Moderate waterfall hikes near Asheville

Nature lovers will appreciate the endless opportunities for recreation in Western North Carolina. Spectacular waterfalls encompass the entirety of the the WNC region. In fact, there are 200 in Transylvania County alone. Fortunately, “The Land of Waterfalls,” is a quick daytrip from Asheville. Many gorgeous waterfalls also lie on the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of America’s most beautiful drives (located just minutes away). Below is a guide to 10 moderate waterfall hikes near Asheville, each ranging from 2-5 miles, and moderate in intensity. Due to the length/and or elevation gain, these trails are best suited for regular hikers/gym goers. Check out my easy waterfall hikes near Asheville guide if you are seeking more of a nature walk.

Also, each trail is located within approximately an hour drive of the downtown limits, making for an easy daytrip. By choosing one of the fabulous hikes featured below, you will get in a great workout, enjoy views of a mesmerizing waterfall, and possibly even see some gorgeous fall foliage if you visit at the right time of the year.

1. Catawba Falls

  • Distance from Asheville: 30 min (3074 Catawba River Rd, Old Fort)
  • Hike distance: 2.6 miles (1.3 out-and-back)
  • Waterfall height: 100 ft
  • Highlight: Amazing fall leaf peeping
  • Dog friendly: Yes (leash required)
Catawba Falls in Western North Carolina

Catawba is one of the more impressive waterfalls within the Pisgah National Forest. Not only is it considered one of North Carolina’s most beautiful waterfalls, but it is also located only a half hour from Asheville. For anyone wanting to explore a mesmerizing waterfall without traveling too far, Catawba is one of your best options. Add in that the hike is fairly short and not overly intense, and you have a real winner here. You will get in a great workout, but you will still have enough energy left over to go out to lunch post-hike. The forest is shady and lush during the summer months and alive with fall color each October.

Catawba is 100 feet tall and consists of multiple dazzling cascades. A mesmerizing sight anytime of the year, especially during WNC’s amazing leaf peeping season. Also, this waterfall is one of the most mesmerizing during the winter season, so if you want to avoid the crowds, consider an invigorating winter walk. You may be lucky enough to come across a frozen waterfall!

2. Linville Falls

  • Distance from Asheville: 1 hour 20 min (Parkway Milepost 316)
  • Hike distance: 1.6 miles (0.8 out-and-back)
  • Waterfall height: 150 ft (combined total of 4 drops)
  • Highlight: Spectacular views of the Linville Gorge wilderness
  • Dog friendly: Yes (leash required)
Linville Falls in Western North Carolina

This stunner is conveniently located right along the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 316. While it’s quite a popular trail due to its’ easy accessibility, it’s also one of the most beautiful. Driving just a small section of “America’s Favorite Drive,” should definitely be on your bucket list. The drive from Asheville to Linville along the Parkway is gorgeous with many awe-inspiring mountain overlooks along the route. This enchanting waterfall is located within the Linville Gorge area, the 3rd largest wilderness area in the state at a whopping 11,786 acres (aka “the Grand Canyon of the East”).

The easier of the 2 hikes, the Erwin’s View trail, will take you on a moderately difficult trek up to 4 different overlooks. Spectacular views of the Linville River, the gorge area, and both the Lower and Upper Falls can be enjoyed at these vista points. After working up a sweat, you will reach Erwin’s View Overlook (at 0.8 miles). From here, you will be treated to a 360 degree “on top of the world” view of both the falls. It’s one of the most majestic sights in all of Western North Carolina. Note: Be sure to take a browse around the visitor’s center and get your NPS Passport book stamped.

3. Triple Falls (Dupont State Forest)

  • Distance from Asheville: 50 min (89 Buck Forest Rd. Cedar Mountain)
  • Hike distance: 3-3.5 mile loop
  • Waterfall height: 125 ft (Triple & High Falls), 20 ft (Hooker Falls)
  • Highlight: 3 waterfalls via 1 hike
  • Dog friendly: Yes (leash required)
Triple Falls at Dupont State Forest in Western North Carolina

On this incredible trail, you will have the opportunity to see two fantastic 125 feet waterfalls (High Falls and Triple Falls), a 12 foot tall, but powerfully wide waterfall (Hooker Falls), and a historic covered bridge. Each of these photo worthy wonders are located along a moderate hike of just over 3 miles (a bit longer if you take the detours). Movie buffs will recognize Triple Falls, featured in both The Hunger Games and The Last of the Mohicans.

Out of all of the waterfall hikes in Western North Carolina, a hiking adventure along the Triple Falls trail will give you the best bang-for-your-buck. With 3 incredible waterfalls, lovely views of the forest, 2 movie filming locations, and amazing fall foliage, what more could you ask for in a beautiful day out in nature?

Note that the trail will be a bit shorter or longer, depending on how many spurs you take. It’s definitely worth the extra hassle to see the gorgeous covered bridge, as well as the base of Triple Falls.

