Asheville, NC is located in the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains. While Asheville’s reputation lies as a foodie city and irreverent tourist destination, the real highlight of a visit to Asheville is the easy access to natural wonders. Unfortunately, most tourists do not consider all the wonderful natural daytrips.
The Western North Carolina region is home to over 200 waterfalls. Transylvania County lies adjacent to Asheville and has been nicknamed “the land of waterfalls.” Many of these waterfalls are viewable via a short hike, with a handful being located right off the highway.
Here are 5 great waterfall hikes, no more than an hour from the Asheville city limits. Pull yourself away from the downtown Asheville excitement, get on the road, and explore a few of these breathtaking Western North Carolina natural wonders!
Catawba is one of the closest closest waterfall hikes, and also one of the most picturesque in the region. A simple 1.5 mile trek leads you to a gorgeous 100 foot tall, multi-tiered wonder. This relatively easy trail within the beautiful Pisgah National Forest is a gorgeous way to spend a day out in nature far away from all the city congestion.
The fresh scent of the forest, peaceful flowing creeks, & several easy creek crossings will easily enable you to get lost in nature and disconnect for a bit. This is a must before returning to the bustling downtown region, which is almost always jam packed with people!
The climb to Upper Catawba falls is not safe at this time due to the treacherous nature of the unmaintained trail, however, plans are being made to pave the trail in the future. Nevertheless, views from the lower observing area are beyond breathtaking. At one time, access to this falls was prohibited to the public as it was located on private property. Fortunately, today we all get to enjoy this beauty!
How to get here: 3074 Catawba River Rd. Old Fort, NC 28762
Distance from Asheville: 30 min
Nearby attraction to justify the drive: Black Mountain Town Square (home to antique shops, boutiques stores, & several restaurants).
Tom’s Creek Falls
Tom’s Creek Falls is a hidden wonder, a serene waterfall which does not see nearly as much traffic others in the region. This is quite a surprise as this waterfall is just as picturesque as the rest, and the isolated forest setting even more tranquil. The low visitation rate could be due to the semi hidden location. Because of the lack of crowds, uninterrupted waterfall photos are easily obtainable.
The hike is just a bit over a half mile to get to this double tiered 60 foot waterfall. Another interesting site along the way is an old mica mine. On a sunny day, the mica glistens on the rocks. Numerous small streams and dense forested views, not to mention lack of crowds, make this hike a must-do for the true nature lover. This is one to consider if you love the feeling of being lost in nature.
This one also happens to be extra beautiful in the fall, with colorful foliage lining the trail, as well as surrounding the falls. Leaf peepers will definitely want to place this trail high on their fall bucket list!
How to get here: 1250 Huskins Branch Road Marion, NC 28752
Distance from Asheville: 1 hour
Nearby attraction to justify the drive: Not much in the immediate vincity, however, you can drive a few miles over to the nearby town of Little Switzerland. Here you can mine for gems (Emerald Village), take another waterfall hike (Grassy Creek Falls), and browse through antique shops.
Looking Glass Falls
Looking Glass Falls is the must-see waterfall for anyone who would prefer to avoid any intense physical activity. This roadside wonder requires a tiny little walk down a staircase to reach an observation deck looking out unto the powerful 60 foot drop waterfall. It’s the best option near Asheville for those who would like to limit any type of cardio while on vacation (understandably!).
Looking Glass Falls is often considered the most gorgeous waterfall in the region, and although it’s quite a drive considering no hike is involved, it’s worth the trek to see such a stunning natural wonder.
On an interesting side note, the unique name comes from a rock near the waterfall which resembles a mirror (or Looking Glass) in the winter as water freezes and reflects the sun.
As one of the most photographed waterfalls in the state, it’s definitely a North Carolina bucket list contender!
How to get here: US 276 Brevard, NC 28712
Distance from Asheville: 50 min
Cost: Free, parking is along the street and fills up fast
Nearby attractions to justify the drive: Pisgah Gem mining, Looking Glass Rock hike (very strenuous climb to a gorgeous overlook), Cove Creek falls (beautiful 50 foot waterfall accessible via a 2 mile loop).
Pearson’s Falls is another easily accessible waterfall, this one requiring a short, very easy 1/2 mile nature stroll. For those who want to get in a nice relaxing stroll, without going all out, Pearson’s hike is a great choice. The beautiful spring fed streams, lush plant life, and wildflowers will give you plenty to look at before arriving at the gorgeous 90 foot waterfall.
Unfortunately, this is one of the few waterfalls in the area which requires an entrance fee to access the falls. If you are up for a longer hike, there are better free options in the vicinity. For those who want to avoid any major hiking, but would still enjoy a nice nature setting, Pearson’s is a beautiful choice.
How to get here: 2720 Pearson Falls Rd. Saluda, NC 28773
Distance from Asheville: 50 min.
Cost: $5 per person
Nearby attractions to justify the drive: Downtown Saluda is home to a number of antique shops, a general store, a few cafes and ice cream shops, as well as a few interesting boutique shops – not worth going out of your way for, but a good stop after seeing the waterfall.
Triple Falls is a very popular trailhead within the Dupont State Forest, about an hour south of the Asheville region. Although crowded most of the year, this 2.2 mile out-and-back hike is definitely worthy of your time as you get to see 3 incredible waterfalls, as well as a beautiful historic covered bridge, all in exchange for a moderate, reasonably short hike.
The hike is moderate in intensity, for the most part, with a couple of steep sections, so not the best option for those out of shape. However, you can simply turn around whenever you begin to tire out.
From the High Falls parking lot, the first mesmerizing waterfall you will see around the 0.6 mile mark is the incredible 150 foot tall High Falls. If you prefer to keep it short, this is the best waterfall, and thus, you can simply turn around here and call it day.
However, if you are up for a moderate challenge, the hike to Triple Falls (a gorgeous 3 tier, 125 foot waterfall featured in The Hunger Games franchise) and Hooker Falls (a smaller 20 foot waterfall with incredible volume), it’s worth the extra workout. Plus, the beautiful nature setting and fresh scent of nature will keep you motivated to keep going. Since you drove all this way, it’s best to get the best bang-for-your-buck and enjoy all 3!
High Falls Covered Bridge
*Although the spring and summer months offer the most scenic setting as all the leaves will be on the trees, winter is the time to go if you prefer to avoid crowds.
*Parking fills up fast, especially during the busy summer season. Plan your trip early in the morning or on weekdays to avoid an unnecessary hassle.
*Bring with plenty of water – there are no options for water near any of the trails. A camelbak always comes in handy as it holds plenty of water, plus there are extra compartments for small snacks and other necessities.
*Load up on a great breakfast in Asheville as most of these waterfalls are in isolated settings with no restaurants nearby. Corner Kitchen and Biscuit Head (known for their gigantic biscuits, gravy flights, & jam bar) are 2 great local choices.
*Wear hiking shoes and appropriate workout attire. Be prepared for extremely muddy trails especially during the rainier season – wear shoes that you do not mind getting muddy! Tip: I always bring with a change of shoes for after the hike).