I've tried to include information on this page that will help you plan a trip to this area to see waterfalls, but you should also refer to my links page for ideas on where to stay and for the official web sites of the National and State forests and parks in the area where many of the waterfalls are located. The page should open in a separate window so you can refer to it while surfing the rest of my site. The waterfalls in North Carolina are in the western counties in North Carolina shown in the above map. You can also click here for an interactive waterfall map from ncwaterfalls.info. Click in the upper right for different map views, then zoom in for more detail. Many thanks to Jordan Mitchell for this map!
A lot of the North Carolina waterfalls are concentrated in Transylvania, Jackson, Macon, Swain, and Haywood counties, but there is another nice grouping in the area where the Blue Ridge Parkway runs near Mitchell, McDowell, Avery, and Burke counties. If you are planning a first trip to the area to visit waterfalls, I recommend staying near or in Brevard in Transylvania County and exploring from there. There are more waterfalls in this area than you could possibly visit in a week's time and you are only a very few miles from upstate South Carolina where you will find many more waterfalls. The closest waterfalls to the Triangle and Triad areas of North Carolina are in Hanging Rock State Park. A little farther away are the waterfalls in the Wilson Creek area, and even farther are the ones around Brevard. If you live in or around Charlotte, the Brevard area or Wilson Creek area would be good places to begin your explorations.
Some of the general information about the falls on this site is from Kevin Adams' NC waterfall book - North Carolina Waterfalls - a Hiking and Photography Guide. When I got my copy I realized that I still had a lot of waterfalls that I have to visit! The waterfalls in Kevin's book are grouped in hubs with maps showing them in relation to each other. This will be a big help if you are not familiar with this part of the state. In late September 2009, Kevin came out with an excellent waterfall map with many of the waterfalls in the book on his map. Please click here for details and to order a copy. A combination of my site, Kevin's book and map, and some road and trail maps is about all you will need for planning a trip to explore the waterfalls of North Carolina. I also have The Land of Waterfalls by Jim Bob Tinsley. This is a hardback book about the waterfalls of Transylvania County. It's more about the history of the waterfalls and isn't intended to be a guide book, but is a very interesting read. You may be able to find it online, or you can pick it up at the Jim Bob Tinsley Museum in Brevard, NC.
Below I've tried to list some areas with concentrations of waterfalls to help you in your exploration of the area. I've tried to give detailed directions and info about each waterfall, but you'll need a road map if you aren't familiar with this area.
WARNING!!! Wet rocks are very slippery and people fall to their deaths from waterfalls every year! If you visit them, please be careful and use common sense! Do not climb rocks around the waterfalls and do not ever cross a stream at the top of a waterfall. There are also many species of rare plants near some of these waterfalls, living in and near the spray areas of the falls. Please be very careful not to trample vegetation while exploring any falls!
If you are coming to western North Carolina via I-40 east of Asheville and Old Fort, you should consider making Catawba Falls in Old Fort your first stop on your way up on Friday, or your last stop on your way back the mountain on Sunday.
Pisgah National Forest is home to numerous waterfalls. This section focuses on the Pisgah Ranger District of the forest, mostly north of Brevard in Transylvania County. I've hiked here on numerous occasions and have only scratched the surface of things to see. It's a great place for families with kids to begin exploring waterfalls. Falls here include Looking Glass, Moore Cove, Cove Creek, Daniel Ridge, Courthouse, Chestnut, Flat Laurel Creek, Grogan Creek, Cedar Rock, Slick Rock, the falls in the Henry Branch area, Sam Branch, Wash Hollow, Log Hollow and Cathy's Creek Falls. French Broad and Cathedral Falls are on the property of Living Waters Ministries and are also in the area (NC 215 north of Hwy 64.) The folks here are kind enough to let the public enjoy the beauty of this area. Dill Falls is nearby also, but is actually in the Nantahala NF.
Nantahala National Forest - this area includes Cashiers, Highlands and areas west and north of there. The more popular waterfalls are Whitewater, Bridal Veil, Dry, Cullasaja, Silver Run and Glen Falls to name a few.
Jocassee Gorge Area - This is a huge unofficial wilderness area in Transylvania County that includes waterfalls on the Toxaway, Horsepasture, Thompson, & Whitewater Rivers and in Gorges State Park. A lot of this area is in the Nantahala National Forest. Some of the waterfalls in this area are easy to get to, but there are several that require difficult but rewarding hikes.
The DuPont State Forest is home to some beautiful falls. It's kind of between Brevard and Hendersonville with easy access, so it's very popular.
Panthertown Valley has some nice hiking trails and several waterfalls that the whole family can enjoy. The area lies between Lake Toxaway and Cashiers in Transylvania and Jackson counties in the Nantahala National Forest. This area has been called the Yosemite of the East and is home to the rare mountain bog ecosystem. Put this high on your list of places to visit if you love wildflowers. Don't go in without a trail map! Raven Rock Falls is on the way and it's in this section also.
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is home to quite a few waterfalls, in both North Carolina and Tennessee. This is another section I'll be adding more to now that I have moved to western NC.
This next section includes falls that can be accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway - Linville, Cascade, Crabtree, Roaring Fork, Setrock Creek, Glassmine, Graveyard Fields, Skinny Dip, Glen Marie and Glen Burney.
The Wilson Creek area north of Morganton is a wonderful area with miles of hiking trails, plenty of great camping spots and numerous creeks, cascades and waterfalls. This section includes Harper Creek, Huntfish, Gragg Prong, North and South Harper Creek and Upper Creek Falls.
Hanging Rock State Park has some nice waterfalls and a few hiking trails. It's another good family spot and the closest waterfalls to the Triangle and Triad areas of NC. Tends to be crowded during nice weather.
Stone Mountain State Park has 4 waterfalls and some good hiking. It's up Interstate 77 north towards Virginia if you happened to be up that way
Chimney Rock State Park has several waterfalls, but only 1 is officially open to the public - in Chimney Rock Park. Hopefully more will be accessible once the park matures
High Shoals Falls is in South Mountain State Park south of Morganton. Lots of other good hiking here also.
Upstate South Carolina has some gorgeous waterfalls also. I've been to over 20 so far and still have more to see.
Eastern Tennessee is also home to a lot of waterfalls. My pal DanaB has taken me to quite a few of these, but I still have a lot more to see. Unfortunately, work keeps getting in the way of visiting waterfalls.
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