Hooker Falls in the Dupont State Forest in Western North Carolina
Hooker Falls
Triple Falls in the Dupont State Forest in Western North Carolina
The base of Triple Falls
High Falls in Dupont State Forest in Western North Carolina
High Falls
Covered bridge in Dupont State Forest in Western North Carolina
Dupont covered bridge

4. Crabtree Falls

  • Distance from Asheville: 1 hour (Parkway Milepost 339.5 – Crabtree Falls campground)
  • Hike distance: 2.5 mile loop
  • Waterfall height: 70 ft
  • Highlight: One of the most gorgeous on the Parkway
  • Dog friendly: Yes (leash required). Note – the trail is a bit rocky near the waterfall
Beautiful Crabtree Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Western North Carolina

This spectacular 70 foot waterfall, which beautifully cascades down a 60 foot rock wall, is a definite contender for best of Western North Carolina. Considering the hike to see this beauty is relatively short at just 2.5 miles, this one should not be missed. The hike begins at the Crabtree Falls campground about an hour outside of Asheville. You have two options here – a moderate 2.5 mile loop or a 0.9 mile out-and-back trek, just to the waterfall and back, which is much easier (downhill to the falls, uphill on the way back, but nothing overly strenuous).

If you have the time, the full loop (requires a 1.7 miles hike after the initial 0.9 mile walk to the falls) is worth the extra effort. After a short section of steep switchbacks, you are taken on a beautiful quiet journey through the oak-hickory forest. Most of the tourists are long gone as they linger by the waterfall and opt for the shorter out-and-back route. Along this shady route, you will pass another smaller waterfall, enjoy tranquil views of the creek, and be surrounded by beautiful dense trees. During the fall, magnificent foliage surrounds you in every direction. Overall, it’s a wonderful trail offering (anyone up for a decent workout) a much needed break from our modern hustle and bustle.

5. Rainbow Falls at Gorges State park

  • Distance from Asheville: 1 hour and 15 min (976 Grassy Ridge Rd, Sapphire)
  • Hike distance: 3 miles (1.5 out-and-back)
  • Waterfall height: 150 ft
  • Highlight: Best state park in North Carolina
  • Dog friendly: Yes (leash required)
Rainbow Falls at Gorges State Park in Western North Carolina

Gorges is easily one of the most scenic state parks in North Carolina. Access to multiple waterfalls, backcountry trails, ample wildlife watching, and a fantastic visitor’s center has led Gorges to become one of the region’s more popular tourist destinations. Rainbow Falls is the premier attraction here. This woodsy 1.5 mile out-and-back trail meanders through a gorgeous forest. It’s peaceful here no matter the time of the year. Rainbow is a moderate intensity hike which is steep at times, although totally worth the effort for a view of an insanely gorgeous and extremely powerful 150 foot waterfall. On a sunny day, you may see a rainbow over the falls, hence the name.

Avid hikers may want to continue on another quarter of a mile or so along an unmarked trail to see another smaller waterfall. Turtle back Falls is also a beauty, although it’s a steep hike, especially after working up a sweat hiking uphill to Rainbow for over an hour. It’s best to skip this one unless you are in really great shape and up for a longer adventure.

6. Raven Cliff Falls

  • Distance from Asheville: 1 hour (8155 Geer Hwy, Cleveland, SC)
  • Hike distance: 4.4 miles (2.2 out-and-back)
  • Waterfall height: 420 ft
  • Highlight: The tallest waterfall in South Carolina
  • Dog friendly: Yes (leash required)
Raven Cliff Falls at Caesars Head State Park in Upstate South Carolina

This beautiful park in Upstate South Carolina features a heavily wooded trail leading to the state’s tallest waterfall. The park gets its’ name from a huge granite outcropping on the Blue Ridge escarpment. It’s well worth the easy hour drive especially during the colorful peak of fall season. A moderate 2.2 mile hike through the trees will lead you to an overlook of 420 foot tall Raven’s Cliff Falls. While the waterfall is quite far off in the distance, the setting with the lovely foliage surrounding the falls is near picture-perfect.

For a longer adventure and a closer view of the falls, you can opt for a 6+ mile hike to a suspension bridge via the Dismal trail. For most regular hikers, the trek to Raven Cliff Falls should satisfy your need for adventure and give you more than enough of a workout. Bird watching (167 species have been identified) is super popular here and the park is an official Hawk Migration site . Also be on the lookout for wildlife (black bears occasionally make an appearance) and beautiful spring wildflowers. Also, do not leave without taking in the 360 degree mountain vistas via the main overlook (during the fall months you may seen hundreds of hawks).

7. Wintergreen Falls

  • Distance from Asheville: 50 min (3045 Sky Valley Rd, Hendersonville)
  • Hike distance: 3.4 miles (1.7 out-and-back)
  • Waterfall height: 20 ft
  • Highlight: Pretty setting
  • Dog friendly: Yes (leash required)
Wintergreen Falls at Dupont State Forest in Western North Carolina

Another fantastic waterfall in the Dupont State Forest is Wintergreen Falls. This hike is a bit easier than Triple Falls, so a perfect family-friendly alternative. The trail is highly trafficked all year-round, so you will want to get here early to ensure parking. A moderate 1.7 mile out-and-back hike leads you to a beautiful 20 foot waterfall surrounded by evergreen trees. There are some boulders you can climb up to get a better view at the base. As with all other waterfalls on this list, never attempt to climb the falls – many deaths and serious injuries have resulted.

