The best easy waterfall hikes near Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville is an ideal destination for exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge region of Western North Carolina. There are 100’s of miles of incredible hiking trails, with over 200 waterfalls to enjoy, within an easy drive of the city. Transylvania County, “the land of waterfalls,” offers no shortage of spectacular waterfall hikes, most of which are within 40 min of the downtown limits. Fortunately, viewing these enchanting waterfalls often requires little to no effort. Below are 10 incredible easy waterfall hikes, all located within approximately an hour drive of Asheville.

Each hike listed is under 2 miles RT and easy in intensity. Parking is free unless noted otherwise. Be sure to take a break from exploring Asheville’s renowned foodie scene to enjoy just a few of these natural wonders. And of course, there are plenty of unique local establishments to fuel up at before your hike.

1. Roaring Fork Falls

  • Distance from Asheville: 1 hour
  • Address: 208 Busick Work Center Rd, Burnsville, NC 28714
  • Hike Distance: 0.6 miles each way
  • Waterfall height: 100 feet
Roaring Fork Falls in Western North Carolina

This gently cascading waterfall is often overlooked as nearby Blue Ridge attractions tend to draw all the tourist traffic. The hike to Roaring Fork consists of an easy half mile stroll along an old logging road. There is barely any elevation gain as the majority of the trail follows an easy gravel path. Near the end, there are some exposed tree roots and rocks to climb, however, little more than light caution needs to be taken. This hike is very shady with beautiful views of the Pisgah National forest throughout. It’s rare to see more than a handful of hikers thanks to its’ remote setting.

This waterfall is gorgeous, one of the most photo worthy in Western North Carolina. The pretty greenery framing the falls is quite mesmerizing. Luckily, there are not many tourists getting in the way of photos, unlike popular attractions like Looking Glass Falls where it is near impossible to capture the beauty all to yourself. Note that the water flow will be most dramatic following heavy rainfall.

2. Tom’s Creek Falls

  • Distance from Asheville: 50 min
  • Address: 1250 Huskins Branch Rd, Marion, NC 28752
  • Hike distance: 0.5 miles each way
  • Waterfall height: 80 feet
Tom's Creek waterfall in Western North Carolina

This hidden gem is located off-the-beaten path (about 9 miles from the BRP) and tends to be visited more by locals than tourists. This keeps the vibe attractively tranquil and rustic. Tom’s Creek is located within the Pisgah National Forest near the town of Marion. A nice quiet woodsy trek of a half mile leads you to a breathtaking multi tiered, 80 foot waterfall. One of the interesting aspects of this hike is the glistening rocks found near the falls. Once home to a mica mine, the mica now sparkles in the sun, creating a unique setting not found elsewhere. There is a nice viewing platform here for taking photos.

While more stunning after a heavy rainfall, this waterfall is beautiful anytime of the year. During the fall season, you will be surrounded by colorful foliage. Wintertime, you may see icicles and fresh snow surrounding the falls. Frozen waterfalls truly are an enchanting sight to behold if you can time your visit just right. If you are looking for absolute solitude, winter is the best time to embark on this and any other WNC adventures.

3. Courthouse Falls

  • Distance: 1 hour
  • Address: Courthouse Creek Road (FSR 140)
  • Hike distance: 0.3 miles each way
  • Waterfall height: 45 feet
Courthouse Falls in Western North Carolina

Another secluded gem in the Pisgah Forest is gorgeous Courthouse Falls. With this one, you have to check the National Forest website to ensure that the road to the falls is open, or risk turning this easy nature stroll into a moderate hike. Heads up – if the road is closed, you will have to walk the 2.5 mile gravel road, in addition to the hike, making this hike 5+ miles. Assuming the road is open, the hike to the falls is just over a half mile round-trip and flat for the most part besides a small steep staircase right before your reach the falls. The waterfall is a mere 45 feet, but one of the most scenic in WNC as it cascades beautifully into a deep pool in a scenic cove.

Be aware that the drive to get to this waterfall is more difficult than the hike itself. Although 4WD is not required, the 2.5 mile long road is very bumpy. Also, finding the trailhead is a bit of a hassle, especially with no other cars in the area. Look for little cutout in the woods and a small trail sign on FSR 140 (about 2.5 miles in).

