The Best Waterfall Hikes Around Asheville, NC
The Great Outdoors,  Surrounding Areas

The 10 Best Waterfall Hikes Near Asheville

Asheville’s surroundings offer infinite hiking opportunities, including many that will lead you to cascading waterfalls. Hiking to get to one of the many waterfalls near Asheville is always a fun adventure, and nothing beats a picnic in the sunshine while listening to the falls and taking in the view. 

The 500,000-acre Pisgah National Forest is home to many of the area’s most famous waterfalls (including Sliding Rock and Looking Glass Falls), swimming holes, and hiking trails. And over in DuPont State Forest, you’ll find six astonishing waterfalls, including some that have been featured in Hollywood movies. 

The landscapes surrounding these waterfalls change with the seasons, giving excellent photo ops year-round. You can even see them framed by fall foliage in autumn and experience them frozen in time in the winter. Visit in the summer, and you can use the pools as refreshing swimming spots.

If you’re looking to take one of the best waterfall hikes near Asheville, we’ve got you covered with some of the area’s best waterfall trails!

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The 10 Best Waterfall Hikes Near Asheville

1. Hike to the Base of Hickory Nut Falls

Best Waterfall Hikes near Asheville: Hickory Nut Falls

One of the most popular waterfall hikes near Asheville is the moderate 1.4-mile Hickory Nut Falls Trail, which leads to the fall’s base. If it looks familiar, that’s because it was featured in “The Last of the Mohicans.” 

One of the most popular waterfall hikes near Asheville, the moderate 1.4-mile Hickory Nut Falls Trail leads to the fall’s base. If it looks familiar, that’s because it was featured in “The Last of the Mohicans!” 

The Hickory Nut Falls hike is considered a family-friendly hike. Also, the north-facing cliffs make the perfect conditions for ice formations during the winter months, offering Narnia-like views! 

Chimney Rock is a southeastern landmark and a super popular travel destination. The 75-mile panoramic views from the top of the 535-million-year-old monolith are so rewarding. Plus, it’s one of the best places to see the leaves change in the fall. 

The park features miles of trails for all levels, including many family-friendly options. The entrance fee varies according to the season.

2. See Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls 

Popular Waterfall Hikes near Asheville: Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls Trail starts in the Gorges State Park and continues through the Pisgah National Forest, following along the Horsepasture River and leading to two of the most beautiful waterfalls near Asheville: Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls. The trail is 1.5 miles each way, and you’ll have to add an extra mile round trip to Turtleback Falls.

Are you wondering about the pretty name? Rainbow Falls is named for the rainbows that often appear in the mist that’s created by the waterfall. The sunlight refracts through the water droplets, creating colorful rainbows and a magical view. The best time to witness this phenomenon is in the morning.

Add that to an impressive 150-foot-tall waterfall, and imagine how powerful a sight it is. You’ll love the swimming holes, which are very popular in the summer, and the natural waterslide at Turtleback Falls. Also, one thing that makes Rainbow Falls one of the most unique waterfall hikes in Asheville is that you can access the cascade from the bottom, side, and top. It’s also open year-round.

3. Enjoy Hooker, Triple, and High Falls in One Hike

Best Waterfall Trails near Asheville: Hooker Falls

This 2.2-mile trail in the DuPont State Forest and alongside Little River is one of the best waterfall hikes near Asheville. It connects the beautiful Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls, taking you through rocky and forested areas with plenty of opportunities for swimming, picnicking, and playing by the water. 

One option is to start at the Hooker Falls Access Area and walk for 0.4 miles (each way) to your first stop. Hooker Falls is only 12 feet high, but it’s 75 feet wide and boasts a large pool at the base that’s one of the most popular swimming spots near Asheville during the hot summer days. 

From there, you can hike for 0.1 miles and get to the 125-foot three-tier Triple Falls, which was featured in “The Hunger Games” and “The Last of the Mohicans.” The final reward of this hike is High Falls, the largest waterfall in DuPont Forest at 150 feet, with a cute covered bridge at the top.

You can also start this hike at the High Falls Access Area, which will lead you to Triple Falls and Hooker Falls, but also to Bridal Veil Falls (the first falls of the Little River) and Grassy Creek Falls, two great Asheville waterfall hikes.

From this access point, you can get to the High Falls’ overlook after an easy 0.5-mile hike. Finally, the High Falls Loop Trail starts here and it is an easy 3-mile trail connecting High Falls and Triple Falls.

4. Explore the ‘Grand Canyon of the Southeast’

Best Waterfall Hikes near Asheville: Linville Falls

The Linville Falls Trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the best waterfall hikes near Asheville, offering stunning views alongside the Linville River. Each overlook provides a unique perspective of the 90-foot-high falls, including spectacular views from the top.

Linville Falls is in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area in Pisgah National Forest and is known as the “Grand Canyon of the Southeast,” so you can get an idea of its beauty. Two main moderate trails branch off the Linville Falls Visitor Center: the Erwins View Trail and the Linville Gorge Trail. 

