schoolhouse falls during autumn

Five Waterfalls to Explore This Fall in the NC Mountains

During the fall, the blue ridge mountains of Western North Carolina present a stunning visual display of leaves. Hues of amber, orange, and yellow take over as the season change, and waterfalls begin reflecting the beauty of their stunning cascades.

Located an hour west of Asheville, Jackson County’s towns of CashiersCherokee, Dillsboro, and Sylva are home to some of the best waterfalls in the country. Plus, cool air allows for easier hiking in comfortable temperatures with clearer views for miles.  Here are some of our favorite waterfalls to explore during the season.

Whitewater Falls

It’s no surprise that Whitewater Falls would find itself on this list. Standing at 411 feet, this remarkable waterfall is one of the tallest east of the Rockies located in the Nantahala National Forest. Accessing Upper Whitewater Falls is made especially easy with a gently graded quarter-mile hike along a paved path to the upper viewing platform. The height of this waterfall allows for a wide range of elevation and tree species creating a stunning display of leaves in the fall. Tip: Make sure to bring $3 along for parking as there is a large parking area at the entrance.

Dry Falls

Located a short drive from Cashiers, NC along our regional waterfall loop, Dry Falls frequently makes our top lists and, more recently, ‘The Best Viewed in Fall.’ This stunning display of cascading water is known as Dry Falls due to a unique party trick – you can walk behind the falls and stay “dry.” During October, Dry Falls takes on a new shade of gold as the leaves surrounding the top and bottom change color.  Tip: The best time to visit is during the week or earlier in the day when crowds thin out. Make sure to bring $3 along for parking.

Mingo Falls

Cherokee’s Mingo Falls can be found just a short drive from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cascading over 150 feet into Mingo Creek, this waterfall does require a climb from the parking lot to access the viewing platform. Once at the top, visitors will be able to enjoy views at the base of the falls with the full golden goodness of this waterfall.

Schoolhouse Falls

For those looking to enjoy a day hike, Schoolhouse Falls is a great option. This iconic waterfall is in Panthertown Valley – a backcountry National Forest area with over 6,400 acres of pristine wilderness, hiking trails, and waterfalls. Located near Cashiers, NC, the Cold Mountain Gap Trailhead is only a couple mile round trip trek to Schoolhouse Falls making the perfect waterfall hike. We always recommend getting a map either online or in Cashiers at the Highland Hiker before exploring.

Soco Falls

Boasting one of the few double cascades in the region, Soco Falls is just a short drive from the Blue Ridge Parkway at Soco Gap (milepost 456.2). Witnessing these falls just after sunrise is a must as the sun’s rays hit the golden hues of the forest above. If you do visit Soco Falls, there is a steep and muddy but short hike to the base, so make sure to wear sturdy hiking shoes and hold on to the ropes while you descend.

Your Fall Getaway

Jackson County is home to one of the longest leaf seasons in the country spanning from early October to early November, so make sure to visit these waterfalls and take advantage of the changing leaves while you can.  While you’re here, please help us in our mission to keep our mountains ‘Clean & Green’ by following the seven principles of Leave No Trace®. From vacation rentals to cabins, boutique hotels, and more, we’ve got the perfect stay to be your home base for adventure in the WNC Mountains. Check out our Fall Adventure Itinerary for even more inspiration and plan Your Trip today!

Header Image courtesy of Stephen Ozcomert

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