4. Hickory Nut Falls

  • Distance from Asheville: 1 hour
  • Address: Highway 64/74A Chimney Rock, NC 28720. Fee: $17 per adult, $8 per youth
  • Hike distance: 0.7 miles each way
  • Waterfall height: 404 feet
Hickory Nut Falls at Chimney Rock State Park in Western North Carolina

The state’s 2nd tallest waterfall is accessed via hiking an easy 0.7 mile out-and-back trail at Chimney Rock State Park. The spectacular 360 degree views atop Chimney Rock (requires a steep, yet exhilarating 499 step climb!) is alone enough to warrant a visit to this WNC gem. After enjoying a bird’s eye view of the Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure, be sure to take the short hike to Hickory Nut Falls. Many tourists leave after working up a sweat on the stair climb. Don’t let this be the case! This 404 foot beauty was featured in The Last of the Mohicans. There are some pretty cool photo opps here where you can get up close and personal with the falls and even feel the cool mist – a real treat on a hot summer day!

The trail is just under a mile and a half RT and is mostly flat with a small staircase and a few uphill sections. As this is heavily used by tourists, there are plenty of benches, as well as picnic tables along the way. Fall is the best time to visit as the trail meanders through a leafy deciduous forest. Summer is pretty spectacular too as the rhododendrons are in bloom. If quiet is what you seek, treat yourself to a winter walk where you may be lucky enough to see a rare frozen waterfall.

5. Mingo Falls

  • Distance from Asheville: 1 hour 20 min
  • Address: 71 Big Cove Road, Cherokee, NC
  • Hike Distance: 0.4 miles out-and-back
  • Waterfall height: 120 feet
Mingo Falls on the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina

One of the tallest waterfalls in the Southern Appalachians, beautiful Mingo Falls, rises 120 feet and cascades down 200 feet of boulders, rocks, and fallen trees. The hike is super short at just a quarter of a mile, although it does includes 161 steep steps. Nothing too challenging, but a nice little workout if you are seeking one. A wooden viewing bridge offers a breathtaking glimpse of the falls. Mingo is located on the Cherokee Indian reservation, just 5 miles outside of the Smoky Mountains National Park. If you are taking the Blue Ridge Parkway, you will exit Milepost 469.1 in Cherokee.

Although a bit crowded, Mingo is definitely one of the state’s most incredible waterfalls. As the tallest and most easily accessible waterfall in the Smokies, you can bet this one is busy most of the year. A worthy daytrip from Asheville for sure, especially if you are planning on exploring the Smoky Mountains or other Cherokee attractions (Soco Falls, Cherokee casino).

6. Moore Cove Falls

  • Distance from Asheville: 50 min
  • Address: US 276 Brevard, NC
  • Hike distance: 0.7 miles each way
  • Waterfall height: 50 feet
Moore Cove Falls in Western North Carolina

Once a secluded waterfall hike, Moore Cove Falls has become much busier in recent years due to its’ proximity to tourist favorite Looking Glass Falls. If you are in the region, this short, yet exhilarating hike is just a mile up the road from Looking Glass and definitely worth the extra hassle if you love waterfalls. Moore Cove Falls, while just 50 feet tall, is unique in that it is the only waterfall in the state which you can stand underneath. Plenty of fun photos to take here. Be sure to visit during the rainy season (spring/summer) as the weak flow can slow down to a mere trickle during a dry spell.

Waterfall aside, the trek through the forest is very beautiful, although crowded at times. The RT distance is just under 1.5 miles, and the trail is relatively flat besides a small staircase climb near the start. Parking can be a hassle as spots are limited, so it’s best to visit during the slow season or head out very early in the morning.

7. Upper Whitewater Falls

  • Distance from Asheville: 1 hour 20 min
  • Address: NC Highway 281, Sapphire, NC 28774
  • Hike distance: 0.25 miles each way
  • Waterfall height: 411 feet
Upper Whitewater Falls in Western North Carolina

The hike to North Carolina’s largest waterfall requires no more than a half mile hike. Upper Whitewater Falls dramatically plunges 411 feet and is easily viewable via an observing deck, while 400 foot Lower Falls in South Carolina requires a little bit more scrambling via a moderate 4 mile hike. With a combined height of over 800 feet, this is one of the largest waterfalls east of the Rockies. A simple quarter of a mile paved walkway leads you to an amazing overlook. For those wanting to enjoy an even better view, challenge yourself to the 154 step staircase climb. It’s not too difficult, and highly worth the leg workout for a prime view of one of the state’s most breathtaking falls.

