Whitewater Falls: waterfall hiking near Cashiers, NC

Hike the Whitewater Falls Trail near Cashiers to the stunning, tumbling cascades of the upper Whitewater Falls waterfall on a short, family-friendly trail.

 

IMPORTANT TRAIL NOTICE:
Whitewater Falls is closed due to a forest fire in the area. Visit the USFS website for important updates on the closure.


Whitewater Falls is a stunningly beautiful, multi-drop cascading waterfall near Cashiers, NC and the South Carolina state line. It’s a gorgeous waterfall, and well worth the half mile (roundtrip) hike to view a 400+ foot cascade. The hike trails a short, paved stretch of the Foothills Trail through a wildflower-filled forest, and catches some stunning views of Lake Jocassee nestled in the rolling surrounding mountains. Mid-hike, the trail catches its first views of the upper waterfall before descending a set of wooden stairs to catch a closer, wider view of Whitewater Falls. It’s a relatively easy, short and family-friendly hike. And the picnic area near the trailhead makes a great post-hike snack spot set in a rocky, shady forest.

Hike the Whitewater Falls Trail to a towering, tumbling waterfall near Cashiers, NCAbove: the Whitewater River tumbles in stunning white tendrils over a tall cliff near Cashiers, NC.

Whitewater Falls makes a (sometimes disputed) claim as the highest waterfall east of the Rockies. Cascading waterfalls plunge over towering cliffs all along the East Coast, and many claim to be the tallest, highest or greatest volume, like Amicalola Falls in North Georgia. Is this the actual record holder for hight? Does it really matter? Whitewater Falls is undisputedly worth a visit, and undeniably beautiful.

Whitewater Falls Trail: the hike

The hike departs the Whitewater Falls parking area off NC 281 (view maps and driving directions), following the paved Foothills Trail northbound from the picnic area. Views open immediately to the east from the trailhead, where the rounded, rolling southern Appalachian mountains stretch far into the horizon. The trail climbs elevation, meandering as it rises beside a tall rock outcrop on trail left. Wildflowers thrive in warmer months in this sun-dappled, lush, green forest.

Wildflowers line Foothills Trail on the hike to Whitewater Falls in North Carolina

Scattered benches line the trail as it curves, meanders and climbs, offering great resting spots to enjoy the increasingly more beautiful view. Lake Jocassee, located just across the South Carolina border, becomes visible as the trail’s elevation climbs higher.

View Lake Jocassee nestled in rolling Appalachian mountains on the hike to Whitewater Falls near Cashiers, NC

The waterfall’s rushing roar becomes louder as the trail continues its climb. The hike catches its first views of Whitewater Falls at .25 mile, as the upper falls tumbles in a series of wispy white cascades over a blocky, boulder-riddled cliff.

Whitewater Falls cascades over a 400-foot tall cliff, creating a stunning, beautiful waterfall

The views only get better, though, as the trail begins a descent down a series of wooden stairs and landings. The hike reaches the lower Whitewater Falls observation deck at just under .3 mile, catching wider views of the rushing waterfall. From the base of the stairs, an unpaved trail provides access to the 76-mile Foothills Trail, descending along the Whitewater River to the lower Whitewater Falls in South Carolina.

This hike turns from the platform at the base of the stairs, retracing its outbound hike, climbing the wooden stairs to the upper overlook. The hike catches a last view of the stunning falls at the upper overlook before descending to the trailhead, completing the hike at just under .6 mile.

Note: slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Please don’t climb, stand on, swim near, or jump from any waterfall.

More waterfall hiking adventures near Highlands and Cashiers, NC

Hike to the beautiful cascades of High Falls at Lake Glenville, a gorgeous multi-drop falls set in a rocky forest. Or trek through Gorges State Park to Rainbow Falls, a towering waterfall framed in wildflowers and lush, green forest. And check out the full list of our favorite Highlands and Cashiers hiking trails for even more adventures.

 
 
 

Whitewater Falls Trail: Directions & Details

Parking

$2 per vehicle (up to 7 passengers). $1 extra per passenger for vehicles over 7 passengers. Annual passes available.

Please Remember

Always leave no trace and follow these trail etiquette tips.

GPS Coordinates

35.030250, -83.016183     //     N35 01.815 W83 00.971

Driving Directions


Elevation Profile

Whitewater Falls Trail (NC): Elevation Profile

Whitewater Falls Trail Map

Trail data and photos © Summit19 Studio LLC. This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.
 
Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, online magazines that cover the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.

Eric is also a freelance writer, photographer and creative director.