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Few things in the natural world are as awe-inspiring as the sight of water pouring off the side of a high stone ledge and clamoring into a rocky pool beneath. Though the first inclination may be to stand and marvel, you might not want to spend too much time at any one waterfall. Not when there are 249 others you might want to visit. When it comes to North Carolina waterfalls, Transylvania County is Mecca.
The county’s unique geography allows for 250 magnificent cascades within a few miles of each other. Many of Transylvania County’s most beautiful falls are easily accessible. From the awesome 400 foot drop of Whitewater Falls (highest falls east of the Rocky Mountains) to the iconic beauty of Looking Glass Falls to Sliding Rock, Western North Carolina’s most beloved natural thrill ride, romantics, adventurers, and career waterfall-spotters can easily sate their thirst on a whole other level.
The Easy Way
If time or physical ability will not allow for a self-guided waterfall adventure, consider one of these local outfitters for a guided tour. You may even get to see waterfalls not open to the public.
As beautiful as our waterfalls are, they also hold hidden dangers. We ask you to join with us, Pisgah National Forest, DuPont State Recreational Forest and Gorges State Park in encouraging everyone to practice waterfall safety. If you’re planning a visit, please click here for waterfall safety tips and information.
Transylvania County’s Waterfall Guide
We’ve categorized our most visited waterfalls by location below.
Dupont State Recreational Forest
Park at the Hooker Falls lot on Staton Rd. Walk around the gate and along the road. Bear left at the fork and proceed parallel to the river. Soon you’ll approach Hooker Falls on your left, one of the most well-known and accessible waterfalls in DuPont. The falls is at the site of a former grist mill, where Little River drops off a 13-foot ledge into Cascade Lake.
From the Hooker Falls parking lot cross the Little River Bridge to the trail running parallel to the river. The trail bends to the right and ascends 1000 feet up a steep slope. Triple Falls is on the left.
From Triple Falls, High Falls is about a 15-minute walk upstream. Continue up the same trail until it intersects with High Falls Trail. Turn left and walk about 2000 feet parallel to the river. Go right at the next intersection (still High Falls Trail) and continue up the slope to High Falls. There is a trail at the bottom left of the falls.
From the Buck Forest parking on Sky Valley Road, walk up the road to the covered bridge and stay on Buck Forest Road for about .5 miles, passing the right turn for Conservation Rd. Cross Grassy Creek and turn left on Lake Imaging Trail (road). Continue for a short distance to Grassy Creek Falls Trail on the left and follow it to the top of the falls.
Accessible from Hooker Falls parking lot, via High Falls or Reasonover Rd at the Fawn Lake parking lot. From High Falls shelter, continue to Covered Bridge Trail and turn left, then left on Buck Forest Rd Trail. Cross bridge. Turn right on Conservation Rd Trail. Walk 1.5 miles. Turn right on Bridal Veil Falls Trail, which ends near the falls in about ½ mile. From Reasonover Rd, park in the Fawn Lake lot. Walk Conservation Rd Trail to the airport runway. Continue on Conservation Rd Trail parallel to the runway as it bears right toward Lake Julia. Pass barn on left. Take Bridal Veil Falls Trail to the falls. 4-mile round trip.
Follow US 276 north from the Ranger Station approximately 4 miles to one of the most photographed waterfalls in the United States. Parking is provided on the right side of the road. Steps lead to an observation deck at the bottom of the falls.
Travel 5 miles north from the Ranger Station on US 276 to a concrete bridge with an adjoining wooden footbridge and bulletin board. Park on the paved right shoulder. Cross the stream via the footbridge and follow yellow blazes to this 50-foot cascade over a ledge. The hike is approximately 1 mile round trip.
Travel 6 miles north on US 276 from the Ranger Station. Turn left into the parking lot at the “Sliding Rock Recreation Area” sign. Sliding Rock cascades over a broad, smooth rock into a natural pool, making it one of Mother Nature’s most exciting thrill rides. Minimal usage fee.
