Hike the NC Whitewater Falls Trail to a tumbling waterfall near Cashiers Cashiers and Highlands

Whitewater Falls near Cashiers, NC

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

trail info

.6 miles
(round trip)
easy
Dog-
friendly

LOCATION:near Cashiers and Highlands North Carolina (maps & directions)

GEAR:

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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 (round trip) 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 scores its first views of the upper waterfall before descending a set of wooden stairs to catch a closer, wider view of the waterfall. 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.

Whitewater Falls, NC: hike to a towering, tumbling waterfall near CashiersAbove: the Whitewater Falls tumbles in stunning white tendrils over a tall cliff near Cashiers, NC.

The waterfall holds a (sometimes disputed) claim as the highest waterfall east of the Rockies. Cascading waterfalls plunge over towering cliffs all along the East Coast, more than one hold the claim to be the tallest, highest or greatest volume (including 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 trailhead and 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 the trail’s left. Wildflowers thrive in warmer months in this sun-dappled, lush, green forest.

Hike to North Carolina's Whitewater Falls, climbing through abundant wildflowers

Scattered benches line the trail as it curves, meanders and climbs, offering great resting spots to enjoy the increasingly more beautiful view. South Carolina’s Lake Jocassee is visible as the trail gains elevation and approaches the falls.

 

Hike the Whitewater Falls Trail in NC to stunning views of Lake Jocassee

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

Top NC waterfall hikes: Whitewater Falls cascades over a 400-foot tall cliff

The view only gets better, though, as the trail begins a descent down a series of wooden stairs and landings. The hike reaches the lower observation deck at just under .3 mile, catching broad 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 the outbound route and climbing the wooden stairs to the upper overlook. The hike catches one last view of the waterfall at the upper overlook before descending to the trailhead, completing the adventure 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.

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Whitewater Falls NC Map, Directions & Details

Whitewater Falls NC Map
Whitewater Falls NC Map
This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.

Driving Directions


Parking

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

GPS Coordinates

35.030250, -83.016183     //     N35 01.815 W83 00.971

Elevation Profile

Whitewater Falls NC: Elevation Profile
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Please Remember

Always leave no trace, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way, and follow these trail etiquette tips.

 
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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