Western North Carolina is full of waterfalls, literally 1000s of them are scattered around the mountains of Western NC. We love exploring, discovering them, and photographing them. Most of all, we just love finding a comfortable rock, sitting down and enjoying the sights and sounds. Waterfalls just seem to wash away stress and the troubles of life.
This waterfall guide highlights our personal picks for the top waterfalls in NC. These are all waterfalls that we've personally visited and the all of the photos are ones we've taken while visiting. For our full list of more than 50 waterfalls we visited, see our complete Waterfalls Guide.
Here are our top picks for the Best North Carolina Waterfalls!
1 - Crabtree Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway
Located off the Blue Ridge Parkway, Crabtree Falls is big (70 feet), beautiful, and majestic. The waterfall is also incredibly photogenic, due to the wonderful lighting, the size of the waterfall, and the way the water cascades down the falls.
The trailhead for Crabtree Falls is located at MP339.5 off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the waterfall is reachable along a moderate and 2.5 mile roundtrip hike from the Parkway. The hike is really nice as well, and you'll want to allocate about 2-4 hours to visit and photograph Crabtree Falls.
2 - Dill Falls, Nantahala Forest
Lesser known and more remote, Dill Falls in Nantahala Forest is a stunning 50 foot tall waterfall, that is surrounded by beautiful foliage and trees. The forest service road that takes you to Dill Falls, is located off Highway 215, and leads your through Pisgah National Forest into the Nantahala Forest.
You'll drive about 5 miles to reach this remote waterfall. The drive in the Fall, when colors are peaking is simply gorgeous.
3 - Looking Glass Falls
Looking Glass Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in NC due to it's beauty and ease of access. Looking Glass falls is located directly off of US 276 between Waynesville and Brevard, NC and can be seen from the parking lot right off the main road or a little closer up by walking down the short stairs to the overlook. Nice views and photos of the 50 foot waterfall can be obtained from both the parking lot and overlook.
Wading and swimming is allowed in the area below and down from the falls. If the summer, you'll often see families playing and swimming in the water below the falls.
4 - Soco Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway
Soco Falls is a bit of a hidden gem and is one of our favorite waterfalls in NC. Soco Falls is located off Highway 19 between Maggie Valley and Cherokee, right off the Blue Ridge Parkway. One of the things that makes Soco Falls unique is that it's actually two falls in one.
It's a short hike from the parking area to the observation deck. You can reach the base of the falls as well, but it's strenuous and requires the use of ropes.
Due to parking limitations, it's best to visit Soco Falls early in the morning, or late in the day.
5 - Linville Falls
Linville Falls, in the Linville Gorge area of NC, is one of the most popular waterfalls in North Carolina, and for good reason. The falls are actually three separate falls: a twin set of upper falls, followed by a gorge area, and finally a plunge of 45 feet into the bottom of the gorge. The falls can be accessed by two different trails, ranging from moderate to strenuous.
Linville Falls is part of the National Park Service and includes a Vistors Center, restrooms, and picnic areas. The falls are a very popular tourist destination and often very busy during the summer and fall, especially on the weekends. If you are a photographer, we highly recommend arriving very early to avoid the crowds.
While there, be sure to visit Duggers Creek Falls (in the Linville Falls area) and Linville Caverns as well.
6 - Dry Falls, Highlands NC
First off, Dry Falls is anything but dry. This beautiful and heavy flowing waterfall is located in the Nantahala National Forest, near the popular mountain town of Highlands North Carolina.
The name comes from the ability for visitors to be able to walk behind the falls and remain mostly dry. The mist is pretty heavy, especially after a rain so be prepared to get a little wet. Dry Falls is one of the few waterfalls in the Blue Ridge Mountains that you can walk behind.
Like Looking Glass falls, Dry Falls is located just off the highway and very easy to access. Because it is so easy to access, it is very popular and often very busy. The waterfall is ADA friendly, and has a viewing deck accessible from the parking area.
7 - Second Falls, Graveyard Fields
One of our favorite places on the Blue Ridge Parkway is Graveyard Fields and it also happens to be one of our favorite waterfalls in NC too. Graveyard Fields is right on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 418. Graveyard Fields is a unique looking area with lots of water, waterfalls and nice hiking trails.
One of the main features of Graveyard Fields is its two waterfalls, commonly called Upper and Lower (Second) Falls. Both are nice, but Second Falls is exceptionally beautiful, easier to access, and a popular swimming hole.
