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7 Great Waterfall locations in North Carolina

If you have followed me for anytime on Instagram you know I love the outdoors and I especially love waterfalls. For as long as I can remember I have had a fascination with them. I love the sound they make and the power is just incredible. I know not all waterfalls are incredibly powerful, but many are. To me waterfalls are peaceful. The sound of the water as it rushes over the rock and boulders it's way just washes the stress away.


We are fortunate here in North Carolina to be the home to so many waterfalls. One of my bucket list items is to visit all of them. Okay, as many as I can and not feel like I am going to die in the process. The wonderful thing is I have been able to visit many of the beautiful waterfalls and the hikes to get to them. By no means am I an expert on hiking and waterfalls, but I wanted to share a few of my favorites with you.


"As long as I live, I'll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing."

John Muir


1. Linville Falls

This has always been my favorite waterfall to visit. The biggest reason is this is the first hike my husband took me on when we were dating. Not only does this hold a special place in my heart it truly is an absolutely beautiful location and the falls are incredible.



Linville Falls and Upper Cascades


While Linville Falls is very beautiful not all views are easy for everyone to get to. For the easier walk start with Erwins View Trail. This trail offers several views of the upper cascades. This is an easy walk of approximately half a mile from the visitors center. From this trail you will be able to get a few different views. The first is the upper cascades which is made up of 3 different cascades. From this spot you can also catch a glimpse of the start of the chimney portion of the main falls. Continue down Erwins Trail to the next 2 views. Both of these views will give you a full view of the main falls nestled down in the gorge. Linville falls is seated approximately 90 feet below.


If you don't mind a bit of a challenge take the trail down into the gorge to the bottom of the falls. Personally, this is my favorite view. I must warn you this is not a hike for the faint of heart and is considered strenuous by most. The trail to the basin is 3/4 of a mile long and is a rather steep descent with numerous stairs and difficult slopes. Once you reach the bottom your work to get over to the base of the falls isn't over. The terrain has had vast changes over the years and now you must climb over more rocks and fallen trees. I will say, it is worth all of the work. Take your lunch or a snack and sit a spell and enjoy the view and sound of the basin.


While you are visiting Linville take another short walk to Duggers Falls. The trail is at the back end of the parking lot and is just a short walk to the falls. This is a much smaller falls, but is well worth the extra walk to see it.


2. High Shoals Falls

This is probably my second favorite place to go. High Shoals Falls is absolutely gorgeous from bottom to top. It is located in South Mountains State Park just south of Morganton. There are a couple of different options on this trail. You can hike 1 mile to the falls and return the same way or you can do the complete loop for a total of 2.7 miles. I recommend taking the full loop to get the full view of the falls and the scenery surrounding it.



High Shoals Falls


The trail begins at the Jacob Fork Parking lot and follows along the Jacob Fork River. The first half mile is an easy walk with views and sounds of rushing water that cascades over the large boulders in the river. Don't rush past this area, it is worth slowing down to see and hear. There is also a nature trail that runs parallel to the main trail that is worth taking a stroll down. When you reach the platform you have a wonderful view of the lower cascades of the falls. Continue over the boardwalk until you reach a set of stairs. The stairs are a rather step climb and are a bit slick if they are wet. Hang in there the view at the platform is worth the work. If you walk to the far back rail of the platform you will be able to feel the mist from the falls, especially if it has been a good rain.


3. Hanging Rock - 5 waterfalls

Hanging Rock is located in Danbury, North Carolina. This state park is the home to 3 waterfalls inside the park that you can access from the parking area at the rangers station. The next 2 are just out side the park. The fourth is off Moore's Spring Road which is just outside of the main gate and the fifth is located off of Charlies Young Road.


Upper Cascades - Window Falls - Hidden Falls


The 3 waterfalls inside the main park are Upper Cascades, Window falls and Hidden Falls. The trail head for all three can be accessed from the same parking area just on opposite ends. When you first enter the parking area park on this end if you want to visit the Upper Cascades. From the parking lot you must walk across the road to reach the path to the falls. This is an easy walk down the short path.