The Erwins View Trail will lead you to four overlooks offering different Insta-worthy photo ops of this three-tiered waterfall. Although you can get amazing views after a short hike (one-half mile from the visitor center and the trail totals 1.6 miles), the trail is rooty and rocky, with some uphill sections. But the magical views are so rewarding!

The Linville Gorge Trail is a 1.4-mile round-trip hike that is more strenuous and leads to another overlook from which you can enjoy new views of the falls.

5. Walk Behind Moore Cove Falls  

Moore Cove Falls Trail is an easy 1.5-mile round-trip hike in the Pisgah National Forest, leading to a lovely 50-foot waterfall cascading over a rocky overhang with a cave. The trails are perfect for families with young kids. The coolest part? You can walk behind it!

You’ll love the wooden bridges, the rhododendrons, the shade in the summer, and the wildflowers. The trail is very well maintained, offering one of the most accessible waterfall hikes near Asheville.

6. Test Your Legs at Crabtree Falls Trail

Popular Waterfall Hikes near Asheville: Crabtree Falls

The Crabtree Falls Trail on the Blue Ride Parkways is so beautiful! It’s 45 miles north of Asheville and worth the drive and the climb. 

Go in the early summer and enjoy wildflowers and infinite shades of green. There are two routes: a 3-mile trail leading to Crab Tree Falls, where water cascades over a 60-foot rock cliff; the second route is a more strenuous 3.5-mile loop that climbs a ridge above the falls.

If you don’t mind getting your shoes muddy and wet, this is one of the most fun Asheville waterfall hikes with some climbing. You’ll love picnicking on the rocks while enjoying the views and the soothing sound of the waterfalls. There is a campground and picnic tables with grills close to the trail. 

7. Discover Graveyard Fields Loop Trail

Best Waterfall Hikes near Asheville, NC: Graveyard Fields

Graveyard Fields Loop Trail in the Pisgah National Forest and on the Blue Ridge Parkway is 3.2 miles long and one of the most family-friendly waterfall hikes near Asheville. Although it’s rated as easy, it’s rocky and can be muddy.

It leads to two waterfalls, Second Falls and Upper Falls, and it has some very cool features: wildflowers in the spring, rhododendrons in June, berry picking in August, astonishing fall colors due to the unique variety of vegetation, and popular swimming holes during the summer.

The trail takes hikers through a low-elevation mountain, which resulted from a fire in the early 20th century, offering views of the surrounding mountains and excellent picnic spots.

This hike starts at one of the most popular overlooks along the Blue Ridge Parkway, so the parking can be tricky. Try to go during the week or in the morning to snag a coveted spot.

8. Hike to the Multi-Tiered Catawba Falls

Best Waterfall Trails near Asheville: Catawba Falls

The 3-mile easy-to-moderate Catawba Falls Trail in the Pisgah National Forest is very popular because it’s just 25 miles away from downtown, and it rewards hikers with views of a series of small waterfalls alongside the Catawba River and the spectacular 100-foot, multi-tiered Catawba Falls. 

The path follows an old wagon route from Old Fort to Asheville, and you can see some ruins from the early 1900s. Also, the shady forest makes it an excellent option for Asheville waterfall hikes in the summer. 

9. See Looking Glass Falls from the Road

The Best Waterfall Hikes Near Asheville, NC: Looking Glass Falls

Looking Glass Falls in the Pisgah National Forest is one of the most popular waterfalls near Asheville. It’s breathtaking, visible from the road and the observation deck at the parking lot (perfect for those with mobility issues), and accessible through a few minutes’ walk. Plus, it’s one of the most photogenic spots in the area.

You’ll love the 60-foot waterfall cascading down the rock face, framed by lush summer vegetation or beautiful fall foliage. The falls might freeze during the winter, creating a whimsical landscape.

Swimming in the bottom is allowed and super fun, although it can be crowded during summer and early fall. If you visit near sunset, you’ll have a much quieter experience (and better lighting for your photos!). 

10. Get Your Thrills at Sliding Rock

Popular Waterfall Hikes near Asheville: Sliding Rock

Sliding Rock in the Pisgah National Forest is a 60-foot natural waterslide powered by 11,000 gallons of water per minute, ending in an 8-foot-deep pool. Although there is no hike here, it’s one of the most famous waterfalls near Asheville and the best swimming spot.

Spending a day playing at Sliding Rock is one of the best things to do in Asheville in the summer, especially for families with kids. Dogs on leashes are welcome, too, so it’s fun for the whole family! Although the recreation area is open all year round, there will only be lifeguards and restrooms available from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. 

The least crowded times of day to visit are in the morning and after 4 pm. The closest picnic area (and this also goes for nearby Looking Glass Falls) is Pink Beds, which is 4 miles away.

There you have it! The 10 best waterfall hikes near Asheville. What are your favorite Asheville waterfall hikes?

Born in Argentina, Laura is a journalist who's lived in Asheville for 10 years. She loves all things Asheville, from the vast business scene to the beautiful nonprofits, magical people, and marvelous nature. She loves being involved in projects that are the change she wants to see in the world.

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