Roadside Waterfalls near Asheville
One of the top things to do on any Western North Carolina vacation is checking out a waterfall or 2. The area is loaded with over 200 enchanting waterfalls. Some require hours of intense hiking, while others can be viewed immediately after hopping out of your car. Understandably, many tourists are looking to keep their workout to a minimum on vacation. Fortunately, if you are looking to enjoy a gorgeous waterfall without working up a sweat, there are many fantastic options in the region. All of the waterfalls featured below require minimal effort and are located within an easy drive of Asheville.
Looking Glass Falls
The premier roadside attraction in WNC is Looking Glass Falls. This one receives so much traffic that it is often difficult to find a parking spot after mid-morning. You will want to get here early to enjoy the mesmerizing sight of this 60 foot tall powerful wonder of nature all to yourself. It’s near impossible to take a quality photo on a busy day as the water cascades into a deep pool which attracts dozens of tourists and locals alike seeking a unique & free swimming hole. The unique name “looking glass” arises from the mirror like appearance that the rock takes on during the winter months as water freezes and reflects sunlight.
- Location: US 276 Brevard (50 min from Asheville)
- Best season: winter
The Mountain Waters Scenic Byway is a scenic 61 mile stretch of drive through the Nantahala National Forest. There are plentiful outdoor activities in this area including hiking trails, lakes, and picnicking areas. However, most tourists come seeking out the gorgeous roadside waterfalls which require little to no effort to view. The most impressive of the bunch is a 75 foot waterfall on the Cullasaja River known as Dry Falls. While there is a great view from the parking area, a short paved trail (about a half mile) leads you right underneath this powerful waterfall. The cool mist is totally refreshing on a hot, humid summer day.
- Location: Hwy 64 Highlands (1.5 hours from Asheville)
- Best season: spring
Right along Hwy 19 on the Cherokee Indian reservation lies one of the most spectacular waterfalls you will find in North Carolina. Here, you will get to enjoy a unique scene featuring 2 intense waterfalls in a gorgeous forested setting. While you can enjoy a peak of the falls from the road, a super short 5 minute stroll will lead you to an observation deck featuring a breathtaking view of this marvel of nature. The taller waterfall is a whopping 120 feet. The smaller waterfall will barely be visible with the lush foliage of spring and summer. Nevertheless, it’s a gorgeous photo opp anytime of year. Definitely plan a detour here en route to the Harrah’s casino or any nearby hikes in the Smokies.
- Location: US-19 Maggie Valley (50 min from Asheville)
- Best season: winter
Bridal Veil Falls
For the most easily accessible of the roadside waterfalls, consider checking out Bridal Veil which is literally located right on the highway. At one point, it was North Carolina’s only waterfall you could drive under (today, you can park to the side and snap a photo). This one is 60 feet tall, although water flow can slow down to a mere trickle during a dry spell. It’s best to head out here after a good rainstorm. Bonus – to justify the long drive, you can combine a trip to Dry Falls which is located just a few minutes up the road.
- Location: US 64 Highlands (1.5 hours from Asheville)
- Best season: spring
Wildcat Branch Falls
This one is located in Upstate South Carolina on the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Byway, about 20 minutes north of Greenville (a charming town with a great Main Street which is definitely worth checking out). This powerful 30 foot natural wonder can be viewed right from the parking lot. The way the water cascades down a granite wall is quite picturesque. If you wish to get in a workout, there is an easy 1 mile trail to the 100 foot Upper Falls. In comparison to the crowded lower falls, this trail is enjoyably rustic and secluded. Stop in Greenville for some good food and shopping after your hike to turn this into a full daytrip.
- Location: 5500 Geer Hwy, Cleveland, SC (1 hour from Asheville)
- Best season: Fall
Glassmine Falls is located at Milepost 361 along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The drive over from Asheville is really quite gorgeous as many picturesque mountain overlooks line this portion of the drive. This waterfall is quite tall at 800 feet, however, your viewpoint is so far away that it appears minuscule. Regardless, this is a great Parkway add on stop if you happen to be visiting other nearby attractions like Craggy Gardens, the Craggy Pinnacle trail, or Mt. Mitchell. It’s best to visit right after a storm (water is barely visible after a dry spell) during the barren season so the foliage does not block the view.
- Location: Parkway Milepost 361 (45 min)
- Best season: Late fall-early winter