Whether you’re an experienced outdoorsman or a casual hiker hunting for a new adventure, the Blue Ridge Mountains of Appalachia have something exciting and awe-inspiring to offer. While rafting, kayaking, and swimming are popular activities, there are those of us who prefer the “wet” without the “wild”—but where to begin?
Targeting the best waterfall hiking trails is the perfect way to enjoy the sounds of trickling streams, the rush of towering falls, and everything in between. Feel free to dive into the crystal-clear pools at the bottom of the falls, or enjoy from a distance! Popular amongst photographers and travelers who are searching for a place to cool their feet after a long hike, trails leading to waterfalls can be some of the most rewarding around.
With over 200 waterfalls in the area, Asheville, North Carolina is an ideal destination for adventurers and waterfall-watchers to discover the most stunning views. Since it’s unfortunately impossible to hunt down each and every scenic waterfall during a brief stay, we’ve curated a list of the five best waterfall hikes and haunts near Asheville. Plan your entire trip around these majestic falls, or set aside just a day or two of outdoor exploration!
1. Looking Glass Falls
60 feet of falls, easy accessibility, and a stunning name that lives up to its hype make Looking Glass Falls one of the most popular waterfalls in the area. While you don’t necessarily have to hike in order to enjoy the falls, Pisgah National Forest is rich with webs of trails that pass near the falls. The stairs that lead down to the falls from the road make Looking Glass Falls the perfect quick-stop while you’re headed towards another waterfall hike on your itinerary!
2. Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls
What could be better than three waterfalls in one hike? Less than 20 miles away from Looking Glass Falls, this collection of falls can easily be enjoyed within the same day. Littered with picnic spots, rocks for sunbathing, and picturesque views, this 2.2-mile trail will lead you to an appreciation for smaller falls like Hooker Falls. However, also prepare to be awed by the 120-foot drop of Triple Falls featured in movies like The Hunger Games and The Last of the Mohicans.
3. Rainbow Falls
Named for the oft-visible rainbow arching through the mist of this 80-foot waterfall, Rainbow Falls offers a moderate-to-difficult, 5.4-mile hike for those who long to be rewarded for their efforts with a stunning view. The start of the trail in Gorges State Park is roughly 60 miles from Asheville, making this experience an easy day trip.
4. Soco Falls
As one of the few double waterfalls in and around Asheville, we would be remiss not to include Soco Falls! 40 miles from downtown Asheville and nestled just against the edge of North Carolina’s Cherokee Indian Reservation, Soco Falls can be enjoyed in more ways than one. While you can sneak a view of the taller falls from an observation deck only a few minutes from the main road, hikers looking for a bit of a challenge will enjoy the steep descent (ropes along the trail will help you keep your balance in the most difficult spots) to the base of the falls.
5. Crabtree Falls
About 45 miles north of Asheville, Crabtree Falls offers hikers two options for viewing—a 3-mile roundtrip hike to and from the falls or a slightly longer loop trail that guides more experienced hikers to the top of the 70-foot falls.
As you’ve likely noticed from the list above, waterfall-watching can be as simple or as adventurous as you’d like to make it. Appreciate at a distance from the road, enjoy easy walks less than a mile, or challenge yourself on steeper, rockier paths for the most unique viewing angles—no matter how you approach the falls of Western North Carolina, you’ll come away refreshed and with good memories to boot.