Hike the High Falls Trail near Cashiers, NC, to a towering waterfall at Lake Glenville Cashiers and Highlands

High Falls Trail near Cashiers, NC at Lake Glenville

Hike to the stunning High Falls waterfall at Lake Glenville, descending into the West Fork Tuckasegee Gorge on a moderately challenging, 1.4 mile roundtrip through beautiful, lush forest.

trail info

1.4 miles
(round trip)
more
difficult
Dog-
friendly

LOCATION:near Highlands and Cashiers, NC at Lake Glenville (maps & directions)

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack w/ our favorite hiking gear list and Canon 6D Camera

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 785 Trails Illustrated Map

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. But the High Falls Trail is pretty exceptional, too. 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.

Hike the High Falls Trail to a gorgeous cascading waterfall on the shore of Lake Glenville, north of Cashiers, NCAbove: the West Fork of the Tuckasegee River tumbles over a tall cliff near the shore of 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 High Falls, itself, is an incredibly beautiful waterfall.

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 High Falls 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.

The High Falls Trail descends through a beautiful, lush forest on scores of rustic stone stairs

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.

Hike the High Falls trail to a gorgeous waterfall in a rocky, rugged forest near Cashiers, NC

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.

 

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. (As always, though, don’t climb on or around the waterfall: the rocks can be extremely slippery and dangerous.)

The High Falls waterfall tumbles over a 100+ foot cliff near the shore of Lake Glenville near Cashiers, NC

(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 High Falls, 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 hike.

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 to High Falls, 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. And check out the full list of our favorite Highlands and Cashiers hiking trails for even more adventures.

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High Falls near Cashiers: Trail Map, Directions & Details

High Falls near Cashiers: Trail Map
High Falls near Cashiers: Trail Map
This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.

Driving Directions


Parking

Free parking is available at the High Falls trailhead at Lake Glenville. 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 near Cashiers: Trail Elevation Profile
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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, Asheville Trails, and Trailful, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures and top Southern-worthy outdoor gear. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.
 
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