To access the trail head for Window and Hidden Falls you will need to go to the far end of the parking lot and walk down the dirt trail and you first come to Hidden Falls. This is an easy walk down a small incline. To reach the base of the falls you will need to go down a steepish grade. This can be slick, even if there has been no rain, so be careful with your footing. The fall itself is multi level and isn't very large The area is very scenic and full of greenery and is certainly worth spending a little time there. Once you are back at the trail from Hidden Falls continue down the trail to Window falls. Window falls was apply named due to a cut out area in the rock at the falls that gives just a small glimpse of what is to come. This one is taller than hidden falls and there is an opening behind the water allowing you to walk behind the falls. I must warn you that should you decide to walk behind the falls take extra care with your footing. This area is very slick and I have seen more than one person fall on their rumps.



Lower Cascades - Tory Falls - Tory Den


The next two falls are located out side of the main gate. The first one is the Lower Cascades. To me this is the prettiest and more serene of the bunch. This one is located just outside the main gate on Moores Spring Road. There is a gravel parking area with the trail head located at the back side of the lot. The trail is an easy walk down a dirt path that leads to a set of nature created stairs. There is a small wade pool at the bottom of the falls, and on a warm summer day you will find families with there kiddos swimming and playing. To the Right side of the falls is several small cascades leading away from the falls. Should you decide to walk around here; take care as the rocks are very slick.


The final one in this area is Tory Falls. This one is still owned by the park, but is a bit further away than the Lower Cascades. This one is located on Charlie Young Road. If you were making a special trip to visit this one I wouldn't recommend it. While the falls and surroundings are pretty it is difficult to see since the area around it is rather grown up. If you are a history buff make sure to visit Tory Den. Tory Den is said to have been a hiding place during the Civil War.


4. Dry Falls

Don't let the name fool you. This waterfall is anything but dry! Dry Falls is located just outside of the Highlands near Asheville. This a very short easy walk along a board walk that leads you behind the falls and around to the opposite side. It is roughly 75 feet tall and does not disappoint. If you look closely toward the base of the falls you may be treated by the view of a few rainbows created in the mist of the water. Just a little word of caution. Should you walk behind the falls (I recommend you do) watch your head. If you are trying to stay relatively dry you will want to stay as close to the rock wall behind the falls which has many rocks that jut out and are perfect for knocks on the head. I speak from experience here. I was wearing my favorite pair of Oakley Sunglasses on top of my head and they fell to a painful death against the jagged rocks overhead. I am extremely thankful for my sunglasses sacrifice though. Had it not been for them I would have been making a trip to the ER for stitches.



Dry Falls



"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."

John Muir


5. Looking Glass Falls

Located just north of Brevard, NC Looking Glass Falls is easily accessed roadside. There are steps leading down to the falls for a better view. If you feel a bit adventurous you can head out on the rocks a into the water a bit. As always watch your step if you head out into the water the rocks can be very slick. This one is very pretty and scenic to visit. If you go during the busy seasons there will be a larger number of folks there. This is a popular spot to visit and some even take a picnic out on the rocks.



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6. Moore Cove Falls

Located just a mile from Looking glass falls is Moore Cove Falls. The trail to the falls is an easy walk down a dirt path. This one is approximately 50 feet tall. While the water flow isn't overly impressive it is still worth a visit if you are in the area. The neat thing about this one is that you can walk behind the falls for a good bit. I actually saw a family having a picnic behind the water! The trail does continue past Moore Cove falls and is said to lead to a smaller falls. However, I have not been down that trail. I have read that this section of the trail should be reserved for experienced hikers only due to the steepness and danger involved.



Moore Cove Falls


7. Stone Mountain Falls

Stone Mountain Falls is one of two falls in the Stone Mountain State Park. There is much more offered at Stone Mountain Park than the waterfalls, but that is for another day. The walk to the falls isn't a hard walk. The trail takes you by the south side of Stone Mountain, however you do have to take several hundred stairs to get to. So if you hate stairs as much as I do that may not be for you. The wooded section of the trail gives way to several mini cascades that adds to the scenic walk to the falls. The falls themselves are very worth getting to. The water flows down the side of the face of sliding rocks (I would not recommend trying to slide down) into a nice wade pool. This is a nice area for a picnic, if it isn't too crowded.




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Copyright Michelle Harris/ Dalton-Harris Photography 2020

Based in Winston-Salem, NC

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