Summer is the most popular time to visit. Although crowded, the falls look more stunning when surrounded by beautiful greenery. Plus, lovely wildflowers are blooming at this time. Fall, of course, is also a lovely time with colorful foliage providing a picture-perfect backdrop.

8. Soco Falls

  • Distance from Asheville: 50 min
  • Address: US-19 (about 10 miles from Cherokee)
  • Hike distance: 0.2 miles
  • Waterfall height: 120 feet
Beautiful Soco Falls in Cherokee, North Carolina

Soco Falls is a wonderful side trip if you are intending on visiting the Cherokee or Smoky Mountains area. Conveniently located roadside, this is an easy detour from the Parkway (located just outside the entrance). Two beautiful waterfalls merge together for one of the more alluring waterfall scenes in the state. A simple 10 minute walk leads you to a wooden observation deck. During the spring/summer season, the lovely foliage creates a picture-perfect setting, although you will likely only be able to see one waterfall. For a better view, there is an unmarked steep short trail to the base, although the rocks can be slippery – proceed with caution as many hikers have been injured.

Note that parking is limited and Soco Falls is a very popular tourist destination. It’s best to save this one for the weekday or time your visit early in the morning. At 120 feet, it’s one of the tallest waterfalls in the region. The path to the deck is very short, but also a bit steep. Wear hiking shoes and take your time. The unmaintained hike to the base is considered dangerous – views from the deck are incredible enough. The parking area is located on US-19 near a blue Soco Falls sign. You will see a pullout with a guardrail. More likely than not, you will also see several cars.

9. Wildcat Branch Falls

  • Distance from Asheville: 1 hour
  • Address: 5500 Geer Hwy, Cleveland, SC 29635
  • Hike distance: 1 mile loop
  • Waterfall height: 30 feet Lower Falls, 100 feet Upper Falls
Wildcat Branch Falls in Upstate South Carolina

If you are heading out to Jones Gap or Caesars Head State Park, you will want to make a quick detour to view the beautiful 30 foot tall Wildcat Branch Falls. While small in comparison to nearby options, Wildcat is especially picturesque with the exposed granite rock in the background. The lower portion of the falls can be viewed along Hwy 11 (aka Cherokee Foothills Scenic Hwy). However, it’s worth hiking the 1 mile loop trail to the Upper Falls. As most tourists congregate near the lower falls, the trail is always peaceful. The loop is heavily wooded and will take you to both the middle falls as well as the 100 foot tall Upper Falls.

Upper Wildcat Branch Falls in Upstate South Carolina

Wildcat is super popular in the summer as it doubles as a sightseeing and swimming hole destination. Fall offers a refreshing break from the crowds, plus plentiful fall foliage.

10. Log Hollow & Logging Road Falls

  • Distance from Asheville: 1 hour
  • Address: FR 475B Brevard, NC (Hike starts behind the gate)
  • Hike distance: ~1 mile each way
  • Waterfall height: 25 feet /60 ft
Log Hollow Falls in Western North Carolina

The small, yet aesthetically pleasing 25 foot Log Hollow Falls is easily accessible via a simple hike along an old logging road. The hike itself is not very scenic, unless you visit during the fall. It’s very close to roadside wonder Looking Glass Falls, so a great side trip if you are in the vicinity. This trail receives almost no traffic, so you can expect a nice peaceful experience after visiting crowded Looking Glass Falls. When you arrive at your destination, you will see 2 trails. You will start at the old logging road marked Senaird Ridge trail (hike begins behind the gate).

This trail features 4 waterfalls in total. Log Hollow and Logging Road are visible via the logging road. Discovery and Upper Log Hollow Falls require a bit of a scrambling via unmarked side trails. The trek to Log Hollow is an easy half mile or so, viewable via a bridge (a short spur trail offers a better view). Although small, the waterfall is quite powerful, especially after heavy rain. Some hikers choose to continue up this steep spur trail for a view of Upper Log Hollow Falls (not really worth it in my opinion). Discovery Falls is located about a quarter of a mile before Log Hollow. You will see an unmarked trail before the first bridge. Take this a quarter of a mile (note: it’s steep and a bit dangerous).

Continue on the logging road for another half mile or so and you will reach 60 foot Logging Road Falls. This one is more impressive during the barren winter season. In the summer, the leaves obscure the view. All in all, the 2 main waterfalls combine for a nice ~2 mile out-and-back hike.

Logging Road Falls in Western North Carolina

Note: the drive down FR475 (about 1.5miles) is bumpy with several potholes