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20+ Kid-Friendly Waterfalls In NC (Easy Hikes And Swimming Holes!)

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on May 8, 2024.

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One of the greatest things about this state is all the kid-friendly waterfalls in NC. We’ve been taking ours to waterfalls from the beginning, but many are not easy to reach for kids on their own.

That’s why we created this guide, with more than 20 waterfalls that children can easily enjoy. We’ve also included hiking distances, safety info about swimming (only at the base), and an important reminder for us all to leave no trace.

You should share those details with your kids, so they can safely and responsibly enjoy these kid-friendly waterfalls in NC!

We’ve divided our guide into the following sections:

  • What Makes a Waterfall Kid-Friendly?
  • Swimming
  • Leave No Trace
  • Kid-Friendly Waterfalls in NC
  • Ready to Enjoy These Kid-Friendly Waterfalls in NC?

Whether you’re a new resident, a frequent visitor, or a local, we’re leaving no detail behind. If you live in North Carolina and are wondering, “What are the best easy access waterfalls near me?” we think this NC travel guide will help you out!

Read More: Western North Carolina (and 100+ Wonderful Places to Visit)

What Makes a Waterfall Kid-Friendly?

We’ve taken our kiddo to North Carolina waterfalls from soon after birth to today. Many we’ve seen together wouldn’t qualify as “kid-friendly.” Examples include Elk River Falls and Rainbow Falls, which we’ve seen together under the utmost caution.

For the purpose of this article, here is how we define a kid-friendly waterfall:

  • The hike is relatively short, flat, and do-able for young children to walk on their own.
  • Most of the kid-friendly waterfalls in NC that we listed also have natural surface paths. 

Read More: 100+ Unique Things to Do in North Carolina


North Carolina Waterfall Byway Stops Schoolhouse Falls

In this article, we will also list whether or not this waterfall would make for a great swimming area for children. Here are a few reminders if you decide to swim at a waterfall in North Carolina:

  • It is always a good idea for children to wear secure shoes and floatation devices around water that is deeper than knee length. 
  • With a major exception of seasonal lifeguards at Sliding Rock Falls, there are no lifeguards present at waterfalls.
  • Also, all of our recommendations for swimming only include swimming at the base of the waterfall.
  • Swimming at the top of waterfalls is extremely dangerous and not recommended for anyone—even skilled swimmers. 

Leave No Trace

While hiking on the trails of North Carolina, remember to Leave no Trace. We align with the LNT organization’s principles but here are a few points of theirs that we particularly align with:

  • Trash does not belong in nature. Take out anything you bring with you.
  • Respect wildlife.
  • Stay on the designated trail.

We are grateful for the many volunteers who help to keep our North Carolina waterways clean but don’t add to the problem. 

Kid-Friendly Waterfalls in NC

We’ve alphabetically organized these kid-friendly waterfalls in NC. After reading, you can visually plan your trip to them via our map of waterfalls.

Read More: The NC Tripping North Carolina Travel Map

Carter Falls 

Hike Distance: 1-mile roundtrip
Swimming Allowed

Kid-friendly waterfalls in NC

Carter Falls is one of our absolute favorite kid-friendly waterfalls in NC. It’s also the first that we’ll recommend to anyone visiting Elkin or elsewhere in the Yadkin Valley.

The trail is relatively new and therefore well-maintained. There are multiple ways to reach Carter Falls but the shortest is the 1-mile roundtrip hike from the Carter Falls Trailhead. 

We’re split on whether you should swim at Carter Falls, due to rocks and other safety issues. However, many area locals go swimming here, and we won’t go against them.

Read More: 25+ Fun Things to Do in Wilkesboro (+ North Wilkesboro and Nearby!)

Cascades at EB Jeffress Park 

Hike Distance: 0.8 miles
Swimming Not Allowed

Kid Friendly Waterfalls in North Carolina Cascades

Cascades at EB Jeffress is the first of a few kid-friendly waterfalls in NC that are on or near the Blue Ridge Parkway. An 0.8-mile loop trail starts at Milepost 272 and takes you to an upper overlook of the 35-foot waterfall. 

The hike is a steady downhill with some rocks, so not particularly great for early walkers. 

Read More: NC Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes

Bust Your Butt Falls 

Hike Distance: Roadside 
Swimming Allowed

Kid Friendly Waterfalls in North Carolina Bust your Butt

Bust Your Butt Falls is located on the North Carolina Waterfall Byway near Highlands and is a very popular swimming hole in the summer! There is a natural slide, swimming hole, and even a swinging rope for those up for a thrill! 

