Best Waterfall Hikes Near Asheville

A local’s guide to can’t-miss waterfalls in the areas surrounding Asheville, North Carolina.

Known for its artsy vibe, craft beer and the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is a dream destination for adventure lovers. Chasing waterfalls is one of the best ways to explore the areas surrounding this iconic mountain town. From the Blue Ridge Parkway to towns like Brevard (aka the Land of Waterfalls), you’ll find an abundance of beautiful and diverse cascades.

Don’t write off chasing waterfalls on overcast days or even rainy ones. The trails tend to be less crowded, and many waterfalls become more powerful when it rains. Pack a good rain jacket (along with other day-hike essentials) and hit the trails! Rocks, stairs, boardwalks, etc. can be slippery when wet, so be cautious and wear waterproof shoes with good traction. 

Here are some of our favorite waterfall hikes near Asheville. Know that this list is just the beginning—there are hundreds of waterfalls in the area! Also, check local hiking events with REI for more opportunities to get outside and connect with other hikers. 

Crabtree Falls 

  • Location: Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 339.5, 50 miles northeast of Asheville 
  • Length: 2.6-mile loop 
  • Difficulty: Moderate 
  • Dogs: Leashed 

Please note: Check for road closures along the Blue Ridge Parkway if you plan to do this hike during the cooler months (particularly November–March).  

A trip to Asheville wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Blue Ridge Parkway, and you might as well hike to one of North Carolina’s most beautiful waterfalls while there. Crabtree Falls is a stunning 70-foot-tall cascading waterfall that deserves a spot at the top of your North Carolina waterfall bucket list. The falls are tucked deep in the forest, which makes this already picturesque spot even better for photographers as the dense forest blocks direct sunlight from hitting the water throughout most of the day.  

Located at milepost 339.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the trail begins at the Crabtree Falls Campground. Important Disclaimer: Searching “Crabtree Falls” in Google Maps won’t take you to the correct location. Double-check that your directions end at milepost 339.5 on the parkway—you should see the campground nearby on the map. Service on the parkway tends to be spotty, so confirm this before heading out or download maps to use offline. 

The trail is steep, rocky and can be slippery in some areas, so take your time. Trekking poles come in handy for this kind of terrain. Since it’s a loop, you can go clockwise or counterclockwise. Either way, you’ll hike down to the waterfall and finish by going uphill. Going counterclockwise (starting at Loop A and ending at Loop B) results in a steeper downhill descent and a more gradual uphill climb back to the trailhead. Also, it’s worth noting that this is a popular hike along the parkway. Go early if you wish to avoid crowds. 

Looking Glass Waterfalls

  • Location: Pisgah National Forest, 35 miles southwest of Asheville 
  • Length: 0.3-mile round-trip out-and-back 
  • Difficulty: Easy 
  • Dogs: Leashed 

You might’ve noticed that several waterfalls on this list are in Pisgah National Forest, which encompasses over 500,000 acres and is an excellent destination for exploring waterfalls. Looking Glass Waterfalls is perhaps one of the most well-known in the national forest. This 60-foot-waterfall is roadside, making it a good option for all ages. There’s an observation deck by the road, or you can take the steps down to the lower observation deck to get a closer look. Due to its popularity, finding parking can be a challenge. However, parking turnover should be high as it is a brief walk down to the waterfall. 

While you’re in the area, stop by the Cradle of Forestry just up the road, where you can admire historic buildings and learn about the history and evolution of forestry. If you want to hit another waterfall nearby, check out Moore Cove Falls (next on this list). Hike the Looking Glass Rock Trail or John Rock Trail Loop (both are close by) for spectacular mountain views. Any of these options combined with Looking Glass Waterfalls makes for the perfect day trip to Brevard. 

Moore Cove Falls Trail 

  • Location: Pisgah National Forest, 35 miles southwest of Asheville 
  • Length: 1.2-mile round-trip out-and-back 
  • Difficulty: Easy 
  • Dogs: Leashed 

Not too far from Looking Glass Waterfalls, you’ll find the trailhead for Moore Cove Falls along U.S. Highway 276. At just 1.2 miles round trip, this is a great option for hiking with kids. The fact that you can walk behind this 50-foot waterfall makes it even more enticing. 

