Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on November 2, 2023.
While the majority of these waterfalls are located in Western North Carolina (especially near Asheville and in the High Country), you will be surprised to see a couple that are easily reachable via day trips from either Charlotte or Raleigh and/or Durham in Central North Carolina.
Before we get started, please keep in mind that this is a growing list and that we decided not to include multiple falls found in one park.
Read More: Unique Things to Do in North Carolina
Waterfalls in North Carolina
We’ve listed these incredible North Carolina waterfalls in alphabetical order. Below each waterfall is a mention of its hike distance or if it’s a roadside waterfall.
Leave No Trace (and Don’t Overcrowd)
Before visiting these waterfalls in North Carolina, we want to remind you to always keep them beautiful and to leave no trace. Trash does NOT belong anywhere on our trails.
You can even go a step further and pick up any trash if you see it. That act will make you feel better and also, will help us all maintain these beautiful mountains today and for future generations.
Also, we ask that you not park anywhere beyond designated spots and return at another time if lots are full.
NOTE: Catawba Falls will be closed from May 2, 2022 until Spring 2023 for trail improvements
Hike Distance: 3 miles roundtrip
One of many waterfalls in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest, we love the three-tiered Catawba Falls in the McDowell County town of Old Fort! The 100-foot-tall cascade is accessible via a steady 1.5-mile trek through a shady, moss-covered forest.
Read More: Outdoor Activities in North Carolina
Hike Distance: 2.5 miles roundtrip
Crabtree Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in North Carolina, especially along the Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 339). It’s just 45 miles north of Asheville and you can follow one of two routes to reach the 70-foot waterfall.
Make sure to get a view of the falls from the wooden bridge that crosses over the creek.
Read More: Black Mountains Hikes
Hike Distance: 0.25 miles roundtrip
Dry Falls is a quarter-mile kid-friendly trail that is truly one of a kind! It’s one of the few waterfalls in North Carolina that you can walk behind!
Plunging 65 feet into the river below, a stroll to and behind Dry Falls is definitely one of the best things to do in North Carolina!
Speaking of the area around Dry Falls, it’s known as the Waterfall Byway, one of our favorite scenic roads. A few other cool waterfalls in the area include Bust Your Butt Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Cullasaja Falls.
Read More: The North Carolina Bucket List
French Broad Falls (Mill Shoals)
Hike Distance: 0.5 miles roundtrip
An overshadowed gem in our opinions, this waterfall is one of a few on the same privately owned land. French Broad Falls (Mill Shoals) and Birdrock Falls sit behind Living Waters Ministry.
Thankfully, the landowners have been kind enough to allow public access. Located on NC Highway 215, there are no signs for these falls so many people overlook them. However, they are definitely worth seeking out!
Glen Burney Falls
Hike Distance: 2.4 miles roundtrip
Glen Burney Falls is the second of three waterfalls (and namesake) along the Glen Burney Trail. This wonderful waterfall hike in Blowing Rock takes you down and back up through some dense forest, making you feel far away from the awesome small town just outside.
This trail gets especially busy, so please try to arrive early because the path is fairly narrow in some spots.
Read More: Blowing Rock Restaurants
Hike Distance: 2/3 Mile Round Trip
Graveyard Fields is an awesome hike near Asheville. Located off the Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 418), two large waterfalls await you, and the first one, Lower Falls, is an easy hike only 1/3 mile from the parking lot.
The second waterfall, Upper Falls, is much harder to find because the trail is not well marked. Graveyard Fields not only leads to amazing waterfalls but it’s also one of our favorite fall hikes in North Carolina.
Hike Distance: 1.2 miles or 2 miles roundtrip
Dupont State Recreational Forest wins the title for the most epic waterfalls in North Carolina per park. We really had a hard time deciding between Triple Falls and High Falls, but the latter wins based on the amazing views you have from above and at the foot of the falls.
You have multiple options to reach these falls, either on its own or by adding time and distance with some additional falls (including Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and even Bridal Veil Falls).
Hickory Nut Falls
2.8 miles round trip
At 404 feet tall, it’s hard to believe that Hickory Nut Falls is not the tallest of waterfalls in North Carolina.