8 - Mingo Falls
Another very popular and relatively easy to access waterfall is Mingo Falls, in Cherokee, just outside of the borders of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This 120 foot waterfall is serene and peaceful.
To reach the falls, you have to climb 150-200 stairs, but the reward of seeing the falls is well worth it. There is a viewing deck at the top of the trail, right in front of the waterfall.
8 - Triple Falls, Dupont State Park
Dupont State Forest, just outside of Brevard North Carolina is full of hiking trails and waterfalls. 4 of these are fairly easy to accessing using the Waterfalls Trail. Out of the 4, our favorite is Triple Falls, which was also featured in the Hollywood Film, Hunger Games.
This waterfall is made up of 3 different cascades, surrounded by beautiful foliage, especially in the Fall.
9 - Whitewater Falls
At 411 feet tall, Whitewater Falls near Sapphire NC is the tallest waterfall east of the Rockies (Yes, it's taller than Niagra Falls). The waterfall is viewable from a paved trail near the parking area, but for closer up views, you'll need to walk further, and use stairs. You can also hike to the base of the falls, but this is a much longer hike, and more strenuous.
Whitewater Falls is stunning, due to it being surrounded by dense foliage, and also due to the numerous cascades the water flows over on the way down.
10 - Tom Branch Falls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Tom Branch Falls, in the Deep Creek section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a gently flowing waterfall, and while not that tall, it is really pretty. We included this waterfall on our list for two reasons: 1) It's very easy to access, and just a short distance from the parking area, and 2) There are some nice benches here where you can sit, enjoy the Falls, and watch the tubers go by.
11 - Courthouse Falls, Pisgah National Forest
Located out on a service road, below Devil's Courthouse, in a remote location, Courthouse Falls delivers a really nice scenic drive, neat and fairly short hiking trail, and a beautiful waterfall set in a wooded cove.
Courthouse Falls is 40 foot and height, and plummets down into a very deep pool surrounded by rocky cliffs. While fairly well known, it is never too busy or crowded due to being so remote. Be sure to stop off at the various creek access points along the road and on the trail to Courthouse Falls.
12 - Midnight Hole, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The most popular swimming hole in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is just below the the 20' tall falls at Midnight Hole, in the Big Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Midnight hole is popular due to the large boulders that surround the deep pool, and waterfall. People enjoy jumping from the boulders and plunging into Midnight hole.
The waterfall is very photogenic, but photographers will need to get their early if they want to avoid having people in their photos. Just a short distance past Midnight Hole is a another very pretty waterfall, Mouse Creek Falls.
Tips for Visiting Waterfalls in NC
We have visited more than 50 waterfalls in the Blue Ridge Mountains over the years, and have picked up a few tips that will make your visits far more enjoyable and safe!
- Leave No Trace - By using our guides and website, we ask that in return you always follow the principles of Leave Not Trace. We want to leave these mountains and waterfalls pristine for all to enjoy for generations to come!
- Wear shoes with good traction and deep tread. Hiking boots or water shoes are ideal. Areas around waterfalls are often wet and slick, and slipping can result in serious and lift threatening injuries.
- Bring a small first aid kit with you. We always carry one, and while we seldom use it, they are invaluable when you need them. Our most common item? Band-aids, often for other families that didn't bring a kit with them.
- Be smart! Water and rocks make for slick surfaces, especially when moss is involved. Avoid going to the edge of water and watch for strong currents below the falls. Remember, at the majority of waterfalls, you're very remote and not close to emergency medical assistance.
- Don't assume you can swim. Some waterfalls allow swimming and wading below them, while others do not. Make sure you understand the rules to avoid a fine, injury, or worse. Don't every forgot, that , sadly, people die at waterfalls every year.
- Do a little location research before you visit. Many of the waterfalls require a bit of hiking, and knowing the trails and their locations really help.
- Don't forget your camera! We also recommend keep your camera in your pack until you are ready to take a picture. Nothing is worse than slipping and falling and breaking your camera.
- Bring a daypack or bag. For falls that are more than a short distance, bring a light weight Daypack Backpack with some water, snacks, first-aid kit, flash
- As a photographer, this one is important - Be considerate! Nothing worse than getting in the prime spot for a great photo and having someone walk in front of you. If you are a photographer, practice the before 10am rule. Meaning you should be there before 10:00am if you want to get photos of the falls without people in them.