10 Amazing waterfall hikes in North Carolina

A waterfall at the end of the trail makes every hike that much sweeter.

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

Beaches, valleys, forests, and mountains...North Carolina truly has it all. To help you beat the heat during these summer months, we've compiled a list of North Carolina's most scenic and enjoyable waterfall hikes. Check out these adventures and make your plans to get out there!

Photo: Justin Costner

Catawba Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in North Carolina--a stunning 100 foot drop along rocks combined with lush forest vegetation makes this hike a particularly unique experience. Want to spend the night? Book a spot at Catawba Falls CampgroundNote: This fall is closed until Spring 2023 for visitor safety improvements. Please check with the National Forest Service for updates on opening dates.

Photo: Elyse Clark

Crabtree Falls is a lovely 80 foot waterfall that tumbles down rocky landscape into a creek below. Be sure to explore the rocks directly below the falls to see rainbows in the water!

Photo: Alan Maxcy

Grassy Creek Falls is a gorgeous hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains, an easy day trip from Charlotte. This two mile round trip hike is perfect for families and all skill levels year round: offering an escape from the hot summer months or a wonderful snow hike with large frozen icicles in the winter.

Photo: Jess Fischer

Elk River Falls creates the perfect swimming hole for warm days. The trail to Elk River Falls is 0.2 miles long, so if you are hungry for a longer hike, we recommend nearby Roan Highlands to work up a sweat before your swim. Dogs are allowed at this location, so bring your furry friends!

Photo: Nathan Szwarc

Douglas Falls is a stunning 70 foot waterfall, perfect for picnicking, adventuring and head-dunking! This is a family friendly hike, a mere one mile round trip with minimal elevation gain makes this a fun destination for everyone.  

Photo: Tommy White

Boone Fork Creek is a cascading mountain stream that meanders down Grandfather Mountain along the Boone Fork and Tanawha trails. The further upstream you go - the clearer the water and the bigger the boulders!

Photo: Kat Dellinger

The hike to Rough Ridge gives hikers stunning views of Grandfather Mountain State Park and the surrounding hills and valleys. About a mile and a half into the hike, you come across a gem of a waterfall under a gorgeous wooden bridge. This is a great spot to explore and refill waters if you have a water filter!

Photo: Stanislav Vitebskiy

The trail to see 80 foot Shoals Falls is a lovely loop hike through South Mountains State Park. The trail and facilities are extremely well maintained, and the nature of the impressive waterfalls make this a perfect hike for experienced and new hikers alike. 

Photo: Steve Yocom

Looking Glass Falls is a quick stop off of Highway 276. This 60 foot waterfall offers a wading pool at the base, which is a great spot to cool off in the warmer months.

Photo: Matthew Koehnemann

Dry Falls is a popular waterfall located in western North Carolina’s Nantahala National Forest. Dry Falls is not only exceptionally beautiful, but the trail takes you safely behind the 75ft waterfall allowing you to truly take in the power of its presence.

Cover photo: Steve Yocom

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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