Read More: 20 of the Best North Carolina Road Trips (Scenic Byways and Highways)

Dry Falls 

Hike Distance: 0.25 miles roundtrip
Swimming Not Allowed

Kid Friendly Waterfalls in North Carolina Dry Falls

Dry Falls is a few miles from Bust-Your-Butt Falls and is one of our favorite kid-friendly waterfalls in NC! The hike to Dry Falls is a short quarter-mile with several steps.

We do not recommend jogging strollers for this trail because of the steps.

This waterfall’s biggest draw is the ability to walk behind the 65-foot gushing falls. While there isn’t any swimming available here, we can definitely attest that Dry Falls isn’t all that dry when you walk behind it! 

Read More: How to See Waterfalls Park in Newland (near Banner Elk)

French Broad Falls 

Hike Distance: 0.5
Swimming Not Allowed

Kid Friendly Waterfalls in North Carolina French Broad Falls

French Broad Falls is considered a hidden gem in our book. This amazing collection of falls is located along the NC-215 portion of the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway near Brevard.

Further, French Broad Falls sits on private property but the owners (Living Waters Ministry) graciously allow visitors.

Parking is a little tricky along the road, but once you secure a spot you are most likely going to have these waterfalls all to yourself. 

While swimming for skilled swimmers could occur at French Broad Falls, we are not recommending it. A third waterfall (Bird Rock Falls aka Cathedral Falls) is a short hike away, too!

Read more: 25+ Beautiful Waterfalls near Brevard (Within 1 Hour)

Graveyard Fields (Lower Falls) 

Hike Distance: 0.6 roundtrip
Swimming Allowed 

Kid Friendly Waterfalls in North Carolina Graveyard Fields

Graveyard Fields is one of the most popular day trips from Asheville. This is an easy hike located off of the Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 418).

There are two waterfalls for this hike, but we only recommend Lower Falls for kids because it is a shorter hike and Upper Falls is a bit of a trek to reach.

We recommend you hike through Graveyard Fields, a mix of natural surfaces and a boardwalk surrounded by wild blueberry bushes.

Read more: Blueberry Picking in North Carolina

Hooker Falls(DuPont State Forest)

Hooker Falls Hike Distance: 0.8-miles roundtrip
Swimming Allowed 

DuPont State Forest is a short drive from the mountain towns of Hendersonville and Brevard. It’s home to multiple waterfalls and other beautiful spots that have been featured in films like The Hunger Games and Last of the Mohicans.

Hooker Falls is a 12-foot waterfall that spreads all the way across the river, and the water is gentle and shallow enough to make it a popular spot for swimming and picnics.

Hooker Falls is either the first or last of three waterfalls is closest to the Hooker Falls Parking Area, but you can also reach Hooker Falls by hiking down from the High Falls Loop, with a relatively steep return for your little one. However, we don’t recommend Triple Falls and High Falls for little ones due to safety concerns.

There are also restrooms at the Hooker Falls Parking Area, which we all know is a necessity for young kids! 

Read More: Hiking in Hendersonville (30+ Great Trails Within 1 Hour)

Looking Glass Falls 

Hike Distance: Roadside 
Swimming Allowed

Things to Do in North Carolina Looking Glass Falls

Looking Glass Falls is probably North Carolina’s most popular waterfall because of how easy it is to access! Of course, that qualifies it among the most kid-friendly waterfalls in NC.

This roadside waterfall in Brevard draws tons of visitors all year round long.

You can view the waterfall from an accessible platform or descend several steps to get to the base and hop in the water.

Read More: 50+ Beautiful Waterfalls Near Asheville (Within 2 Hours)

Lower Cascades Falls (Hanging Rock) 

Hike Distance: 0.8-miles roundtrip 
Swimming Allowed

Kid Friendly Waterfalls in North Carolina Lower Cascades

Lower Cascades is our favorite kid-friendly North Carolina waterfall that’s within a day trip from Raleigh! Located in Hanging Rock State Park, this waterfall is perfect for swimming, skipping rocks, and cooling off in the summer.

While the trail to Lower Cascades is short (0.8 miles roundtrip) it is important to note that it is mostly stairs. So unless you are carrying a young child, I wouldn’t recommend this waterfall for young walkers.

