Asheville TrailsbyTrailful Outdoor Co
Pisgah National Forest

Catawba Falls

Hike the Catawba Falls Trail east of Asheville, trekking through a mossy, shady forest valley to a beautiful series of waterfalls on the Catawba River.

georgia hiking trails: 2-4 miles 2.7 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: moderaterelatively
?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:east of Asheville, in the Pisgah National Forest

PACK:our Osprey day pack and our hiking gear list

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 779 Trails Illustrated Map (find it at Trailful Outdoor Co.)

The headwaters of the Catawba River are beautifully scenic. Just east of Asheville, the river tumbles through a rolling forest, cascading in a series of waterfalls and flowing over a mossy riverbed set in a shady, scenic stretch of the Pisgah National Forest. This fantastic day hike explores waterfall after waterfall in a sun-dappled valley, hiking just over two miles through a shady forest to the seeping wall of vibrant green moss and tendrils of water known as Catawba Falls.

In the early 1900s, the river’s turbulent flow was dammed by a small concrete dam and harnessed by a hydroelectric facility. The rustic remnants and ruins of the electrical plant still stand in the quiet, sun-dappled forest today, covered in moss and lichen, and slowly receding into the forest. The history, beautiful forest and stunning waterfalls score this trail high with local hikers: it’s one of the most popular waterfall hikes near Asheville, and it makes for a great, shady trail run, too.

Catawba Falls Trail

The trail meanders through a shady forest, fording several usually-shallow crossings to visit several small waterfalls as well as the tall cascades of Catawba Falls as it tumbles down a multi-tiered, moss-covered cliff. At just over 2.5 miles, roundtrip, and with just over 300 feet of climb, it’s a moderate hike that’s great for families with kids, families with dogs or just about anyone in search of some beautiful waterfalls.

TRAIL UPDATE, 2022: this trail is officially closed through Spring 2023 while the US Forest Service makes maintenance updates. Please see the official USFS website for more information and updates on this closure.

Hike the Catawba Falls Trail east of Asheville, trekking through a mossy, shady forest valley to a beautiful series of waterfalls on the Catawba River. #hiking #trailrunning #asheville #nc #northcarolina #travel #outdoors #adventure

Catawba Falls: the hike

The hike departs a signed trailhead near Old Fort, just east of Asheville on I-40 (view maps and driving directions). The hike trails southwest, ducking into a shady forest of pine and leafy fern. The trail reaches the Catawba River at just under .2 mile, following yellow trail blazes on a newly-opened section of trail. The hike crosses a metal span bridge over the Catawba River, newly installed in summer 2016, at the base of the moss-encrusted remains of a stacked-stone powerhouse on the banks of the rocky-bedded river.

Catawba Falls Trail: hike to the historic ruins of a powerhouse in a waterfall-filled valley

The hike follows the river upstream, climbing elevation and rising high above the river’s banks. A small side trail descends to the river at .75 mile, sighting several small waterfalls on the Catawba at the confluence with a small tributary stream.

The hike returns to the main trail, crossing the stream, Clover Patch Branch, and resuming the climb. A steep side trail descends to the river’s banks at .9 mile, catching views of a tumbling waterfall on the river beside a small cave.

The hike continues climbing, reaching the concrete ruins of a dam, now covered in moss and lichen. (Please don’t climb on the dam ruins or near the rocks surrounding waterfalls, as they’re often very slippery!)

Passing one mile, the trail becomes rocky, scrambling over boulders and crossing Chestnut Branch, as the sound of rushing water grows louder. The hike arcs through a switchback and rounds a curve, the lower stretches of the towering waterfall suddenly appearing in the near distance.

Catawba Falls: hike to a stunningly beautiful waterfall near Asheville, NC

Catawba Falls cascades over a rocky, blocky outcrop, spilling in multiple tiers and tendrils over the moss and plant-covered cliff.

Large boulders below the falls make a great place to relax, grab a dip in the waterfall’s cool flow or enjoy some quick mid-hike refreshments before the return hike. Departing the waterfall, the hike doubles back on the outbound trail, an easy and nearly continuous descent. The trail reaches the trailhead at 2.7 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. Previously, the trail continued past the lower falls, making an extremely difficult, heavily eroded and dangerous climb to an upper waterfall. Until trail conditions improve, though, the trail to the upper falls is officially closed.

Nearby Asheville-area hiking adventures

Catawba Falls is located south of Mount Mitchell, the tallest summit east of the Mississippi River, and one of the most beautiful, scenic hiking areas we’ve explored. Catch stunning, sweeping, see-forever views and hike through a beautiful high-elevation forest on the Mount Mitchell Summit and Balsam Nature Trail. Or hike from peak to peak on the Deep Gap Trail from Mount Mitchell to Mount Craig and Big Tom Mountain, following the view-packed ridge line of the Black Mountain range.

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.

Catawba Falls 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 Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway. 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.

GPS Coordinates

35.613083, -82.230667     //     N35 36.785 W82 13.840

Elevation Profile

Catawba Falls: 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.