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35 Gorgeous Waterfalls near Cherokee (Within 2 Hours)

Published by Carl Hedinger. Last Updated on March 18, 2024.

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We created this guide to focus on 35 of our favorite waterfalls within a two-hour drive of Cherokee, North Carolina. Let’s be honest: There are hundreds of waterfalls in Western North Carolina.

Unless you live in the area or make it a personal goal it’s going to take quite some time for you to see them all!

In the meantime, we have narrowed down some of our favorites that you can visit today.

If you’re searching for something specific in this NC travel guide to waterfalls near Cherokee, we’ve organized them into the following sections:

  • Complete List of Waterfalls Near Cherokee
  • Cherokee NC Waterfalls Map
  • Before You Go
    • Safety Reminder
    • Leave No Trace Reminder
  • Waterfalls in Cherokee NC
  • Roadside Waterfalls Near Cherokee
  • Waterfall Hikes Near Cherokee

Whether you’re seeking an excellent waterfall hike or a convenient roadside waterfall near Cherokee, we know this guide will help!

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

The Complete List of Waterfalls near Cherokee NC in This Guide

Waterfalls accessed via the same hike, park, or protected area have been grouped together. The links below will take you to the corresponding section that covers these waterfalls in more detail.

  • Bearwallow Falls (Gorges State Park)
  • Bird Rock Falls aka Cathedral Falls (Waterfall Hikes Near Cherokee)
  • Bridal Veil Falls (DuPont State Recreational Forest)
  • Bridal Veil Falls (Roadside Waterfalls near Cherokee)
  • Bust Your Butt Falls (Roadside)
  • Cullasaja Falls (Roadside)
  • Daniel Ridge Falls (Hikes)
  • Dry Falls (Roadside)
  • French Broad Falls aka Mill Shoals (Hikes)
  • Glen Falls (Hikes)
  • Hickory Nut Falls (Hikes)
  • Hidden Falls (Gorges State Park Waterfalls Near Cherokee)
  • High Falls (DuPont State Forest)
  • Hooker Falls (DuPont State Forest)
  • Indian Creek Falls (Deep Creek Trail)
  • Juney Whank Falls (Deep Creek Trail)
  • Key Falls (Roadside)
  • Looking Glass Falls (Roadside)
  • Lower Falls (Graveyard Fields Hike)
  • Mingo Falls (Waterfalls in Cherokee)
  • Moore Cove Falls (Hikes)
  • Mouse Creek Falls (Hikes)
  • Pearson’s Falls and Glen (Hikes)
  • Rainbow Falls (Gorges State Park Waterfalls)
  • Schoolhouse Falls (Hikes)
  • Silver Run Falls (Hikes)
  • Sliding Rock Falls (Hikes)
  • Soco Falls (in Cherokee)
  • Sunburst Falls (Roadside)
  • Tom Branch Falls (Deep Creek Trail)
  • Triple Falls (DuPont State Forest)
  • Turtleback Falls (Gorges State Park)
  • Upper Falls (Graveyard Fields Hike)
  • Upper Whitewater Falls
  • Wintergreen Falls (DuPont State Forest)

Cherokee NC Waterfalls Map

Map of Waterfalls near Cherokee NC

If you want to travel to any of these Cherokee waterfalls visually, you can visit our Map of Waterfalls in Western NC and any of the below maps we’ve created with Google Maps.

Read More: Asheville NC Map of Attractions

Before You Go: Leave No Trace Reminder

We would also like to remind you to leave no trace while visiting these waterfalls and all of our public spaces. North Carolina is absolutely beautiful, and we encourage our readers to pick up everything you bring to keep it pristine.

Safety Reminder

This is something we’ll always stress, but again, please stay on designated trails. Some of these waterfalls are dangerous even in favorable conditions.

Failing to stay on the trail can result in serious injury and death.

Waterfalls in Cherokee NC

Before we leave the mountain town and the surrounding reservation, we can visit a couple of beautiful waterfalls in Cherokee!

