is why it is recommended to wear shoes with extra grip. There have been several accidents reported leading to deaths for those that were not careful with their feet. Flip-Flops and Sandals are a BIG NO. Make sure that children are well-supervised. Give them a small training session prior to the trip where you explain to them the dos and don’ts. We also advise you to have a First-Aid Kit in your car as you go. In case of any mishap, it will be quite useful.
  • Time and Schedule — The above-mentioned waterfalls are some of the most popular ones which is why they can get rushy. In case you plan on going on weekends, we recommend going early in the morning or after 3.30 pm. Morning to afternoon times is peak hours with the maximum rush of visitors, particularly on the weekends. On the other hand, going on weekdays is a great idea too. There will be less rush of visitors at any time of the day so you can go at your convenience.
  • Long Drive — Most of the waterfalls in North Carolina are at least an hour’s drive from Downtown Asheville. Some of them even have a 2-hour journey for a single side. Keep the long drive in mind before you go to the waterfalls. Schedule the trip accordingly so you can return on time. Besides, the driver undergoes extra fatigue because of a long drive plus the hike of the waterfalls, Therefore, the driver must have taken adequate rest prior to the long drive. Having a substitute driver is also a great idea!
  • Pack These Items — The following items are essential if you plan for a picnic on a waterfall. You should carry a clean sheet, food supplies, plates, utensils, extra clothes (in case you fall and the ones you are wearing get dirty), a backpack, power supplies (such as a power bank), hat, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, clean towels, waterproof camera, and trash bags. We recommend carrying light food items such as a sandwich so you don’t feel bloated. In case you are taking your pets with you, keep their food and medicines as well.
  • Choose the Right Waterfall — Imagine going to a waterfall with your family where the hike is too difficult for the children. Most likely, you will have to return. Therefore, it is important to choose the destination wisely. Among the numerous waterfalls in North Carolina, many of them have a Visitor’s Center and are family-friendly with easy trails. However, there are some which have difficult trails with steep wet rocks. In case you are a solo enthusiast, you might want to pick the difficult ones. Choose carefully for a great experience!

How We Pick Our Recommendations

Each member of our specialized team loves to travel! In the case of waterfalls in North
Carolina, Sara has been to many of them after which she was able to compile the ten most
intriguing ones. Our recommendations for waterfalls have been picked on various factors
including popularity, ease of hike, family-friendliness, facilities, and other related factors as well.
Personal experience on all of these waterfalls adds more to the reliability of our
recommendation. We also take into account the reviews by other travelers to pick the most
suitable options for the visitors.

Final Words

Now that you are aware of the best waterfalls in North Carolina, we recommend you begin
with the easiest ones. Be careful close to steep trails as it is quite slippery. Make sure you follow
the rules and regulations to avoid getting yourself into any problems. Pro Tip — Try to go earlier
and on the weekdays as these are less rushy times. Have fun!

Best Waterfalls In North Carolina - FAQs

What is the tallest waterfall in North Carolina?

The tallest waterfall in North Carolina is the Upper Whitewater Falls with a fall height of 411 feet.

Which county has the most waterfalls in NC?

Transylvania County has the most waterfalls in North Carolina with around 250 waterfalls spread throughout the county.

Which waterfall was in The Hunger Games?

Triple Falls, NC was the waterfall in Hunger Games.

What is the most beautiful waterfall in North Carolina?

Rainbow Falls is the most beautiful waterfall in North Carolina located close to Gorges State Park.

Umar Ali
As editor in chief, I am always on the road, searching for hidden gems, undiscovered waterfalls, enticing hikes to explore, underrated delis, and more. Crafting compelling content that captures the true essence of each place is my passion. With years of experience in travel journalism, I strive to provide unbiased and factual content based on my real-life experiences. When I'm not out exploring, you can find me delving into local markets and devouring new foods, immersing myself in the cultures and communities that make each destination unique. It might sound like a tough job, but I love it!

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