Waterfalls near Asheville: our top 10 favorite North Carolina waterfall hikes

Waterfalls near Asheville: our top 10 hikes in western NC

Hike to the most popular, most beautiful and most scenic waterfalls near Asheville on our top ten favorite trails in western NC.

The rolling, mountainous terrain of near Asheville, NC is simply gorgeous. Tree-covered mountain summits and grassy balds fill the horizon. And deep cut river valleys and gorges slice through the landscape, spilling and tumbling and diving in scores of majestic waterfalls.

When a river meets towering rock, something seemingly magical happens, as water drops and spills into a pool below. Waterfalls are simply beautiful. They’re strikingly photo-worthy. And those tumbling tendrils of water somehow stir remarkable emotion in the soul.

Waterfalls near Asheville: our top 10 favorite western North Carolina waterfall hikes

In Asheville’s mountainous and river-filled terrain, waterfalls are plentiful: there’s no shortage of great hikes to be found near the city. We’ve hiked many, exploring the area’s towering and thundering falls to gentle cascades set in a stunningly beautiful forest. With so many amazing falls, it’s tough to choose just ten, but we’ve carefully hand-picked our favorites, all under a two-hour drive from the Asheville area. Pack a picnic and hit the road: it’s time to chase some beautiful waterfalls.

Waterfalls near Asheville: our favorite hikes

Waterfall photography

Love taking waterfall photos, but struggle to get that great, wispy whitewater look? You’ll need to increase your camera’s exposure time, so your camera doesn’t freeze the action and suspend the waterfall’s water droplets in mid-air.

Mount your DSLR, mirrorless camera or point-and-shoot camera with exposure controls on a sturdy, lightweight tripod. Hike to a waterfall. Frame the waterfall in your viewfinder, switch to aperture priority mode, and then set a small aperture (f/16, f/22 or smaller) and a low ISO (100). These camera settings will help force your camera into a longer exposure, slowing waterfall to a blur, and the tripod will keep the other landscape details crisp.

For the best results, don’t shoot mid-day, or on sunny days. Shooting on cloudy days, at dawn or dusk, or adding a polarizing filter or neutral density filter to your lens will reduce the amount of available light, slowing the shutter speed and increasing the wispy-water effect.

For more info and tips on shooting waterfalls, check out this great waterfall photography guide.

Waterfall hiking: safety

Hike safely: since the rocks surrounding a waterfall are often wet, they’re usually slippery too, so don’t climb, swim or hike on, around or over a waterfall. Falls can be fatal. And the best time to visit is usually not after a recent rain: a high-volume waterfall can be dangerous (and when raging, often loses some of its magical, photo-worthy beauty).

And don’t drink the water, as fresh and refreshing as it may look: rivers and streams may contain harmful bacteria and parasites. Some water sources may be safely filtered: read more on backcountry water filtering and treatment.

REMINDER: Slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Do not climb, stand above, swim near, or jump from any waterfall. See more water safety tips. And please help preserve North Carolina’s exceptional outdoor beauty. Pack out everything you pack in, and leave no trace.

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