Drive 3.5 miles north from the Ranger Station to the first left (FS 475). Travel 1.5 miles to the gravel road intersection just beyond the Fish Hatchery. Turn right on Headwater Road (FS 475B). Travel 1.1 miles to a small pull-off on the right, at a trailhead with a bulletin board. Walk up steps and go 25 yards up trail to this 35-foot-high waterfall.
Drive 3.5 miles north from the Ranger Station to the first left (FS 475; the sign reads “Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education & Pisgah Forest Fish Hatchery”). Travel 1.5 miles to the gravel road intersection just beyond the Fish Hatchery. Follow this road to a parking area 1.5 miles past the Fish Hatchery. Follow the trail upstream and past the meadow. Falls are on the right.
From the intersection of US 276/64 and US 280, drive north on US 276, entering Pisgah Forest. Go 5.2 miles. Turn left onto FS 475. Drive past the Pisgah Center For Wildlife Education and at 3.9 miles, you’ll find a large parking lot on the right. Go around the gate and follow the road for .1 miles, crossing the Davidson River on the way. The trail forks to the left while the road makes a sharp turn right. Follow the road to the right. The road goes up, then levels out 100 yards before the falls.
Drive 14 miles north from the Ranger Station on US 276. Travel south on the Blue Ridge Parkway for about 7 miles to Graveyard Fields Overlook just before MM419. The trailhead is at the north end of the parking lot. This 3.2-mile loop trail features the scenic Yellowstone Prong stream and enters Graveyard Fields with the Upper Falls, then passes over Second Falls and exits through Yellowstone Falls.
Drive 3.5 miles north from the Ranger Station to the first left turn (FS 475). Drive ~9.5 miles west on FS 475, SR 1327, and SR 1328 to NC 215. Turn right and go 2.6 miles on NC 215. Just before a small bridge, turn right on FS 140. Go 3 miles up FS 140 to Summey Cove trailhead, a small pull-off just beyond a creek crossing. Follow Courthouse Falls Trail .3 miles to the falls, which features a 45-foot drop into a large pool.
Take US 64 out of Brevard for 8.9 miles and turn right on NC 215. Go 6 miles and turn left on Macedonia Church Road. Drive .6 miles and pull off the road to the left on a grassy shoulder. The falls are hidden from view, but there is a short path down a steep embankment. Exercise caution as you negotiate the many moss-covered boulders to the stream bed.
Take US 64 west out of Brevard 8.9 miles. Turn right on NC 215. Go .8 miles and turn left on Diamond Creek Road (no sign). A high-clearance or 4-wheel drive vehicle is recommended since this gravel road has a small stream that crosses it at approximately .7 miles. Go a total of 1.4 miles on Diamond Creek Road to view the falls on left side of road.
Take US 64 west out of Brevard 8.9 miles. Turn right on NC 215. Living Waters Ministry is located on the left in about 7.8 miles. Just before the Ministry, there is a pull off on the left beside a pile of rocks. Pull off the road and look for a path between the rocks that go down the bank. Coming to a bigger path, go right and work your way to the river to a viewing area among the boulders. French Broad Falls is on the main river; Mill Shoals is to the right next to the mill. Be respectful, as this is private property.
From French Broad Falls and Mill Shoals, take the path leading downstream about .5 miles. You will pass many small falls and shoals on the way, so take the paths that lead down to the river as often as possible. Near the bottom of the trail, duck through the rhododendron and laurel to get back to the river. You will see Bird Rock Falls (also known as Cathedral Falls) to your right. The flat area in front of the falls is a great place to sit and rest. Be careful as the rocks are slippery. This is private property. Living Waters Ministry maintains the trail and allows public access.
A strenuous 1.5-mile hike. Travel west on US Hwy 64, past Toxaway Falls. Turn left on Whitewater Rd (NC 281 South) and go about ½ mile. Turn left at Gorges State Park. Follow the road to Grassy Ridge Trailhead parking.
Take US 64 west from Brevard 18 miles. Turn left onto Whitewater Road (NC 281). Continue 8 miles to the park entrance on the left where you will find ample parking and restrooms. Follow a short paved path to view the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi making its spectacular plunge through a lush gorge.