  • Mingo Falls
  • Soco Falls

Mingo Falls

Address: Mingo Falls, Eastern Cherokee Reservation, Cherokee, NC
7 Miles from Downtown Cherokee (13 Minutes Away)
Trail Length: 0.2 miles round trip

Mingo Falls is the best-known waterfall near Cherokee and for good reason.

Mingo Falls is probably the most famous waterfall near Cherokee. These epic falls can be seen after climbing a set of 160 steep stairs on the Pigeon Creek Trail.

While the elevation changes about 140 feet during your ascent, the view is an enticing reward. A sturdy wooden viewing bridge awaits for that perfect photo.

Read More: 40+ North Carolina Mountain Towns by NC Tripping

Soco Falls

Address: Soco Falls, U.S. Hwy 19, Maggie Valley, NC
11 Miles from Downtown Cherokee (20 Minutes Away)
Trail Length: 0.2 miles round trip

Soco Falls near Cherokee NC

Just over the Qualla Boundary from Maggie Valley is Soco Falls, technically two waterfalls near Cherokee that merge to create a spectacular scene. You can view them from a platform above or take a trickier scramble down to see the falls smash together.

Cherokee NC Waterfalls Soco Falls Image by NC Tripping

If you’re coming from Cherokee, you’ll see a sign for the Soco Falls parking lot. However, for those coming from Maggie Valley like we have, there won’t be a sign, so be on the lookout.

Read More: How to Enjoy Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort (15 Tips)

Roadside Waterfalls near Cherokee

There are more than a few roadside waterfalls near Cherokee, ordered by the time it takes to reach them. Our alphabetical list of waterfalls is above, and you can jump up to it from here.

Technically referred to as “roadside waterfalls,” they can usually be viewed from a nearby platform or observation deck, which we’ll note accordingly.

  • Cullasaja Falls
  • Bust Your Butt Falls
  • Bridal Veil Falls
  • Sunburst Falls
  • Looking Glass Falls
  • Key Falls

Note: Travel times vary according to when you decide to visit these places, due to weather, traffic congestion, and other factors.

Cullasaja Falls

39 Miles from Cherokee (50 Minutes Away)

Cullasaja Falls near Highlands NC

Cullasaja Falls is a roadside waterfall best viewed when the surrounding greenery fades back a bit. For a closer look, you can also descend a tricky 0.2-mile path along rocks and ropeway, but practice caution if you embark on this route.

There are no signs to indicate you’ve arrived, so be aware as cars fly on this section of the road (US-64). It’ll be easiest if you’re traveling from Franklin as the pull-off will be on the right.

Coming from Highlands, you’ll have to make a slow turn into one of the few available spots with traffic possibly coming from around the sharp curve just beyond.

The stretch of road where you’ll find Cullasaja Falls and other falls is known as the Waterfall Byway. Keep reading for more along this route.

Bust Your Butt Falls

42 Miles from Cherokee (50 Minutes Away)

Bust Your Butt Falls Near Highlands NC

Bust Your Butt Falls is a cool roadside waterfall also along the Waterfall Byway. We stumbled upon it while driving between Cullasaja Falls and Dry Falls. And when you get a look at it, you’ll see this one fits the name.

This popular swimming hole and natural slide even has a rope for swinging! But if you’d like to stand back and take photos, you can do that, too.

Read More: Wayah Bald Lookout Tower (and the BEST Mountain Views in Franklin)

Bridal Veil Falls

46 Miles from Cherokee (1 Hour Away)

Bridal Veil Falls Highlands NC

There are actually two Bridal Veil Waterfalls in the western NC vicinity, but this one is the only one within an hour of Cherokee. This Bridal Veil is a roadside waterfall between Highlands and Franklin on US 64.

To view this one, all you have to do is pull over, get out of your car, and admire the scene! When the road is in service, you can even drive behind the falls, adding to the experience.

Sunburst Falls

51 Miles from Cherokee (1 Hour 10 Minutes Away)

Drone above Sunburst Falls

Sunburst Falls is the first waterfall near Cherokee that we’ll mention which is along the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway, formed by portions of US-276 and NC-215.

