On this page I've tried to list the areas that have groupings of waterfalls to help you in planning a trip to this area. Above is a map of the western NC counties which may be of some help, but to really plan a trip you should order Kevin Adams' excellent waterfall map so you have everything laid out in front of you. A lot of the North Carolina waterfalls are concentrated in Transylvania, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, and Swain counties, but Transylvania County has the most by far. There is another nice grouping of falls in the area where the Blue Ridge Parkway runs near Mitchell, McDowell, Avery, and Burke counties. If you are a family 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 which is north of Winston-Salem. A little farther away are the waterfalls in the Wilson Creek area north of Morganton in Burke and Caldwell counties. If you live in or around Charlotte, the Brevard area, Polk County, 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. I used Kevin's first guide book when I began visiting waterfalls in 1998. I began this site shortly after that and added a few waterfalls that weren't in his book. He contacted me in 2004 when he was researching for a new this edition of his book and we've been friends ever since. (It's now April 2016 and Kevin has a new edition of the waterfall guide book due out at the end of June 2016.) Make no mistake - Kevin is THE man when it comes to North Carolina waterfalls. 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. And he has a LOT more waterfalls listed than I have here. You can click here to order a copy of his book. In late September 2009, Kevin came out with the excellent waterfall map I mentioned above that pinpoints many of the waterfalls from the book. 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. Please feel free to print directions from my site to bring with you in your explorations. You may not get cell service where you are going. Another warning - you can't always rely on your vehicle's GPS for directions when you get into some of the back country areas in western NC. They will sometimes try to take you down old gravel roads that aren't opened to traffic any more.
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. 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 and Avery Creek area, Sam Branch, Wash Hollow, Log Hollow and Cathy's Creek Falls - just to name a very few. French Broad and Bird Rock Falls are on the property of Living Waters Ministries and are also in the area (NC215 north of US64.) 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 Pisgah 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 and way over crowded in the summer.
Polk County is south of Asheville and borders on South Carolina. Pearsons Falls is probably the best known waterfall here, but don't overlook Big and Little Bradley Falls, Melrose Falls, and Shunkawauken Falls. There are also several others that I plan on visiting and adding to the site.
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, though! 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 next section includes falls that can be accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway - Linville, Cascade, Crabtree, Roaring Fork, Setrock Creek, Glassmine, the waterfalls in 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 and more. This area is in the Grandfather District of the Pisgah National Forest.
Hanging Rock State Park in Stokes County north of Winston-Salem 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 in Wilkes County 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 and a few other waterfalls off the beaten track that I haven't been to yet.
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.