Favorite Waterfall Hikes in North Carolina!

by | Feb 9, 2024 | Hiking and Travel Tips

Ready for some waterfall chasing? In this article I share my Favorite Waterfall Hikes in Western North Carolina!

Are you familiar with the Western North Carolina Waterfall Hiking scene?

When I moved to Western North Carolina almost 3 years ago a large part of the allure of the region was having the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains in my back yard. I didn’t know much about the area and moved after only visiting for a week, but the amazing small towns that pepper the Western North Carolina map and having Asheville as a hub made this area fell like home.

For the past 3 years I’ve made it a priority to cross as many hikes off my list as possible. WNC has made that challenge harder than I expected as I continue to add trails faster than I can hike them (My favorite kind of challenge!) One of the other challenges I discovered was that the landscape choices for hikes are numerous. Choosing between hikes that plunge you into dense forests with potential bear or elk encounters, hiking to overlooks with breathtaking panoramic views, or hikes that culminate with picturesque waterfalls. If I am lucky the trail will include all three, but I try not get too greedy. Another surprising revelation when I first started exploring the area was that the number of waterfalls that are scattered throughout the region. Let’s explore some waterfall hikes in North Carolina near where I live.

If you know me at all I am a sucker for hikes that end with amazing views, a waterfall, a summit, or something that acts as the climax for a hike. So, when I learned about the abundance of waterfalls in mountains of North Carolina those hikes started to make their way to the top of my hiking list.

Here are some of my favorite Waterfall Hikes in Western North Carolina (so far) in no particular order.

High Falls/Triple Falls – This is a favorite of mine to take people who come to visit me to. These are a couple of the larger falls in WNC and also allow for people to get. This hike hits two of the larger falls in WNC but also comes with the crowds as well. I would list the hike as easy with some options to veer off on spurs, like rock hopping up to the base of high falls so you can experience the exhilarating feeling of the mist on your face. 

Hooker Falls – This hike is less about hiking and more about being one of my favorite swimming holes. The hike is only about 1 mile long that ends at Hooker falls. The area around the falls is surrounded by fairly flat rocks. It’s a perfect spot to set your backpack down and take off your shoes for a quick dip on a hot day. Getting the chance to swim into a waterfall? Yes, please!

More North Carolina Waterfalls!

High Falls – No, you’re not having Déjà vu. This waterfall is also called High Falls but very different than the first High falls. This spot comes in as a TOP 3 of mine. It’s a short hike to the falls but definitely not an easy one. There are lots of rock stairs down to the base of the falls. But I feel that just adds to the charm of this trail. Once you reach the falls you can also climb up to the plateau between the falls to get a great view into the valley that the water from the falls has carved out. Make sure to save some energy because it’s all uphill on the way back to the trailhead.

Yellow Fork Falls – You are going to have work for this one. Not the longest hike clocking in at about 4 miles. However the end of the hike to get to the base of the falls will require a ladder climb and some steep scrambling. The beauty and the solitude of this spot is well worth it. There is only parking for about 2 cars at the trailhead. Therefore you most likely won’t encounter many, if any, fellow hikers on this trail. 

Back to where the waterfall hiking began!

Otter Falls – This was the first waterfall hike I ever did when I moved to North Carolina. Otter Falls holds a special spot with me. I happened to stumble upon the trailhead as I was driving down some side roads (as I often do) exploring around Boone, NC. There is a small parking lot at the trailhead that you can use to gauge how crowded it is. I would suggest trying another time if the parking lot is full.

This hike has several options, make sure to check the map at the trailhead. Some of the trails don’t take you to the waterfalls and connects to other trails that run through the area. I really enjoy this waterfall because it isn’t just one waterfall. It is a network of falls that cascade through the forest for about 200 yards. Imagine a bunch of 8-10 ft falls that you can explore at your leisure.

Western North Carolina is FILLED with waterfall hike and excellent hiking terrain. This is just a snapshot of what you can do here. I hope this inspires you to find some waterfall hikes in North Carolina!

Thanks for reading, comment below with any questions on these trails! Read more of our hiking articles HERE.

Happy Hiking,
Dan G

PS: You can get a hat like me in the pic below and be twins with me HERE!

Dan Glowinski

Dan Glowinski

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