Hint: keep reading for that answer!
The hike to Hickory Nut Falls can start in a couple of different places. We like to combine it with a hike up to the Chimney Rock itself, with the option of continuing on the Exclamation Point Trail (0.6-mile loop).
You can skip that addition and simply hike to the base of Hickory Nut Falls via the Hickory Nut Falls Trail. The Skyline Trail will take you to the top of the waterfall, but there’s no view of it from there.
Follow the Hickory Nut Falls Trail and you’ll be treated to lots of shade, a few steady inclines, and the grand finale that is Chimney Rock State Park‘s 404-foot waterfall.
The Village of Chimney Rock is a great base for exploring this NC waterfall if you need somewhere to stay.
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High Shoals Falls
2.7 miles loop
Anyone who knows Burke County will agree that one of the best waterfalls in North Carolina not named Linville awaits inside South Mountains State Park. That’s the 80-foot High Shoals Falls, which you can reach about a mile into a mostly steady hike that gets pretty steep near the end.
Leading into this main event, you’ll also enjoy the streams that flow by. Another great part about this waterfall is that you have multiple angles to view, from the base to its top.
Read More: Great Things to Do in Hickory
Juney Whank Falls
Hike Distance: 0.8 miles round trip
Juney Whank Falls is one of the three named waterfalls found on the Deep Creek Trail near Bryson City. The hike to this one is one-quarter of a mile, though elevation changes nearly 200 feet along the way.
The 90-foot waterfall flows over a rock face, in front of a wooden bridge. Walk upon this and you’ll think this is one of the most beautiful scenes in all of North Carolina.
Hike Distance: Various trails but the most popular is 1.6 miles round trip
Flowing through the Linville Gorge Wilderness, Linville Falls is an extremely popular waterfall. The hike from the trailhead is only 1.6 miles and mostly moderate. It is one of the most popular waterfalls in North Carolina for kids and inexperienced hikers.
There are three vantage points of the waterfall from the main trailhead, and more experienced hikers might consider taking the Plunge Basin Trail to get a view from the base.
Afterward, swing by Famous Louise’s Rockhouse for some amazing food. It’s one of our favorite restaurants in the area!
Read More: Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes
Looking Glass Falls
Hike Distance: Roadside
Looking Glass Falls is a roadside waterfall near Brevard that offers easily accessible and incredible views. You can also take a short walk down some stairs from the parking lot to reach an even closer view of this 60-foot waterfall.
Read More: Things to Do in Brevard
Lower Cascades Falls (Hanging Rock State Park)
Hike Distance: 0.8 miles roundtrip
Hanging Rock State Park has the best waterfalls in North Carolina that are closest to Central North Carolina’s biggest cities. It is definitely one of our favorite state parks to reach via a quick day trip from the Triangle, especially from Greensboro!
You can see all five waterfalls in one day here but our favorite is absolutely Lower Cascades Falls! The entrance is outside the main park gate and has limited parking, so try to arrive as early as possible.
We usually start days by visiting Lower Cascades Falls before moving on to hike the Hanging Rock Trail or others around the park.
Read More: Things to Do in Winston-Salem
Hike Distance: 320 Steps Roundtrip
Mingo Falls (“Big Bear” in Cherokee) is another kid-friendly waterfall hike in North Carolina. After only 160 steps, you will find yourself at the base of a 120-foot waterfall that is absolutely breathtaking.
Read More: The Best North Carolina Mountain Towns
Moore Cove Falls
Hike Distance: 1.5 miles roundtrip
Another North Carolina waterfall hike near Brevard is Moore Cove Falls. The spectacular 50-foot drop is located just up the road from Looking Glass Falls and pairs nicely with its more popular neighbor.
The 1.5-mile, round-trip adventure is a beautiful hidden gem.
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Hike Distance: 1.2 miles roundtrip
The 1.2-mile round trip hike (strenuous on the way back up) awaits inside the resort community of Seven Devils, funded by several donors from the community in 2015.
Roaring Fork Falls
Hike Distance: 1 mile roundtrip
Surprisingly, this waterfall doesn’t get as busy as the others we’ve mentioned, but that could change as word gets around.