The waterfall cascades over multiple tiers before descending into the valley below, passing through a historic stone bridge dating back to 1937.

Travelers can park on the side of NC-215 and walk over the bridge, offering various vantage points for admiring Sunburst Falls. Traffic flies through here so please be cautious when walking near the road to get a closer look at this natural wonder.

If you’re seeking a closer view of the upper tiers of the waterfall, you can rock scramble for a better view. However, swimming is discouraged due to the potential danger of slipping and falling.

Read More: 20+ Great Things to Do in Waynesville and Nearby!

Looking Glass Falls

63 Miles from Cherokee (1 Hour 25 Minutes Away)

Looking Glass Falls near Brevard NC Mountain towns

Looking Glass Falls is easily the best-known of our favorite waterfalls near Cherokee. Sitting just off the US-276 portion of the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway, this roadside waterfall in Pisgah National Forest is very accessible.

Visible from your car, you can also descend some steps to get up close and personal with the 60-foot cascade.

It’s pretty easy to see why Looking Glass Falls is one of the Brevard-area’s most beautiful waterfalls!

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

Key Falls

74 Miles from Cherokee (1 Hour 35 Minutes Away)

Key Falls near Brevard NC

A truly hidden gem, Key Falls is only 4 miles from Downtown Brevard and close to The Pines Country Inn!

Located on private property at the Key Falls Inn, this little cascade is absolutely beautiful. Cell service can be spotty in this area, so here are some directions for you:

  • From Downtown Brevard, you’ll head out on US-64 East for 3.5 miles.
  • You’ll then turn right on Crab Creek Rd. and drive for another 1.5 miles.
  • Turn right on Everett Rd.
  • Travel about 3 miles from there to the driveway for the entrance to Key Falls Inn, which will be on your left.
  • You have 2 options here.
    • 1) Either turn at the gravel road prior to the entrance and drive 0.2 miles to the falls.
    • 2) You can turn into the Inn’s driveway, park, and walk the short path to the falls.

Please remember to respect the guests staying at the Key Falls Inn and the owners, as they have graciously let visitors enjoy their waterfall.

Read More: Amazing Things to Do in Brevard, North Carolina (Waterfalls and More!)

Waterfall Hikes Near Cherokee

For these waterfall hikes, we’ve ordered them by driving distance from Cherokee and indicated trail length. As mentioned, we have an alphabetical list of waterfalls above, which you can jump to from here.

  • Deep Creek Trail (3)
  • Dry Falls
  • Silver Run Falls
  • Glen Falls
  • Graveyard Fields Hike (2)
  • Mouse Creek Falls
  • Gorges State Park Waterfalls
  • Upper Whitewater Falls
  • Bird Rock Falls/French Broad Falls (Mill Shoals) (3)
  • Sliding Rock Falls
  • Moore Cove Falls
  • Schoolhouse Falls
  • Daniel Ridge Falls
  • Hickory Nut Falls (inside Chimney Rock State Park)
  • Pearson’s Falls and Glen
  • DuPont State Recreational Forest Waterfalls (5)

Note: Travel times to these waterfalls near Cherokee vary according to when you decide to visit, due to weather, time of day, traffic congestion, and other factors.

Deep Creek Trail (3)

9 Miles from Cherokee (18 Minutes Away)
Trail Length: 2.4 miles or 5 miles round trip

Deep Creek Trail inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park will take you to three waterfalls (Indian Creek Falls, Tom Branch Falls, and Juney Whank Falls).

Kid Friendly Waterfalls in North Carolina Deep Creek

The trail is not too far from Cherokee and follows the Deep Creek upstream. Most of the trip is flat or downhill, with wildflowers and rhododendrons dotting the path.

There may be some incline during the first couple of miles.

Read More: Amazing Things to Do in Bryson City and Swain County (+ Our Top 5)

Dry Falls

45 Miles from Cherokee (1 Hour Away)
Trail Length: 0.6 miles round trip

Dry Falls near Highlands NC

Dry Falls is an incredible 65-foot waterfall that can be viewed from a platform or via an easy and kid-friendly hike. It’s just a few miles from Highlands, and is just an hour from Cherokee.