The good news is that you descend to the waterfall, and the bad news is that all the hard work comes after you’ve enjoyed the water!

Read more: Hiking the Hanging Rock Trail in Hanging Rock State Park (Everything You Need to Know)

McGalliard Falls 

Hike Distance: 0.4-miles roundtrip
Swimming Allowed 

If you’re in Burke County, then a stop at McGalliard Falls is a must! Located near the adorable North Carolina small town of Valdese, McGalliard Falls is a short walk with views of a historic mill.

This waterfall is great for little ones because it is shallow and there are plenty of rocks that make a natural pool around the base.

Please note that there are plenty of signs warning visitors not to swim at the top of the falls.

As tempting as it would be to slide down the rock face, note that many accidents have happened while attempting this. That’s another reason why we only recommend swimming at the base!

Read more: How to See High Shoals Falls in Person (+ Trail Tips!)

Mingo Falls 

Hike Distance: 322 Steps round trip
Swimming Not Allowed

Kid Friendly Waterfalls in North Carolina Mingo Falls

Mingo Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in the Appalachians, and is easy to reach after 161 steps! This beautiful waterfall in Cherokee trickles over the rock face into a gentle stream.

Visitors to Mingo Falls should go slowly up the stairs, as they are often wet. Bring proper footwear for your climb.

Swimming is not allowed at Mingo Falls as there is a lot of debris and the water can be quite shallow.

Read More: 20 Excellent Things to Do in Cherokee and the Qualla Boundary (and Nearby!)

Moore Cove Falls 

Hike Distance: 1.5 miles roundtrip 
Swimming Not Allowed

Kid Friendly Waterfalls in North Carolina Moore Cove

After visiting Looking Glass Falls, we highly recommend traveling a couple of miles down Pisgah Highway to Moore Cove Falls. This beautiful waterfall is a perfect hike for kids because the trail is mostly flat and yields a beautiful experience at the end!

View the waterfall from a viewing platform or walk behind it at your own risk!

Read More: Colorful Fall Hikes in North Carolina (+ 20 Beautiful Places to Explore!)

Otter Falls 

Hike Distance: 1.2 miles roundtrip 
Swimming Allowed

Otter Falls is one of our favorite waterfalls hikes near Boone and we recommend seeing this beauty in all four seasons! The trailhead is in Seven Devils (near Banner Elk) and the result of the community coming together to share this waterfall with the public.

We love the High Country and think you’ll want to know about these great things to do in Boone and Banner Elk, in case you haven’t visited either place yet!

Read More: 60+ Interesting Facts About Boone that You Should Know (History and More!)

Pearson’s Falls

Hike Distance: 0.5-miles roundtrip
Swimming Not Allowed 

Pearsons Falls near Saluda NC Mountain Towns

Pearson’s Falls is one of two kid-friendly waterfalls in NC that requires admission. It is located on a 275-acre botanical preserve near Saluda and Tryon, which is managed by The Tryon Garden Club.

All ticket proceeds go toward maintenance and future conservation efforts. This waterfall is an excellent spot for picnics and is home to more than 300 species of plants and wildflowers. 

Read more: Map of Waterfalls in Western North Carolina

Roaring Fork Falls 

Hike Distance: 1-mile roundtrip 
Swimming Allowed

Roaring Fork Falls sits at the base of Mount Mitchell and is one of our favorite little hidden gems near Burnsville! Following along an old forest service road in Pisgah National Forest, the trail is wide and flat.

The incline is steady and gentle, and we would go so far as to say you could take a jogging stroller on this path 99 percent of the way. At the very end, there is a bridge crossing and an area with lots of roots- but you could park your stroller here and walk the short distance to the falls.

Read more: 10 of the Best Black Mountains Hikes near Burnsville (Mount Mitchell, Crabtree Falls, and More!)

Setrock Creek Falls 

Hike Distance: 1-mile roundtrip
Swimming Allowed 

Kid Friendly Waterfalls in North Carolina Setrock Creek

Setrock Creek is right around the corner from Roaring Fork Falls! The trail starts at the Black Mountain Campground and is gentle and mostly flat.

There are plenty of rocks at the base of the waterfall for exploring and the water is shallow at the base for getting your feet wet!