Hike Distance: 2.5 miles round trip
The Panthertown Valley Trail will take you to one of the most rewarding waterfalls in North Carolina, also known as Schoolhouse Falls. It’s the most popular waterfall in Panthertown Valley and when you see it in person, you’ll understand.
To reach Schoolhouse Falls, start from the Cold Mountain Gap Trailhead, which is near Lake Toxaway.
More waterfalls in the area include Greenland Creek Falls and Mac’s Falls, reachable from the Cold Mountain Gap Trailhead. Granny Burrell Falls and Frolictown Creek Falls are closer to the Salt Rock Gap trailhead on the west side of Panthertown Valley.
Setrock Creek Falls
Hike Distance: 0.4 miles roundtrip
This 75-foot waterfall is reachable via an easy hike, compared to the latter 12-mile roundtrip journey that leads you to our highest peak.
Silver Run Falls
Hike Distance: 500 feet
Silver Run Falls is a beautiful 25-foot waterfall in Jackson County, south on NC 107 from Cashiers. It’s one of the trickiest waterfalls in North Carolina to reach, mainly because of the limited parking available.
After you get out of your vehicle, a 500-foot walk will take you to an excellent pool, with plenty of space in front of it. That’s why Silver Run Falls is the perfect swimming hole and picnic spot.
The pool starts with a slow entry of soft sand, making it great for kids. If the sun is out, look down and you’ll see the shining flecks of mica down in the water.
Hence the name Silver Run Falls!
Hike Distance: Roadside
Thanks to its smooth rock for sliding, the 60-foot Sliding Rock wins the “most popular swimming hole” category out of these waterfalls in North Carolina. It is perfect for sliding and is extremely popular in the summer.
The water is cool but worth the trip to slip down this natural water slide!
Note: During the season, there is an entrance fee to Sliding Rock, and bathrooms and showers are available.
Read More: Day Trips from Asheville
Hike Distance: 200 feet or 0.2 miles roundtrip
Soco Falls in Cherokee is a collection of two falls that plunge together to create a scene worthy of inclusion among the best waterfalls in North Carolina.
Soco Falls can either be viewed from a short hike on a viewing platform or a tougher scramble to the bottom.
Tom’s Creek Falls
Hike Distance: 1 mile roundtrip
Another kid-friendly hike near Asheville is Tom’s Creek Falls. The 80-foot waterfall consists of two tiers that flow into the rocky riverbed below. This waterfall is also one of the few with an accessible trail and observation deck!
Upper Whitewater Falls
Hike Distance: 0.6 miles roundtrip
The tallest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains, Upper Whitewater Falls is an impressive 411-foot tall waterfall along the North Carolina-South Carolina border.
One vantage point of Upper Whitewater Falls is accessible and another can be reached by several stairs to a viewing platform.
Widow’s Creek Falls
Hike Distance: A few hundred feet from the parking lot.
Widow’s Creek Falls is the most beautiful of waterfalls in North Carolina’s Stone Mountain State Park near Elkin. Between the other named waterfalls in the Park, it was a tough debate but Widow’s Creek wins out!
With a pool, cascades, and plenty of space around it, the falls get pretty busy in the summer for sliding and picnicking. It’s also just a short walk away from the parking lot, making this a convenient stop.
An honorable mention inside Stone Mountain State Park is the epic 200-foot Stone Mountain Falls, which you can access via the Stone Mountain Loop.
Ready for the Best Waterfalls in North Carolina?
As always, please remember to practice caution and safety while on the trails. Rocks are slippery when wet and deaths have occurred at some of these waterfalls. Keep on the trail, have proper footwear, and remember always to pack out what you take with you.
Many of these waterfalls in North Carolina are easy to access. Whether you’re walking behind Dry Falls, taking a dive at Skinny Dip Falls, or trekking out to Crabtree Falls, we hope you enjoy North Carolina’s beautiful waterfalls.
If you’ve seen some of these waterfalls in North Carolina, we’d love to know which are your favorites? If you haven’t made it to any yet, which ones do you plan on visiting first?