The mountains of Western North Carolina are filled with spectacular waterfalls tumbling over mossy boulders and spilling from towering cliffs. And while some require a challenging trek through a remote wilderness to visit, others are only a short walk from the trailhead. In fact, some of the most beautiful waterfalls near Asheville are accessible by relatively short, beginner-friendly trails.
Hike to seven outstandingly beautiful cascades on these trails. They’re all under two miles, round trip – and many are under one mile! Explore beautiful, shady forests, boulder-filled rivers – and even get the chance to walk behind one of the towering falls. These family-friendly and kid-friendly trails are short, relatively easy, and pack a whole lot of beauty into a short distance. Pack a picnic or a snack and relax while soaking in the sights and sounds of the rushing water: there’s nothing like the refreshing mist of a falls to cool you down on the hottest summer day.
Waterfalls near Asheville, NC: our favorite hikes under two miles
Please remember to leave no trace when you’re out wandering and exploring to help keep our wilderness areas beautiful and pristine. And slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Please don’t climb, stand on, swim near, or jump from any waterfall.
.25 MILE, ROUND TRIP
Dry Falls is one of our state’s most unique falls, and a must-do when in the Highlands and Cashiers area. Hike the short, mostly paved trail along a steep chiseled rock outcrop and behind the plunging 65-foot tall waterfall. You’ll catch cool misty breezes and an interesting perspective from a shallow rocky cave behind the spilling water.
Looking Glass Falls
.25 MILE, ROUND TRIP
It’s easy to see why Looking Glass Falls is one of North Carolina’s most popular falls. The spectacular single-tiered cascade puts on an outstanding show, and roadside access allows visitors of all abilities to enjoy the falls without a long hike. And Looking Glass Falls is gorgeous in any season. Colorful wildflowers spring from mossy rocks in warm weather months, brilliant foliage frames the falls in autumn, and frosty icicles hang from the towering cliff in winter and early spring.
Up for another adventure in the area? Don’t miss the nearby short hike to Moore Cove Falls, and explore a wispy cascade set deep in a shady cove.
.6 MILE, ROUND TRIP
Explore the broad, symmetrical, single cascade of Hooker Falls on this short hike just over a half mile. This hike follows the Litte River downstream, catching beautiful views from the river’s lushly-forested banks. The cool, clear pools below the falls are a favorite swimming hole on warm summer days, and it’s one of the most-visited cascades in the exceptionally beautiful trail network at DuPont State Forest.
.6 MILE, ROUND TRIP
One of the highest cascades in the East, Whitewater Falls plunges more than 400 feet in multiple cascades of wispy white tendrils. Hike the short paved trail to outstanding views of the falls from the upper platform before descending for a closer view. A shady picnic area at the trailhead makes a perfect spot for a post-hike lunch or snack.
1 MILE, ROUND TRIP
The Triple Falls Trail at DuPont State Forest packs three incredible falls into a one-mile, family-friendly adventure. Hike along the banks of the scenic Little River through a lush forest to a trio of exceptional waterfalls. The huge rocky outcrops at the base of the falls is a great spot for a little relaxation and a mid-hike snack. (Look familiar? These falls have starred on the big screen in films including The Hunger Games and The Last of the Mohicans.)
Big Laurel Falls
1.1 MILES, ROUND TRIP
Hike through dense thickets of beautifully blooming rhododendron, following a rocky, boulder-filled creek to the stunning cascades of Big Laurel Falls near Standing Indian Mountain. This short but ultra-scenic trail is relatively level, with only moderate elevation gains along the way, and the base of the falls is the perfect spot to stop and enjoy the views before retracing the hike to the trailhead.
2.2 MILES, ROUND TRIP
Cascading through a series of dramatic falls, the Linville River churns and tumbles through Linville Gorge just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hike to high-elevation views of the stunning cascades and grab views deep into the gorge. The trail to Linville Falls scores outstanding vistas of the falls from multiple overlooks, and hikes through rolling forest filled with fragrant hemlocks, pines, rhododendrons, and ferns. (And while it’s technically just over two miles, it’s fully worth the hike!)
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. We print and stitch our Asheville Trails shirts and hats locally in Asheville and Atlanta, and they’re our favorite for trail adventures all over 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
More waterfall adventures in NC and beyond
Up for chasing some more cascades? Check out the full list of our favorite waterfall hikes near Asheville for more outstanding beauty. And just south of the NC border, some seriously stunning falls tumble through Georgia’s beautifully rolling terrain in the southernmost stretches of the Appalachian Mountains. Follow our favorite Georgia waterfall hikes to some of the most beautiful falls in the Peach State.
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.