Asheville TrailsbyTrailful Outdoor Co
Cashiers and Highlands, NC

High Falls Waterfall at Lake Glenville

Hike to the stunning High Falls waterfall at Lake Glenville, descending into the West Fork Tuckasegee Gorge on a moderately challenging adventure through a beautiful, lush forest near Cashiers.

georgia hiking trails: 0-2 miles 1.4 miles
(round trip)
? Your mileage may vary! Accuracy of your GPS device, weather conditions, and stops along your route will affect your own recorded distance.
georgia hiking trails: moderate to difficultmore
?Our difficulty estimate, based on distance, terrain, elevation change, & ease of wayfinding. May vary daily due to weather, trail reroutes, downed trees, etc.
georgia hiking trails: dog-friendly Dog-
?Leashed dogs are allowed on this trail. We’ve loved hiking this route with our trail-loving Labrador Retrievers! Check out more of our favorite dog-friendly trails near Asheville for a great hike with your pup.

LOCATION:near Highlands and Cashiers, NC at Lake Glenville

PACK:our Osprey day pack and our hiking gear list

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 785 Trails Illustrated Map (find it at Trailful Outdoor Co.)

Just north of Cashiers, on the northern banks of Lake Glenville, the West Fork of the Tuckasegee River pours over a 100+ foot cliff, tumbling in a dramatic multi-tiered waterfall and plunging into a boulder-filled pool below. It’s one of North Carolina’s most beautiful falls and a must-see for visitors to nearby Highlands and Cashiers.

The waterfall is gorgeous, fully photo-worthy, and worth the visit. Diving from the lake’s banks deep into a rocky, forested gorge, the trail treks through some beautiful terrain. The trail was recently constructed in 2013 and is a model for exceptional trail design: rustic bridges were hewn from huge fallen hemlock, scores of rough-chiseled rock stairs and twisted log stair railings were all sourced on site, from the surrounding forest. The difficulty of the trail’s construction is readily apparent – and yet, the efforts seem to seamlessly blend in with the surrounding forest, as if they were always there.

High Falls Waterfall at Lake Glenville

The hike drops over 500 feet elevation from trailhead to the waterfall, and though sections are moderately steep, the trail’s extended stretches of stone stairs make the climb back out of the gorge relatively straightforward (but a great workout). The trail is remarkable, the forest is beautiful, and the waterfall itself is incredibly beautiful.

Hike to the stunning High Falls waterfall at Lake Glenville, descending into the West Fork Tuckasegee Gorge on a moderately challenging adventure through a beautiful, lush forest near Cashiers. #hiking #asheville #nc #northcarolina #travel #outdoors #adventure

High Falls Trail at Lake Glenville: the hike

The hike departs from a parking area near the lake’s shore (view maps and driving directions), following a wide gravel road eastbound. The hike veers northbound, departing the gravel road at .15 mile, diving into the forest. Leathery-leafed and gnarled-trunk rhododendron line the trail, and thick vines chase sunlight in the forest canopy above, climbing tall deciduous trees. The hike descends a wide, rustic staircase, continuing its northbound descent.

The trail veers to the west at .25 miles, descending stone stairs and catching the first sights and sounds of the nearby West Fork Tuckasegee. The hike trails the river downstream, descending more stone stairs and crossing a bridge made from wide-trunked hemlock. The trail swings northbound, following a broad meander of the river, crossing a raised boardwalk and descending more stone stairs at .4 mile.

High Falls Waterfall at Lake Glenville

The trail begins its steepest descent at .5 mile, climbing down an extended stretch of stone stairs and swinging through switchbacks.

The hike passes a small, just-barely-in-sight waterfall at .6 mile, following warnings to stay on the marked High Falls Trail. The trail meanders under a massive, towering, mossy rock outcrop before making its final descent to the waterfall.

The hike reaches the base of High Falls at .7 mile. The waterfall pours over the towering cliff above, cascading in multiple streams of whitewater. The waterfall’s flow varies greatly – from barely a trickle in dry seasons, to an impressive and beautiful normal flow, and to an enormous display of whitewater on dam release days.

High Falls Waterfall at Lake Glenville

A slight wind carries the waterfall’s spray through the deeply cut gorge – especially refreshing on a warm summer day. Scattered boulders at the base of the trail make a perfect place to gaze at the falls and soak up the beauty of the surrounding gorge and forest.

This stretch of the river is popular with kayakers on release days, a 5.5 mile stretch of whitewater with Class III – IV rapids after a Lake Glenville Dam release. For more info on kayaking the West Fork Tuckasegee, see the guide at American Whitewater.

Departing the waterfall, the hike retraces its steps to the trailhead. It’s an almost unrelenting climb of over 500 feet elevation – and a great (but short) workout. The trail reaches the trailhead at 1.4 miles, completing the adventure.

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 adventure near Highlands and Cashiers, NC

Finished the hike, and have energy and daylight left? Don’t miss the nearby, short trek to Dry Falls, a quarter mile adventure to a gorgeous waterfall that you can walk behind. Hike to the gorgeous falls at nearby Gorges State Park, including the massive Rainbow Falls waterfall on the Horsepasture River. Catch stunning mountaintop vistas from the towering summit of Whiteside Mountain in Highlands. Hike through the incredibly scenic Panthertown Valley to the beautiuful single-drop cascade at Schoolhouse Falls. And check out the full list of our favorite Highlands and Cashiers hiking trails for even more adventures.

Leave No Trace: Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails and Trailful are official Leave No Trace partners

Please Remember

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.

High Falls near Cashiers: Trail Map, Directions & Details

This map shows our approximate route while exploring this trail, but does not replace an official trail map. Please refer to the official trail map for the most current and accurate route.

Love the trail?

This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the National Forest Foundation. Please support them by making a donation or joining a volunteer day. Let's work together to keep these fantastic trails maintained and open for use!

Driving Directions


Free parking is available at the trailhead. Before you go, check for seasonal trail and road closures on the USFS Nantahala National Forest site.

GPS Coordinates

35.198550, -83.159517     //     N35 11.913 W83 09.571

Elevation Profile

High Falls Waterfall Trail: Trail Elevation Profile

Eric Champlin is a creative director and photographer who loves to explore southeast. He's the co-owner of Trailful Outdoor Co, a locally-owned hiking outfitter shop in Hiawassee in the Georgia mountains near the Appalachian Trail. He’s also the co-founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.