Read more: Day Trips from Boone, NC

Silver Run Falls 

Hike Distance: 500 feet
Swimming Allowed 

Kid Friendly Waterfalls in North Carolina Silver Run Falls

Just 500 feet from the road, Silver Run Falls is a beautiful 25-foot waterfall in Jackson County, near Cashiers. Parking can be limited here, but we guarantee that it is worth the hassle!

There is an excellent pool at the base of the waterfall that is gentle and has a slow entry of soft sand around it.

Read More: Upper Whitewater Falls (How to See NC’s Highest Waterfall)

Sliding Rock 

Hike Distance: Roadside
Swimming Allowed 

Kid Friendly Waterfalls in North Carolina Sliding Rock

Sliding Rock is on the same road as Looking Glass Falls and Moore Cove Falls. This place is legendary and something that every North Carolinian should experience!

The 60-foot waterfall has a smooth rock face that is perfect for sliding down and is extremely popular in the summer. Not only that, but the water stays chilly all year so it will most likely take your breath away! 

From Spring to Fall, there is an entrance fee that includes bathrooms and showers. We recommend wearing thicker shorts when sliding down because the rock face can tear up your bathing suit bottoms.

We also recommend that all children wear life jackets while sliding down into the plunge pool. 

Read More: How to See Epic Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls in 1 Hike

Stone Mountain Falls 

Hike Distance: 0.8-miles roundtrip
Swimming Not Allowed

Stone Mountain Falls North Carolina

Hiking to Stone Mountain Falls is easily one of the most popular things to do in Stone Mountain State Park. It sits on the Stone Mountain Loop, closest to the Upper Trailhead Parking Area.

While there’s just a small pool at the base of this 200-footer, a visit here is perfect for you and the kids. If you’re walking down to the base, be careful when walking along the sometimes-slippery rocks that precede the 300 wooden steps that run alongside Stone Mountain Falls.

Also, please don’t climb the barriers and fences, and do not ever stand at the top of this waterfall. Injuries and deaths have occurred here, so please follow these warnings.

Read More: 50 of the Best Day Trips from Durham

Tom Branch Falls (Deep Creek Trail)

Hike Distance: 0.5-miles roundtrip
Tubing Allowed (the current may be too swift for swimming depending on swimming abilities) 

Kid Friendly Waterfalls in North Carolina Deep Creek

The Deep Creek Trail leads to a series of waterfalls just outside of Bryson City in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Tom Branch Falls is the first, followed by Indian Creek Falls and Juney Whank Falls. 

Note that dogs are not allowed inside the GSMNP, so please leave your furry friends at home! 

Our recommendation for kids is to hike to Tom Branch Falls. The trail is gentle, short, and wide. Not only that, but as you enter the park you’ll see spots to rent a tube!

Deep Creek is very popular for tubing and gentle enough for kids. We recommend this for children ages 5 and older with strong swimming abilities and flotation devices. 

Read More: Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Bryson City (Everything You Need to Know to Have a Great Time!)

Tom’s Creek Falls 

Hike Distance: 1-mile roundtrip
Swimming Allowed 

Tom’s Creek Falls near Marion is one of the few waterfall hikes that is considered accessible. The trail is naturally surfaced, but it is wide and only has one uphill section that can be easily navigated by a wheelchair or jogging stroller.

There is an accessible viewing platform on the left side of the base. A short rocky climb to the right will allow you can dip your toes in the water!

Read more: 25+ Wonderful Waterfalls Near Blowing Rock (within 2 Hours)

Widow’s Creek Falls 

Hike Distance: 0.8-miles roundtrip
Swimming Allowed 

Kid Friendly Waterfalls in North Carolina Widows Creek

Widow’s Creek is another fun waterfall inside Stone Mountain State Park, just down the road from the Lower Trailhead Parking Area. We consider this waterfall a bit of a local secret, but in the summer months, it can get busy with littles looking to splash in the water.

Get there as early as possible, bring a picnic lunch, and enjoy the cool mountain water!

Read More: 50+ Excellent Day Trips from Greensboro (Within a 2-Hour Drive)

Ready to Enjoy These Kid-Friendly Waterfalls in NC?

We hope you’re able to get out there and enjoy these waterfalls with your little one or little ones. Sharing the outdoors with kids is a special way to watch them grow up and we’re grateful for this state offering so many opportunities.

Have you ever visited any of these kid-friendly waterfalls in NC? We’d love to know which one is your favorite.

Don’t forget to share your adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group!

More Waterfalls for Kids (and Everyone!)

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