Our favorite thing about this waterfall is that its waters gush over a cliff, creating an overflow that allows people to walk underneath.

The “dry” part of the name comes from the fact that you can remain relatively dry as you walk behind the waterfall.

Read More: Kid-Friendly Waterfalls In NC (Easy Hikes And Swimming Holes!)

Silver Run Falls

47 Miles from Cherokee (1 Hour 5 Minutes Away)
Trail Length: 1,000 feet round trip

Kid Friendly Waterfalls in North Carolina Silver Run Falls

Silver Run Falls is a beautiful 25-foot waterfall in Jackson County, just a few miles south on NC 107 from Cashiers.

It’s one of the trickiest waterfalls near Cherokee to reach, mainly because of the limited parking available.

Once you get out of your vehicle, though, a short 500-foot walk will take you to an excellent pool. There’s plenty of space in front of the pool, so Silver Run Falls is the perfect swimming hole and picnic spot.

If the sun is out, look down below and you’ll see the shining flecks of mica down in the water.

Read More: Excellent Things to Do in Sylva and Dillsboro (+ More Nearby!)

Glen Falls

50 miles from Cherokee (1 hour 10 minutes)
Trail Length: 2 miles round trip

There are so many waterfalls near Highlands that we have another to share with you!

Glen Falls is a set of cascading waterfalls east of the Macon County town and can be seen from a set of cascading waterfalls that you can view from an observation platform

You can descend another 1/3-mile to a platform that sits in front of the middle section. If water levels are low, you may even be able to get on the rocks for an even closer look!

Read More: The Most Romantic Getaways in North Carolina

Graveyard Fields Hike (2)

51 miles from Cherokee (1 hour 10 minutes)
Trail Length: 2/3 mile round trip or 3.3 miles loop

Graveyard Fields Waterfalls near Asheville NC

The Graveyard Fields hike is one of the most popular ones along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Gorgeous scenery, two waterfalls, and boardwalk views attract many people to this spot.

Most visitors start with a 1/3-mile hike from the parking lot to Lower Falls.

Upper Falls is reachable via a 3.3-mile loop that takes you along wildflower—and blueberry bush-lined paths. The views of the above mountains from here are especially spectacular, too.

Read More: 75+ Great Hikes Near Asheville (Within a 2-Hour Drive)

Mouse Creek Falls

51 Miles from Cherokee (1 Hour 15 Minutes Away)
Trail Length: 4 Miles Round Trip

Day Trips from Asheville NC Big Creek Trail to Mouse Creek Falls

Mouse Creek Falls is on the North Carolina side of the border, but you’ll need to cross over into Tennessee on I-40 to reach its trailhead, after returning to North Carolina via Waterville Rd. and Big Creek Entrance Rd in Haywood County.

It’s a moderate 2-mile climb (4 miles roundtrip) on the way to the falls, and you’ll pass the beautiful Midnight Hole along the way.

Read More: The Swag in Waynesville (10 Luxurious Things We Love!)

Gorges State Park Waterfalls near Cherokee NC (2)

55 Miles from Cherokee (1 Hour 20 Minutes Away)
Rainbow Falls Trail Length: 3.9 miles round trip
Bearwallow Falls Trail Length: 0.8 miles round trip

North Carolina Waterfall Byway Stops Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls sits just outside Gorges State Park in Pisgah National Forest but is only reachable from the park. Even when conditions aren’t right, this is one of the most beautiful waterfalls near Cherokee if not the entire state!

We’ve visited this waterfall throughout all seasons and can attest to its magnificence, with summer and fall the most colorful times to be here. Also, when the sun shines on Rainbow Falls, you get the iconic view (pictured above) with a rainbow reflecting off this beauty.

It is an impressive 150-foot waterfall with multiple vantage points along the trail. A 3.5-mile out-and-back hike will take you past Hidden Falls, Rainbow Falls, and finally, Turtleback Falls.

