Taking in a sweeping view after a strenuous hike can be an awe-inspiring experience. These mountaintop moments provide space to reflect and take in the beauty in front of us as well as to look at life through a different lens. The great thing about Asheville hikes is that every single walk in the woods varies in experience, and there is so much more to our mountains than summits and views. Waterfalls draw visitors from far and wide and offer a rewarding (and relaxing) destination after a hike, not to mention that they provide excellent picnic spots. Some waterfalls also offer a great way to beat the summer heat in easily accessible swimming holes.
Hikes: West and Southwest of Asheville
Sliding Rock and Looking Glass Falls are located on the same stretch of road, US-276, within a 4-minute drive of one another, and both are an easy approach from the road. Sliding Rock is a natural 'waterslide' that has 11,000 gallons of water flowing down the rock every minute and the area is open to sliding year-round during daytime hours. Changing rooms and restrooms are open May 27-September 4 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Lifeguards are staffed on weekends through mid-October after Labor Day. It is $2 per person (cash only) to access the area during these timeframes.
Looking Glass Falls is a 60-foot-tall waterfall in the Pisgah National Forest. The falls' name comes from the winter months when the falls freeze and the frozen ice reflects sunlight like a mirror. Take a short walk down to the base of the falls for a stunning view.
DuPont State Forest
DuPont State Forest has over 10,000 acres of wilderness area which includes hiking and mountain biking trails and waterfall hikes. The forest area's admission is free and it is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. All of the hiking trailheads are essentially located along the same stretch of road.
Main waterfall hikes include Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls and the area is pet-friendly. If you're hoping for a view, you'll want to head toward the Cedar Rock or Stone Mountain hikes. To access the waterfalls, you can either park in the different access areas or take a 3-mile hike to all three.
- Hooker Falls has an observation area above the falls and a 12-foot waterfall. This area is popular for swimming.
- Triple Falls is .5 miles from the Hooker Falls parking area and has three cascades that plummet 120 feet.
- The High Falls Trail takes you to the largest waterfall in Dupont State Forest. This waterfall is 150 feet tall.
Other waterfalls in Dupont include Bridal Veil Falls and Wintergreen Falls.
Accessible from Southern Blue Ridge Parkway
Graveyard Fields, located at Milepost 418.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a very popular area for hiking, especially during the fall foliage season. The Graveyard Fields Loop will also take you to the very simply named Upper Falls and Lower Falls. While the entire loop is 4 miles long, you can quickly access the Lower Falls and the lower falls swimming hole within a short distance from the parking area.
Hikes: East and Northeast of Asheville
Near Black Mountain and Old Fort
Catawba Falls is a 100-foot tall waterfall that is accessible from the trailhead in Old Fort, after a 1.5-mile, 3-mile roundtrip hike. The majority of the trail meanders along the Catawba River to the base of the waterfall. The trail is mostly level with a couple of slight inclines. If you're up for a more strenuous hike, you can extend your hike by half a mile up to the Upper Falls of Catawba Falls. Be careful, the trail gets steep!
Accessible from the Northern Blue Ridge Parkway
Linville Falls is located in the beautiful Linville Gorge Wilderness about an hour from Black Mountain. You can access the Linville Falls area from Milepost 316.4 on the Parkway. There are restrooms a picnic area and an info center that is open from May to October. Linville Falls is 90 feet tall and you can view the Falls from multiple different vantage points:
- The Linville Gorge trail will take you down .75 miles to the base of the waterfall. This is the most challenging route.
- The Plunge Basin Overlook is located .5 miles from the Visitor Center and the Linville Gorge trail forks about .2 miles from the Visitor Center to get to this view of the lower falls
- Erwin's View Trail is a 1.6-mile round trip hike from the Visitor Center and gives a different perspective of the Falls area from the Upper Falls overlook.
- Chimney View is 7/10 of a mile from the Visitor Center
Crabtree Falls is a 70-foot waterfall located at Milepost 339.5 off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Visitors can either take an easy 3-mile hike to the falls or a tougher 3.5-mile loop trail that takes you above the falls.