To access the trailhead, park by the road in the designated area along U.S. Highway 276. The informational sign and footbridge are two markers that indicate you’re at the trailhead. To start the hike, cross over the footbridge and continue along the trail. You’ll walk through the forest on gentle terrain for 0.6 miles to reach the waterfall. The trail is well-marked and nicely maintained. 

Moore Cove Falls is most impressive after it rains, because it significantly increases its water flow. This waterfall is a great option for off-season hiking when much of the Blue Ridge Parkway tends to be closed. Again, the Looking Glass Rock Trail or John Rock Trail Loop are great nearby options for tacking on additional mileage and reaching stunning mountain vistas. 

Graveyard Fields Loop Trail 

  • Location: Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 418.8, 35 miles southwest of Asheville 
  • Length: 3.2-mile loop 
  • Difficulty: Moderate 
  • Dogs: Leashed 

Please note: Check for road closures along the Blue Ridge Parkway if you plan to do this hike during the cooler months (particularly November–March).  

Graveyard Fields is another must-see spot along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Don’t let the name fool you—it is indeed a waterfall hike. In fact, there are two scenic waterfalls in this area: Second/Lower Falls and Upper Falls.  

To complete the Graveyard Fields Loop Trail, locate the wooden trail sign by the parking lot and take the stairs to the paved path. After walking through a dense patch of rhododendron for a few minutes, you’ll find that the trail opens up. There are a few footbridges that take you over Yellowstone Prong—the stream that feeds both waterfalls. Continue straight along the boardwalk until you reach an intersection. Take a right to get to the base of Second/Lower Falls, which you’ll reach after hiking just one-third of a mile. There are quite a few stairs, but it’s worth it.  

After enjoying this waterfall, retrace your steps back to the intersection and take the trail toward Graveyard Fields/Upper Falls to reach Upper Falls: This puts you on the northern section of the Graveyard Fields Loop. The route to Upper Falls isn’t well-marked, and there are several intersections, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the loop before hiking. Be on the lookout for blueberries as you head from Second/Lower Falls to Upper Falls if you go in mid to late August! On your way back to the parking lot from Upper Falls, turn right to return via the lower section of the Graveyard Fields Loop Trail. 

If you want to spend the day exploring this region of the Blue Ridge Mountains, add Black Balsam Knob and Devil’s Courthouse to your itinerary. These two short hikes offer breathtaking mountain views right down the road from Graveyard Fields. If you don’t mind crowds (best avoided by visiting early and on weekdays), early October is a great time to visit for a chance to catch some incredible fall colors.  

Toms Creek Falls 

  • Location: Pisgah National Forest, 41 miles northeast of Asheville 
  • Length: 0.7-mile round-trip out-and-back 
  • Difficulty: Easy 
  • Dogs: Leashed 

This short yet rewarding hike leads you to an impressive 80-foot-tall waterfall. To get to the trailhead, drive 1.3 miles after turning off U.S. Route 221 onto Huskins Branch Road. You’ll notice a small parking lot and bulletin board. Take the path from the parking area, which parallels the creek to the waterfall. The trail is wide, and the dense forest will protect you from the sun in the warmer months. 

You can admire this beauty from an observation deck or veer to the right before reaching the observation deck to get a closer look. There’s a shallow pool at the base of the waterfall, which is perfect for kids and pets. Pack a picnic and some water shoes if you want to relax and hang around for a while.  

There are several other impressive falls nearby, making this area the perfect place for a day trip. Options from this list include Roaring Fork Falls, Linville Falls and Crabtree Falls. 

Roaring Fork Falls

  • Location: Pisgah National Forest, 47 miles northeast of Asheville 
  • Length: 1.4-mile round-trip out-and-back 
  • Difficulty: Easy 
  • Dogs: Leashed 

Just 45 minutes from Toms Creek Falls, you find Roaring Fork Falls—another family-friendly hike in Pisgah National Forest. This one isn’t quite as popular or well-known as some of the options along the Blue Ridge Parkway, but it still gets a decent amount of traffic. Parking is limited, so go early to secure a spot.  