Note that while it might be tempting to jump in the cold water, it is not recommended at either of the latter two waterfalls. Many injuries and deaths have occurred in recent years as Turtleback Falls especially used to be a sliding waterfall. 

Additional waterfalls in our westernmost state park include Bearwallow Falls, reachable via a 0.4-mile strenuous hike.

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

Upper Whitewater Falls

56 Miles from Cherokee (1 Hour 20 Minutes Away)
Trail Length: 0.5 miles round trip

Upper Whitewater Falls in Western NC

If there is only one waterfall near Cherokee that you travel for, Upper Whitewater Falls should be it! It’s the “upper” section of Whitewater Falls in both Carolinas, earning the badge of the highest waterfall east of the Rockies (at 811 feet).

The “Upper” portion on the North Carolina side makes up 411 of those feet. It’s a dramatic multi-drop waterfall that’s an easy walk from the parking lot.

Descend 154 steps to a viewing platform for some spectacular views. Remember to stay on the trail—serious injuries have occurred when hikers have ventured off for different vantage points.

Also, parking for Upper Whitewater Falls is $2, so remember to bring cash. 

Read More: 45+ Stunning Blue Ridge Parkway Stops in North Carolina

Bird Rock Falls/French Broad Falls (Mill Shoals) (3)

60 Miles from Cherokee (1 Hour 20 Minutes Away)
Trail Length: Roadside or 0.5 miles round trip

Kid Friendly Waterfalls in North Carolina French Broad Falls

This is one of our absolute favorite collections of Brevard NC waterfalls! Located on the NC-215 side of the Forest Hills Scenic Byway, we grouped French Broad Falls (also known as Mill Shoals Falls) and Bird Rock Falls together because you park at the same spot to reach them.

Whatever you call them, French Broad Falls is a collection of two falls that are literally attached to one another. Panning from the red building to the cascading water makes these waterfalls one of our favorite memories!

You can reach Bird Rock Falls after a short half-mile hike.

Also, remember that these falls sit on the Living Waters Ministry’s property. Since they are kind enough to let you in, please leave no trace.

Of course, that should be the case for all these waterfalls.

Read More: 50+ Great Things to Do With Kids in Asheville (and Nearby!)

Sliding Rock Falls

61 Miles from Cherokee (1 Hour 20 Minutes Away)
Trail Length: A few hundred feet from the parking lot

Sliding Rock near Brevard North Carolina
Sliding Rock.

Slide down this cold 60-foot rock face inside of Pisgah National Forest! Easily one of the best ways to cool off in the summer, families and young adults flock to Sliding Rock.

Note that there is a $3 admission fee, and the individual assumes all risks. Wear jeans because that rock might be slippery, but it’s awfully rough too!

For those of you not interested in sliding, there are two observation platforms from which you can watch the fun! 

Read More: How to See Elk River Falls (Trail and Safety Tips)

Moore Cove Falls

62 Miles from Cherokee (1 Hour 25 Minutes Away)
Trail Length: 1.5 miles round trip

Kid Friendly Waterfalls in North Carolina Moore Cove

Between Sliding Rock and Looking Glass Falls is Moore Cove Falls. It is an easy 1.5-mile round-trip hike that ends at a 50-foot waterfall.

What I love about Moore Cove is that the water is less powerful and instead seemingly glides over the rock cliff into the small pool below. 

Read More: 25+ Beautiful Waterfalls near Boone (within 2 Hours)

Schoolhouse Falls

58 Miles from Cherokee (1 Hour 30 Minutes Away)
Trail Length: 2.5 miles round trip

Schoolhouse Falls in Panthertown Jackson County Western Norht Carolina

While small compared to some of the other waterfalls near Cherokee, Schoolhouse Falls has a shallow pool at its base. That makes this one perfect for an afternoon of splashing. 

To reach Schoolhouse Falls, you’ll hike from the Panthertown Valley Trail that’s part of Panthertown-Bonas Defeat bear sanctuary. This means that black bears do call Panthertown Valley “home,” so be mindful about how to safely interact with one.

