Hike the Big Laurel Falls Trail to a gorgeous waterfall beneath abundant rhododendron in North Carolina’s Nantahala National Forest.

georgia hiking trails: 0-2 miles 1.1 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: easyeasy to
moderate
?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-
friendly
?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 Standing Indian Mountain and Franklin, NC

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack, our hiking gear list and Canon 6D Camera

WEAR: Our ultra-soft Asheville Trails shirts and mountain logo hats

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 785 Trails Illustrated Map

Spilling over a blocky rock outcrop in the Nantahala National Forest, the headwaters of the Nantahala River cascade over Big Laurel Falls in a lush, green creek valley near the Appalachian Trail at Standing Indian Mountain. Spanning only a half mile in length, this hike packs in a ton of scenic beauty along its short stretch, following several boulder-filled creeks as they tumble and churn through a lush forest.

Big Laurel Falls

It’s not a long hike, at just over a mile, roundtrip – but it’s an incredibly beautiful one, especially in autumn, when the forest explodes into magnificent fall color. And with relatively moderate elevation gains, it’s a great hike for families and a must-visit for campers at the nearby Standing Indian Campground.

Hike the Big Laurel Falls Trail to a gorgeous waterfall beneath abundant rhododendron in North Carolina's Nantahala National Forest. #hiking #camping #asheville #nc #northcarolina #travel #outdoors #adventure

Big Laurel Falls: the hike

The hike begins at a trailhead located off the graveled Upper Nantahala Road (view maps and driving directions). The gravel road to the trailhead can be a bit of an adventure itself, but it’s particularly scenic in the golden hues of fall.

The hike veers westbound and follows a tumbling creek, Hemp Patch Branch, downstream. The stream drops in a series of shallow waterfalls, cascading over mossy boulders in the shady forest just upstream from a wooden bridge.

Big Laurel Falls

The trail crosses the wooden bridge, reaching a trail junction. From here, the Timber Ridge Trail turns east, hiking 2.3 miles to the Appalachian Trail near Carter Gap, west of the Albert Mountain, and east of Bly Gap and Standing Indian Mountain. This hike turns right at the junction, following the trail westbound. The trail ascends through dense thickets of rhododendron, colorful in every season thanks to the rhododendron’s leathery evergreen leaves and rust-colored, twisted, gnarly branches. The trail arcs southbound, following the tumbling creek upstream.

The sound of falling water echoes through the forest as the hike continues its ascent, rolling elevation southbound. The trail reaches the rocky, shallow pools below Big Laurel Falls at just over half a mile.

Big Laurel Falls

The waterfall tumbles over a blocky rock outcrop, spilling through the dense forest of rhododendron. The waterfall’s rocky basin makes a great mid-hike spot to grab a quick snack or drink and to admire the waterfall’s beauty.

Departing the waterfall, the hike turns to retrace its outbound steps to the trailhead, completing the hike at just over one mile.

Nearby summit-worthy hikes

This section of North Carolina’s Nantahala National Forest is full of fantastic, visit-worthy hikes. If you’re in the area and have extra energy to spare, hike the Appalachian Trail to the summit of Albert Mountain, and catch stunning summit views from the mountain’s historic fire lookout tower. Near the Appalachian Trail at Mooney Gap, the Pickens Nose Trail ascends a jagged, craggy mountain summit with spectacular overlook views. And the nearby AT hike to Standing Indian Mountain climbs through switchbacks and dense rhododendron tunnels to beautiful views from the mountain’s summit.

More waterfall adventures in Western NC

Up for chasing some more epic waterfall views, without a long, difficult hike? Our favorite hikes to Asheville waterfalls under two miles features some seriously stunning falls and scenic forest views, and many hikes under a mile, too.


Big Laurel Falls Trail Map, Directions & Details

This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.

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



Parking

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


GPS Coordinates

35.022000, -83.503567     //     N35 01.320 W83 30.214

Elevation Profile

Big Laurel Falls Trail near Franklin, NC: Elevation Profile
 
 
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Eric Champlin
Author

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.