Winter here in the Blue Ridge Mountains not only brings cold weather but many different and unique things to see and do. While the waterfalls of the Blue Ridge Mountains are always gorgeous and beautiful to see, seeing a frozen waterfall during the winter is magical and simply amazing.
Blue Ridge waterfalls, and areas surrounding them, in cold temperatures, freeze up, causing the waterfalls themselves, the creeks, and the areas around the waterfalls to transform into magical icy winter wonderlands and natural sculptures.
Not all waterfalls are easily accessible in the winter, due to the ice, which can make creek crossings very dangerous. Additionally, many forest access roads that take you to the waterfalls are closed during the winter or may be dangerous to drive, so please be careful and use your best judgment.
But if you’re brave enough to head out in the cold temperatures, your adventure will be worth it! But be sure you have the proper gear when viewing frozen waterfalls! Here are some suggestions:
Dress in layers, and wear wool or “stay-dry” clothing.
Wear high-quality gloves
Wear hiking boots, and wear thick socks
Bring Microspikes for your boots – These can really make a difference.
Cascade Falls (also called The Cascades) is located along a 4-mile round trip hike. The Cascades area very popular waterfall and summer swimming hole, and is a beautiful waterfall. During the winter, and under the right conditions, it turns into a winter wonderland, that is easily accessible and makes for some great winter photography. To find this frozen waterfall, follow this guide with directions and a trail walkthrough.
One of our personal favorite Blue Ridge waterfalls is Courthouse Falls, located off Highway 215 in North Carolina. The drive out the hike is beautiful, the hike itself is short and very pretty. Due to it’s remote location, it’s not near as busy as many of the other waterfalls listed here. Accessibility to this frozen waterfall during winter weather may keep you from being able to visit – As a 4×4 will be required, assuming the gate is open.
The hike to the falls is about .5 miles roundtrip, is creekside and very pretty.
Dry Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls on the east coast and in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The waterfall is gorgeous, and roadside, and is one of the few waterfalls you can walk behind. When Dry Falls freezes, there is plenty of room to walk behind it, and due to the way it freezes, it provides the feel of walking through a frozen cavern. This frozen waterfall is not one you’ll want to miss!
Grotto Falls is located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, along the Trillium Gap Trail. The falls are about the 1.5-mile mark. Grotto Falls is the only waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that you can walk behind. During the winter, in freezing temperatures, Grotto Falls freezes solid forming a beautiful natural ice sculpture that you can walk behind!
For more information on Trillium Gap Trail and Grotto falls, go here.
Hooker Falls is located in Dupont State Forest, and not only is it a very popular waterfall, but it is also the filming location for a number of movies, including The Last of the Mohicans. The waterfall is just a short hike down a not very steep trail. Hooker Falls is one of a number of waterfalls along the Dupont State Forest Waterfalls Trail.
The elevation of Hooker Falls is lower than others listed here, and as a result, a much harder cold freeze will have to occur, to see this frozen waterfall. But it does happen, as it did recently during the first week in January 2018.
Linville Falls is a very popular stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and a place everyone should try to visit. During the Winter Linville Falls, can freeze up providing a unique and beautiful perspective of the falls, not normally viewable. This section of the Blue Ridge Parkway is often closed during the winter, and especially during bad weather conditions.
In order to access the Falls during Parkway closures, you’ll need to use the secondary entrance, from the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area (Pisgah National Forest). This entrance is near the town of Linville Falls. The hike is under two miles, with only a few steep areas.
Due to the amount of water volume flowing through Linville Falls, for it to freeze up solid, is very rare. During the first week in January of 2018, it did just that. Prior to that, was during the 80s. Appalachian Exposures captured people climbing on this frozen waterfall! Very rare!
Looking Glass Falls, located off of Highway 276 near Brevard NC is one of the most popular waterfalls in the Blue Ridge in general, and also one of the most popular frozen waterfalls to visit. The Falls are roadside and easy to reach in most weather conditions!
Mingo Falls is part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in Cherokee NC. While the walk up to the falls is short, it’s moderate in difficulty due to being uphill on stairs all the way up. Mingo Falls is definitely worth it, especially when it’s iced over due to freezing temperatures. The falls has a nice observation deck that provides fantastic views of the frozen waterfall and cascades.
Moore Cove Falls is a popular waterfall, located in Pisgah National Forest, near Brevard NC. The falls are located along a .5 mile roundtrip hike. What makes Moore Cove Falls unique, is that during the summer, you can stand at the bottom, and even walk behind the waterfall. Moore Cove Falls is not a strong flow waterfall, so in the winter during freezing temperatures, it ices up in a unique way, by forming an ice pile at the base.
Frozen Soco Falls, Maggie Valley NC – By Gina Mitchell
Soco Falls, near Maggie Valley NC and right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a gorgeous waterfall. The falls are somewhat of a “hidden gem”, in that many people drive right by them, and don’t even know they are there. Soco Falls is actually two waterfalls that cascade down together, forming one creek at the base. During the winter, and in freezing temperatures, Soco Falls freezes and becomes cascading ice.
Sunburst Falls is a roadside waterfall, that flows through an old stone bridge on Highway 215 in North Carolina. The combination of the bridge and waterfall makes for a beautiful scene. The best part of this pretty waterfall is how easy it is to see. You can literally see it from your car while driving over the bridge. For a better view, a small pullout is located just past the waterfall.
During the winter, you can often find this waterfall fully or partially frozen, making a beautiful scene even more magical. This frozen waterfall is one you’ll want to have on your list while on your way to view other nearby frozen waterfalls.
Here are a few videos we’ve captured of Frozen Waterfalls:
Courthouse Falls Video
Lower Sam Branch Falls:
There are literally 100s of waterfalls to see in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and those listed are just a few of the more easily accessed, especially in the winter. But many of the waterfalls freeze up after a week or so of freezing temperatures. You can find our complete list of Blue Ridge Mountain Waterfalls on our Waterfalls Guide Page. Many will be accessible via hikes during the winter, others may not be depending on weather and road closures. If you’re unsure, you can always ask in our Blue Ridge Mountain Life Facebook group.
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