Read More: Bear Lake Reserve (Everything You Need to Know about this NC Mountains Getaway)

Daniel Ridge Falls

62 miles from Cherokee (1 Hour 30 Minutes Away)
Trail Length: 4-mile loop

Also known as Tom Spring Falls, Daniel Ridge Falls is a 150-foot waterfall that can be reached by a 4-mile loop.

Daniel Ridge Falls is another great waterfall between the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway’s two main roads.

This Cherokee waterfall is often overlooked, but it makes for a very peaceful escape. Meander alongside the river for a total gain of 800 feet in elevation and enjoy the sounds of rushing water as you approach. 

Read More: 4 National Forests in NC (Things to Do + Why We Love Them!)

Hickory Nut Falls (inside Chimney Rock State Park)

73 Miles from Cherokee (1 Hour 40 Minutes Away)
Trail Length: 2.8 miles round trip

Waterfalls near Brevard NC Hickory Nut Falls Chimney Rock State Park

If not for Upper Whitewater Falls, the 404-foot-tall Hickory Nut Falls (inside Chimney Rock State Park) would be North Carolina’s tallest waterfall. Regardless, this is still worth the drive from Cherokee.

You can start the hike to Hickory Nut Falls in several different places. We 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) and the Skyline Trail.

Keep in mind that the Skyline Trail will take you to the top of the waterfall, but there is no view from there.

You can skip those additions and simply hike to the base of Hickory Nut Falls via the Hickory Nut Falls Trail. It’s a 2.8-mile round trip and gets busy, so like the rest of these waterfalls near Cherokee, try to arrive as early as possible.

You could always get a head start by staying in or near the Village of Chimney Rock.

Read More: Why You’ll Love the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge

Pearson’s Falls and Glen

79 Miles from Cherokee (1 Hour 40 Minutes Away)
Trail Length: 0.5 miles round trip

Pearsons Falls in the Summer

Pearson’s Falls is part of a nature preserve southeast of Cherokee in Polk County, between the mountain towns of Saluda and Tryon. The Tryon Garden Club manages Pearson’s Falls and Glen.

The land includes a deciduous climax forest (hence the “Glen”), spring-fed streams, and a short hike that leads to the gorgeous namesake 90-foot waterfall.

A small admission fee is required to enter, but your money goes toward maintenance and future conservation efforts.

DuPont State Forest Waterfalls near Cherokee

77 miles from Cherokee to the High Falls Access/Visitor Center (1 Hour 40 Minutes Away)
Trail Length: Various

Last but not least of our favorite waterfalls near Cherokee is the ones inside DuPont State Recreational Forest. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Hooker Falls (pictured above left) is probably the most accessible and boasts one of the best swimming holes in the region.
  • Triple Falls and High Falls (pictured above right) are a moderate hike away, and you might recognize them from both The Hunger Games and The Last of the Mohicans. Those are a big part of why those two movies were filmed in North Carolina.
  • Bridal Veil Falls is your best bet if you’re itching for a longer hike. You can reach it within a 2.2-mile hike or bike ride.
  • Wintergreen Falls is reachable after a 1.5-mile hike from Guion Farm Parking Area.

Read More: 75+ Fun Day Trips from Asheville (Within a 2-Hour Drive)

Ready for these Waterfalls near Cherokee NC?

We focused on Cherokee because it’s the perfect town to use as a base for exploring these waterfalls. With its rich history and culture, Cherokee has lots to see and do beyond these waterfalls.

And as we mentioned, there are hundreds of other waterfalls near Cherokee in Western North Carolina. You can easily see plenty of waterfalls without even getting close to touching them all. It’s even okay to check out more than the ones we’ve listed here.

Have you ever been to this part of North Carolina? If you have a beautiful waterfall that you’d like to share, let us know in the comments section below and we might just add it to our list!

Remember to share your Cherokee waterfall adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group! Photos welcome.

Cherokee Waterfalls and More Things to Do (NC Travel Guides)

We’ve featured these Cherokee NC waterfalls and surrounding attractions in many of our NC Travel Guides. Here are a few of them.

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