The rolling, mountainous terrain 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.

In Asheville’s mountainous and river-filled terrain, these tumbling marvels 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. (Short on time, or looking for a great kid-friendly hike? Check out our favorite Asheville waterfall hikes under two miles.)

Pack a picnic and hit the road: it’s time to chase some beautiful cascades.

Hike to the most popular, most beautiful and most scenic waterfalls near Asheville on our top ten favorite trails in western NC. #hiking #trailrunning #backpacking #asheville #nc #northcarolina #travel #outdoors #adventure

Waterfalls near Asheville: our favorite hikes

  • Hike the Rainbow Falls Trail at Gorges State Park

    Rainbow Falls

    3.9 MILES, ROUND TRIP

    Rainbow Falls is a stunner, tumbling down over a towering, 150-foot cliff in a single, dramatic drop. Hike this trail from Gorges State Park near Cashiers, NC to a series of spilling falls on the Horsepasture River and abundant summertime wildflowers.
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  • Schoolhouse Falls

    2.6 MILES, ROUND TRIP

    Filled with sheer-walled mountain summits, deep-carved valleys and tumbling waterfalls, Panthertown Valley is often referred to as the ‘Yosemite of the East’. Hike this scenic adventure to Panthertown’s most popular falls, descending from Cold Mountain Gap into a valley filled with lush rhododendron. The hike visits Schoolhouse Falls, catching views from a shallow pebble-lined basin just below the falls.
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  • Hike the Catawba Falls Trail east of Asheville

    Catawba Falls

    2.7 MILES, ROUND TRIP

    Our favorite waterfall hike near Asheville crosses several shallow river fords and treks through a shady valley to a century-old hydroelectric dam and several exceptionally beautiful falls set in a mossy, rocky forest.
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  • Bridal Veil Falls

    4.6 MILES, ROUND TRIP

    This outstanding hike at DuPont State Forest visits an enormous cascade deep within the park, scoring some serenity at one of DuPont’s lesser-visited (but ultra-beautiful) falls. Hike across a covered bridge over the towering High Falls, visit the banks of the glassy Lake Julia, and then view the unique drops, veils and tendrils of Bridal Veil Falls from a viewing platform and the blocky outcrops at the base of the falls.
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  • Hike the Crabtree Falls Trail, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville

    Crabtree Falls

    2.7 MILES, ROUND TRIP

    Hike a moderate loop just off the Blue Ridge Parkway to the towering cascades of Crabtree Falls. The trail explores a lush forest filled with wildflowers, rhododendron and mountain laurel, loops to the Upper Crabtree Falls and trails beside a rocky creek.
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  • Linville Falls

    2.2 MILES, ROUND TRIP

    The Linville River makes a dramatic entrance into Linville Gorge, spilling down through a steep-walled rocky wonderland in a multi-tiered cascade. Hike the Linville Falls Trail to three overlooks of the falls, or the nearby Plunge Basin Trail to an up-close view of the waterfall on the gorge floor.
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  • Hike DuPont State Forest to Triple Falls, Hooker Falls and High Falls, three of North Carolina's most beautiful and popular waterfalls

    DuPont State Forest Three Waterfalls Hike

    4.5 MILES, ROUND TRIP

    Hike to three incredibly beautiful cascades in less than five miles on this ultra-scenic adventure. This three-trail combo at DuPont State Forest explores three of Western NC’s most beautiful and popular cascades: Triple Falls, High Falls, and Hooker Falls.
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  • Skinny Dip Falls

    .9 MILE, ROUND TRIP

    Hike to Skinny Dip Falls, a multi-tiered waterfall that cascades into deep pools of crystal clear, chilly water. Framed in steep, angled rock and rhododendron, the falls are gorgeous, and it’s one of the most popular summertime swimming holes near Asheville.
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  • Hike Graveyard Fields off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, NC

    Graveyard Fields

    3.3 MILES, ROUND TRIP

    Graveyard Fields, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville, is a land of rolling meadows filled with wildflowers, wild blueberries and blackberries, and two stunning cascades. Hike a relatively easy three-miler to the upper and lower Graveyard Fields falls, and trek through some incredibly beautiful terrain.
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  • Moore Cove Falls

    1.2 MILES, ROUND TRIP

    Between Brevard, NC and the Blue Ridge Parkway, Moore Cove Falls tumbles dramatically in a single sheet from a tall rock outcrop in a beautifully forested cove. It’s a great, family-friendly hike near Looking Glass Falls.
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  • Hike to Dry Falls, a towering walk-behind waterfall near Highlands, NC

    Dry Falls

    .25 MILE, ROUND TRIP

    At barely a quarter mile, roundtrip, it’s more of a roadside attraction than our conventional definition of a hike. But it’s really, incredibly beautiful. The Dry Falls Trail wraps behind the enormous 65-foot plunging cascade, offering a unique behind-the-falls view.
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  • Whitewater Falls

    .6 MILE, ROUND TRIP

    It’s not a long hike. But at just over a half mile, round trip, this hike packs a ton of scenic beauty into a short stretch of trail. Hike to two overlooks on the trail to catch views of Upper Whitewater Falls as it tumbles and cascades more than 400 feet. It’s the highest waterfall in North Carolina, and simply stunning.
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  • Hiking gear list: our favorite, trail-tested backpacks, boots, and hike essentials

    Hiking gear list: our favorite, trail-tested gear

    WHAT TO PACK?

    Ready to hit the trail, but wondering what to pack? Our hiking gear list features our favorite, trail-tested hiking gear for day hikes on local trails and in the backcountry. Our Asheville Trails shirts and longsleeves are printed our ultra-soft tri-blend shirts, and they’re our favorite for trail adventures all over the South. Our outdoor apparel reviews feature our favorite trail-worthy hiking boots, running shoes, jackets, and layering essentials for the South. And no matter what you pack in, pack it all back out. Please leave no trace and help preserve the beauty of Western NC.
    OUR HIKING GEAR LIST

Waterfall photography

Love taking photos of your favorite falls, 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 water droplets in mid-air.

Mount your DSLR, mirrorless camera or point-and-shoot camera with exposure controls on a sturdy, lightweight tripod. Frame the falls 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 the 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 falls, check out this great guide.

Waterfall hiking: safety

Hike safely: since the rocks surrounding a cascade 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 river can be dangerous (and when raging, often loses some of its magical, photo-worthy beauty). 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.

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.

 
Leave No Trace: Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails and Trailful are official Leave No Trace partners

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.