Hike to Skinny Dip Falls, a series of beautiful cascading waterfalls on a crystal-clear river, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville.
LOCATION:on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Brevard, NC
OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 780 Trails Illustrated Map
One mile east of the ultra-popular Graveyard Fields waterfalls is an equally popular stop on the on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Looking Glass Rock Overlook. On warm-weather weekends, the overlook at the Parkway’s mile post 417 is usually jam-packed with cars – but very few people.
So where is everyone, if they’re not enjoying the stunning view? The overlook offers beautiful, up-close views of the instantly memorable and uniquely shaped Looking Glass Rock mountain. But most of the overlook’s visitors are usually off hiking the short, relatively easy trail to the nearby Skinny Dip Falls, a gorgeous set of cascading waterfalls that ends in deep, crystal-clear pools.
This kid-friendly hike follows a spur trail from the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Mountains to Sea Trail, hiking just under a half mile to the series of waterfalls. It’s not a long hike, but a beautiful one, and well worth the relatively short trek: it’s one of the most popular Blue Ridge Parkway waterfall hikes near Asheville.
Skinny Dip Falls: the hike
The hike departs from the Looking Glass Rock overlook, carefully crossing the Parkway (view maps and driving directions). The hike ducks into the forest on a trail beside the MP 417 mile marker – an otherwise unmarked entrance to one of the Parkway’s most popular trails south of Asheville. The hike passes a large, twisted tree, nicknamed the “Dragon Tree,” – possibly a Native American trail tree.
The hike crosss a gravel road and turns left at a trail intersection, following the Mountains to Sea Trail to the southwest.
The hike trails through a lush, fern-filled forest, descending steadily to an ever-louder rushing river set in a shady valley. The trail’s surface is rocky and rooty – though given the short distance, it’s a relatively easy hike.
The trail nears the falls, passing a large birch tree at .35 mile. (There’s a steep, heavily-worn trail just before the birch that trails to the north; follow this path, carefully, for views of the river’s rocky tumble just below the falls.)
The trail rounds a corner, scoring its first views of the falls at .4 mile. The trail descends a long, rather steep set of wooden stairs to the falls, catching cross-river views of the upper falls and pool, the lower falls, and the deep, crystal-clear pool below the trail’s bridge.
The hike carefully scrambles down the curved rock outcrop for access to the lower pool and the best views of the lower falls. The lower falls cascades over an angled rock outcrop, creating a series of parallel waterfalls that spill into the deep, clear pool below. The trail carefully crosses the simple wooden bridge (it’s high, and railed on only one side) for the best views of the upper falls. Gnarly-branched rhododendrons frame the steep-walled sides of the waterfall, creating a lush, shady, cool spot to hang out trailside and enjoy the beautiful waterfall.
If you’ve hiked the nearby Graveyard Fields waterfalls (one mile west on the Blue Ridge Parkway), the river’s colorful rocky landscape here at the falls probably looks familiar. The river is the same Yellowstone Prong that flows and cascades through Graveyard Fields just upstream. There’s a great trail connection to Graveyard Fields, too – from the waterfall, follow the Mountains to Sea Trail to the northwest, connecting to the Graveyard Fields Loop near the second falls in just over 1.5 miles.
Departing the waterfall, the hike retraces its steps to the Blue Ridge Parkway, a nearly continuous (but rather short) uphill climb to the trailhead.
Note: slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Please don’t climb, stand on, swim near, or jump from any waterfall.
Always leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in, and if you see trash, pick it up and pack it out.
Stay on the marked trail, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, and don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way. Please always practice good trail etiquette. And before you go, always check the trailhead kiosk, official maps, and the park or ranger office for notices of changed routes, trail closures, safety information, and restrictions.
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Free parking is available at the Looking Glass Rock parking area at MP 417 on the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville. (Before you go, check for trail updates and parkway closures on the official Blue Ridge Parkway website.)
35.322300, -82.828183 // N35 19.338 W82 49.691