Waterfalls of Western North Carolina

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Looking Glass Falls - Western North Carolina Waterfalls
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Asheville, NC offers visitors and residents a high quality of life. The city is constantly filled with compelling people and activities, and many also consider Asheville to be a good location for new beginnings and pacification of the soul. This is due in part to the charming nature of the human community. Much of the credit, however, must go to the local scenery.

The city of Asheville, situated in a valley at 2,134 feet, is nestled amongst mountains of altitudes up to 6,684 feet (Wikipedia: "Asheville, North Carolina"). This mountainous area is home to many stunning waterfalls. Visiting this nearby selection of waterfalls is one of the most inexpensive and rewarding activities to experience while in Western North Carolina.

So, how many waterfalls actually exist in NC? Ken Adams, a leading expert on North Carolina waterfalls, claims to know the location of at least 325 waterfalls in the state. Adams states that available "information on geology, topography, precipitation, and property ownership...suggests over 500 significant waterfalls in North Carolina," and further clarifies his use of "significant," adding that there are "literally thousands of smaller drops and cascades all over the mountains" (Adams, Ken. North Carolina Waterfalls: Where to Find Them, How to Photograph Them. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, Publisher, 1994. Page 5.).

Waterfalls in Western NC near Asheville area are abundant, readily available within nearby state and national forests and recreation areas, and accessible by a variety of trails and walkways that accommodate a broad range of individual physical capability. Some require a bit of a hike, some require a short walk from a parking lot, and some can be viewed from the comfort of your own vehicle.

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Waterfall Trail Difficulty Key

You will find a key to trail difficulty below. For the purposes of this article, this key is written with the understanding that an "average hiker" is an outdoor enthusiast who is not necessarily in prime physical condition but is possessing of most basic physical capabilities. These ratings should be used only as guidelines, and adjusted accordingly when applied to hikers who are very young or old, or not in the best of health.

  • No Sweat = Waterfall is visible either directly from the parking lot or via an extremely short, well-kept, flat trail. These waterfalls are accessible to those in wheelchairs or who may otherwise need assistance with walking.
  • Easy = Trail is well-maintained, and of mostly flat gradient with possible slight inclines or short sections of stairs. Most individuals who are capable of walking unassisted can manage these trails.
  • Moderate = Trail has modest inclines which may cause the average hiker to become winded and at times even need an occasional rest. Juggernaut hikers and individuals who are more physically fit should have no problem with this type of trail.
  • Difficult = The trail will have steep sections, and several breaks may be necessary. Even the juggernaut hiker will "feel the burn" on this trek. Those of average fitness will possibly wonder at times why they chose to embark upon such a suicidal exertion. Their question will answer itself as the hiker experiences the delights of the trail itself and sees the fantastic waterfall waiting at the end.

Waterfall Classifications - Types of Waterfalls

Visit our Waterfall Classifications, Types of Waterfalls page to learn about the different types of wateralls found in Western North Carolina. Types discussed include: cataract, cascade, rabids, shoals, fan, horsetail, plunge, punchbowl, segmented, tiered, multi-step.
Learn more about Waterfall Types.

Waterfall Safety and Respecting Nature

When exploring any outdoor environment, especially one as potentially dangerous as a waterfall, it is importat to be safe and respect nature. Visit our Waterfalls Safety page for some important safety tips for visiting waterfalls near Asheville, NC.
Learn more about Waterfall Safety and Respecting Nature.

Waterfalls by County

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Western North Carolina Counties Map

Counties of Western North Carolina

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About the Author

Rebecca swimming at Courthouse Falls in Transylvania County

Rebecca lived in Boone, NC while attending Appalachian State University and later spent a year in Asheville. She has a profound love of nature and has enjoyed visiting and documenting many of the cascades that grace WNC.

Sources Used

Information found in this list of selected waterfalls was derived in part from the author's personal experience and primarily from all of the following sources:

Adams, Ken. North Carolina Waterfalls: Where to Find Them, How to Photograph Them. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, Publisher, 1994.

Bianchi, Melanie McGee. "Love in the Land of Swimming Holes." Mountain Xpress. 30 August - 5 September, 2006. Pages 22-23.

Blouin, Nicole; Bordonaro, Steve; and Marilou Wier Bordonaro. Waterfalls of the Blue Ridge. Birmingham, AL: Menasha Ridge Press, 1994.

DuPont State Forest Web Site, "Key Attractions." www.dupontforest.com, 2006.

Goldsmith III, C. Franklin, Hamrick, Shannon E. G., and H. James Hamrick Jr. The Best Hikes of Pisgah National Forest. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, Publisher, 2000.

Stevenson, Rich. NC Waterfalls Web Site, "Index." www.ncwaterfalls.com , 1998-2006.
Note: This site is extremely thorough and well done!

Wise, Kenneth. Hiking Trails of the Great Smoky Mountains: A Comprehensive Guide. Knoxville, TN: The University of Tennessee Press, 1996.


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Waterfalls in Western North Carolina - Around Asheville, NC