Overall, the trek to get to the falls is almost entirely flat and mostly downhill. Unfortunately, this means you will get in a decent uphill workout on the way back. Nothing overly strenuous, but comparable to a good day at the gym. The trail is a bit hard to find. You will park at the Guion Farm access lot and walk through the grassy field. Follow Tarklin Branch Road until you see the sign for Wintergreen Falls. Overall, this is one of the prettier waterfalls in the region, especially if you arrive before the afternoon crowds. The gorgeous setting and intensity of the waterfall more than make up for the lack of height.

8. Jones Gap Falls

  • Distance from Asheville: 50 min (303 Jones Gap Rd. Marietta, SC)
  • Hike distance: 3 miles (1.5 out-and-back to waterfall – full hike is 5.3 miles)
  • Waterfall height: 50 ft
  • Highlight: Picturesque secluded setting
  • Dog friendly: Yes (leash required)
Jones Gap Falls in Upstate South Carolina

This South Carolina beauty is located in Greenville County within the gorgeous Jones Gap State Park. While this hike does not get as much press as tourist favorite Rainbow Falls, the hike is much easier, and thus, open to pretty much anyone who wants to enjoy a beautiful wonder of nature. While the full trail is nearly 5 miles, you can hike just out to Jones Gap Falls and back. The trek is about a mile and a half and relatively easy apart from a few rocky sections. Nothing too difficult, and thus, a great bang-for-your-buck adventure for the little effort required.

Jones Gap Falls is only 50 feet tall, however, the setting is quite incredible as the falls cascade down a beautiful stone wall. Add in the fact that this trail is underused, so you get to enjoy a tranquil stroll through the beautiful woods, followed by peaceful reflection time all to yourself, at one of the state’s most mesmerizing waterfalls. Plan your visit during the peak of fall if possible. Jones Gap and neighboring Caesars Head are 2 of the prime leaf peeping spots in the Upstate.

9. Graveyard Fields Loop

  • Distance from Asheville: 50 min (Parkway Milepost 418.8)
  • Hike distance: 3.5 mile loop
  • Waterfall height: 55 ft (Second Falls), 40 ft (Upper Falls)
  • Highlight: Amazing leaf peeping
  • Dog friendly: Yes (leash required)
Second Falls at Graveyard Fields on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Western North Carolina

This moderate 3.5 mile hike to two beautiful waterfalls is one of the most popular destinations along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s an easily accessible hike, located just an hour from Asheville, and features 2 picture-perfect waterfalls within a relatively short hike. It is easy to see why so many tourists flood this area, especially during the colorful autumn months. If you time your visit just right, you will enjoy an amazing view of the Lower Falls surrounded by the bright hues of the fall. Early-mid October, you will want to get out here early to ensure a parking spot.

Upper Falls along the Graveyard Fields loop hike along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina
Upper Graveyard Falls

The trek to 55 foot tall Second Falls is easy and short. The distance is under a half mile and includes about 60 steps. As the more beautiful of the 2 falls, this one should be first on your to-do list. It’s easy enough for families and anyone in basic shape who can handle a few staircases. On the other hand, trail to the 40 foot Upper Falls is a bit more intense as it climbs gradually uphill and involves climbing over rocks and exposed roots. Consider adding on this hike for a better workout and more time out in nature. Keep in mind you will be adding in 3 miles. All-in-all, Second Falls is so much more powerful – a really inspiring sight that is accessible via little time commitment.

10. Deep Creek Falls Three Waterfalls loop (Smoky Mountains)

Distance from Asheville: 1 hour (1040 West Deep Creek Rd. Bryson City)
Hike distance: 2.5 mile loop
Waterfall height: 90 ft (Juney Whank), 60 ft (Tom Branch), 25ft (Indian Creek)
Highlight: Three incredible waterfalls viewable via moderate effort
Dog friendly: No

Beautiful Juney Whank Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

On this enjoyable moderate hike of just 2.5 miles, you will get to enjoy 3 gorgeous waterfalls. Known as the “Three Waterfalls Loop,” this is easily the best bang-for-your-buck hike in the Great Smoky Mountains. Unlike super touristy Gatlinburg, this hike is located in laid-back Bryson City. This small mountain community located on the quieter North Carolina side of the Smokies is the perfect place to enjoy the beauty of the Smokies minus the heavy tourist crowds.

On this waterfall loop, you will come across Juney Whank, Indian Creek, and Tom Branch Falls. All 3 are mesmerizing, especially following heavy rainfall. Peaceful views of the forest and creek will keep you company along the way. Note this one is very beautiful during the colorful fall season. And, best of all, as all Smokies hikes, parking is free!

Juney Whank Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Juney Whank Falls
Tom Branch Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Tom Branch Falls
Indian Creek Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Indian Creek Falls
Beautiful views of the creek along the Three Waterfalls loop trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Pretty greenery and creek views