Turtleback Falls NC is an amazing and popular sliding rock and swimming hole, located deep inside Pisgah National Forest, near Sapphire, NC.  Turtleback Falls is uniquely shaped, offering the ability to climb up to the top, and then sliding back down.  The slide includes a unique "plunge" of about 10-15 feet high due to the umbrella shape of the rock.

Updated: 3/31/2022

What you need to know about Turtleback Falls

Location: Pisgah National Forest, via the Rainbow Falls trail which begins in Gorges National Park.

Roundtrip Distance: 3.5 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous

Handicap Accessible: No

Dog Friendly: Yes

Features: Waterfall, Swimming Hole, Sliding Rock, dense wood hiking, creekside hiking

Directions: The trailhead begins in Gorges State Park, located off Highway 281 South near Sapphire NC. From Brevard, NC, take 64 South, turn left onto 281 South. The Gorges State Park will be on your left. Follow the road to the very back parking lot (Grassy Ridge).  The address for the Gorges State Park visitor center is: 976 Grassy Ridge Rd, Sapphire, NC 28774.

Recommended Gear: Good hiking boots or shoesDaypackDayhiker First Aid KitSunscreen, some snacks, plenty of water, [easyazon_link keywords="Water shoes" locale="US" tag="blueridgemountainlife-20"]Water shoes[/easyazon_link]and a bathing suit if you think you might want to swim or slide.

Turtleback Falls NC is a great place to not only swim and plunge off the falls, but also a great place to relax, take photos and watch all of the people having fun in the water.

Turtleback Falls NC

Warning About Turtleback Falls

Turtleback Falls is a great swimming hole and plunge for strong swimmers, older children, teenagers and adults.  We would not recommend it for younger children due to the strong currents, and need to climb a rope to access the falls.  

The base of the pool area is safe for swimming, but children should be watched closely and encouraged to stay close to the shore area.  Sliding Rock is a far better option for younger children, and people that aren't strong swimmers.

We also strongly recommend that ALL visitors pay attention to the flow and depth of the water.   Turtleback Falls sits about 1/4 mile above Rainbow Falls.  When water levels in the Creek get high, the current gets stronger, and there is a risk of being carried down and over Rainbow Falls, which would be deadly.   Please swim and slid at your own risk, and please always use your best judgement.

Turtleback Falls NC

Hiking to Turtleback Falls

Turtleback Falls NC

The trail up to Turtleback Falls is the Rainbow Falls trail.  The trail begins at the Grassy Ridge Parking lot of Gorges State Park.   Just look for the area at the end of the parking lot with all of the information boards.  The trail is blazed orange and blue to begin with.

You'll begin a steady decline downward into the forest of Gorges State Park.   The trail splits after a short distance.  

Continue right on Rainbow Falls trail, blazed orange.  There are a few smaller trails that branch off here and there, just continue onto the falls by following the main (wide) trail.  

You'll pass a marker indicating you are leaving Gorges State Park.  This is nothing to be concerned about, as you'll continue your hike into Pisgah National Forest.

At the 1.5 mile mark, you pass an overlook to the gorgeous Rainbow Falls.  Continue past this overlook area, and follow the trail that continues up.  

Turtleback Falls is another .25 miles up the trail.   You'll see a small trail going down as you come to the falls.  This provides access to the swimming hole area of Turtleback Falls.  Continue up the trail to access to the top portion of the falls.

One note of caution - There are a couple of creek access points after you pass Rainbow Falls.  Do not get into the water here, as the very high plunge of Rainbow Falls is just a short distance away, and the current in the creek here is VERY strong.  People have been killed doing this.  In fact, we recommend you avoid these access points all together, it's just not worth the risk.

The downhill portion of the trail to Turtleback Falls is easy.  The last mile or so up to Turtleback is strenuous, with a steady and steep climb, including a number of stairs.  The hike back is also strenuous, as you have to hike up all that downhill you did getting there.  There are numerous good resting spots, and even benches once you are back inside Gorges State Park.

Turtleback Falls NC Video:



About the author

Larry Deane is co-owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Life. He has spent more than 20 years exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and has a deep passion for nature, history, storytelling, and adventure. Along with his wife Jenn, they combined these passions to create Blue Ridge Mountain Life, a travel guide to these stunning mountains they are fortunate to call home.

Larry has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and journalist, and has established himself as a leading voice and expert for Blue Ridge Mountains. He is also an avid hiker, photographer, and videographer. He loves sharing his mountain adventures and knowledge with more than 500,000 people per month on Blue Ridge Mountain Life.


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