A brief hike along a mostly flat gravel path will take you to the base of this 50-foot-tall cascading waterfall. Photos don’t do it justice: You need to go in person to fully appreciate the scale and water rushing along the 100-foot cascade. The pool at the bottom isn’t deep enough for swimming, but you can certainly get your feet wet. 

There’s another waterfall hike not included on this list about 10 minutes from Roaring Fork Falls called Setrock Creek Falls. If you’re up for it, you can also visit Mount Mitchell State Park and drive to the top of the tallest peak east of the Mississippi River, Mount Mitchell.  

Linville Falls via Plunge Basin Trail 

  • Location: Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 316.4, 59 miles northeast of Asheville 
  • Length: 1.7-mile round-trip out-and-back 
  • Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult 
  • Dogs: Leashed 

There are several ways to access Linville Falls. While you can’t go wrong no matter which you choose, the Plunge Basin Trail offers several unique viewpoints of this iconic waterfall and tends to be less crowded than the alternatives.  

You’ll find the Linville Falls visitor center and restrooms by the trailhead. To start the hike, take the path to the left of the restroom facilities. (Don’t walk through the visitor center and cross the bridge, which is the more obvious path.) The trail splits around a third of a mile in, at which point you should veer right to access the Plunge Basin Overlook for a bird’s-eye view of the waterfall. Then, return to the main trail and continue your descent to the base. The hike is short but has steep sections, as well as lots of roots and fallen trees. The trail also tends to get muddy after rain, so waterproof hiking boots with ankle support and good traction will come in handy. Please note that swimming is not permitted at Linville Falls. If a day trip isn’t enough for you, check out Linville Falls Campground to spend even more time exploring this section of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Linville Gorge. 

High Falls & Triple Falls Loop 

  • Location: DuPont State Forest, 35 miles southwest of Asheville 
  • Length: 3.3-mile loop 
  • Difficulty: Moderate 
  • Dogs: Leashed 

With a variety of hikes for all ages and experience levels, DuPont State Recreational Forest is one of the best places for a day trip from Asheville. High Falls and Triple Falls are two of six waterfalls within DuPont State Recreational Forest and can be reached via a loop trail from the High Falls parking area. The trail system in DuPont can be confusing because there are so many trails and intersections, so make sure to grab a map from the visitor center before heading out on your hike. (They keep paper maps on the porch.) You can also use the restroom here and fill up your water bottle.   

By following the trail clockwise from the High Falls parking area, you’ll first hike to Triple Falls and pass High Falls as you finish the loop. There is some elevation gain once you reach Triple Falls (after about a mile), and then you’ll walk along the river until you reach High Falls. Most of the trail is shaded. In terms of terrain, expect wide gravel pathways and packed-down dirt. The out-and-back portion to the base of High Falls is more rugged than the rest of the trail, but it’s worth it to stand at the base of the 125-foot-tall waterfall.   

Tackle three waterfalls in one day by adding Hooker Falls (named after Edmund Hooker, the man who operated the mill just below the falls in the 1800s) to your itinerary. As with many other locations on this list, parking fills up quickly. Aim to arrive before 9am on weekends, if possible. 

Catawba Falls 

  • Location: Pisgah National Forest, 27 miles east of Asheville 
  • Length: 2.3-mile round-trip out-and-back 
  • Difficulty: Moderate 
  • Dogs: Leashed 

Please note: Trail is temporarily closed until Spring 2023 for trail maintenance and updates.    

Catawba Falls is a well-loved and easily accessible waterfall just 30 minutes east of Asheville. This is a great hike for beginners, kids and families. One of the reasons this waterfall is so heavily-traversed is its proximity to I-40. You only have to drive for about 10 minutes to get to the trailhead after getting off the interstate. This waterfall is accessible year-round, making it a great option during wintertime when the crowds die down.  

The hike is well-marked and easy to follow. A few bridges will take you across the Catawba River, which the path parallels throughout the hike. While there is some elevation gain (around 350 feet), the hike stays relatively gradual throughout. After a little more than a mile, you’ll reach a 100-foot-tall cascading waterfall—an amazing payoff for such a short hike. The hike ends extremely close to the base of the waterfall where there’s a shallow pool. There are plenty of rocks at the base where you can sit and relax, take photos or enjoy a picnic lunch.

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