The Western North Carolina Mountains are home to some of the most iconic and scenic waterfalls in the country. During the warmer months, people travel to the blue ridge mountains to witness these beautiful cascades firsthand. When temperatures drop consistently below freezing, these waterfalls take on a whole new look, and the magic of the frozen falls comes to life.
In the North Carolina towns of Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro, and Sylva (located about an hour west of Downtown Asheville), there are dozens of must-see waterfalls for you and your loved ones to safely explore. From January – March, eager explorers can experience these falls as they transform into shimmering frozen masterpieces during our ‘Secret Season.’ During this unique time, you will be able to take in the splendor of these frozen falls all to yourself while enjoying the best lodging rates in the region. We’ve put together a list of the top frozen waterfalls in the Western North Carolina Mountains for you to explore on your next trip!
*There’s nothing like exploring the grandeur of a frozen waterfall. Please be cautious while exploring, as there are frequently slippery rocks and trails when things freeze over. Don’t take chances, only photos from a safe distance.
Most Iconic: Whitewater Falls
Nestled within the Nantahala National Forest along the North Carolina – South Carolina border, Whitewater Falls boasts one of the highest cascades east of the Mississippi river at 411-feet. Whitewater Falls is about a 15-minute drive from the Cashiers crossroads, and its elevation along the Cashiers Plateau allows for frequent snow during winter. Accessing the falls requires a short quarter mile walk from the parking area (with only a $3 parking fee), and the best views are from the viewing platform. When this massive waterfall begins to freeze, it displays some of the largest icicles you’ve ever seen.
Easiest to Access: Silver Run Falls
Silver Run Falls is a must-see when things get chilly. Located just a few miles from the heart of Cashiers, North Carolina, along N.C. 107, this beautiful 40-foot cascade requires only a 5-minute walk from the parking area. During the warmer months, the shimmering swimming hole underneath the falls is a favorite for families to cool off. When temps get below freezing, the swimming hole transforms into a layer of reflecting ice creating a stunning visual. Make sure to snap a frosty photo and head back towards Cashiers for a warm cup of hot chocolate or coffee from Bucks Coffee Café – a hometown favorite!
Double the Beauty: Soco Falls
If you see double – you’re in the right place! Soco Falls is located along U.S. 19 between Maggie Valley and Cherokee and is one of the few double cascades in the North Carolina mountains. During the warmer months, many people visit off of the Blue Ridge Parkway at Soco Gap. At over 120-feet tall, the two falls meet to create an unparalleled visual that is fantastic year-round. Soco Falls frequently gets snow due to its elevation, and a snowy Soco Falls is always a treat. Accessing the falls can be tricky as there is a steep descent that can be dangerous when snowy or wet. We always recommend sturdy boots, proper snow gear, and to use the ropes to help navigate to the bottom. Need some sturdy winter boots? No problem! Check out our area outfitters to get you ready to explore!
Wow Moment: Mingo Falls
Also located in Cherokee in near the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Mingo Falls is a hidden gem worth discovering. This 150-foot falls cascades into Mingo Creek, and the 164 stairs leading to the viewing platform is well worth the climb. The viewing platform is perfectly situated at the bottom of the falls allowing for a great photo op – just set up your tripod and take it all in. Its size makes for a unique visual of water tumbling down the rockface at different speeds, and when it freezes, it looks even better. For the best chance to enjoy this wonderful waterfall all to yourself, we recommend visiting during the week.
Worth the Hike: Schoolhouse Falls
Schoolhouse Falls is one of many picturesque waterfalls located in Panthertown Valley. Panthertown is part of the Nantahala National Forest located between Gorges State Park in Brevard and Cashiers, North Carolina. Accessing Schoolhouse Falls requires a roughly 2-mile roundtrip hike from the Cold Mountain Trailhead, and a map is highly recommended for Panthertown’s vast trail system. Due to its elevation, temperatures remain ten degrees cooler year-round than in Sylva, meaning the potential for a frozen falls is even greater. When temperatures hover in the teens for a few days, the water freezes over completely, causing mystical blue icicles to shimmer off the rockface. Schoolhouse Falls is a frozen favorite due to the rocky outcrop behind the cascade, which is accessible with the proper snow and ice hiking gear (however, we recommend snapping a photo from out front). While you’re in Panthertown Valley, make sure not to miss Greenland Creek Falls, Granny Burrell Falls, or Frolictown Falls.
Massive Cascade: High Falls
Also known as Cullowhee Falls, High Falls is located in Glenville, North Carolina, between Cullowhee and Cashiers. This massive 100-foot-tall double-layered cascade can be accessed from the trailhead across the street from the Pines Recreation Area at Lake Glenville. It’s a favorite among extreme kayakers as the Glenville Dam Releases Class IV rapids along the Tuckasegee River’s West Fork during the warmer months. However, in the winter, large icicles begin to form as the water continues down the massive rockface. Make sure to bring along sturdy hiking boots, as the descent to the falls is steep, and rocks can hide black ice.
Near Jackson County
Looking Glass Falls
Nestled in the Pisgah National Forest, this waterfall is easiest to access off of the Blue Ridge Parkway along N.C. 276 near Asheville and Brevard. Tumbling nearly 60 feet into Looking Glass Creek, cold weather gives this waterfall a whole new demeanor, as radiant blue hues takeover. Access to the falls is achieved via an accessible viewing platform at the base of the falls, but make sure to proceed with caution, as the platform freezes over often in the winter. Make sure to visit during the week to avoid the crowds.
Located just outside of Highlands, North Carolina Dry Falls can be located off of U.S. Highway 64 (also known as the ‘Waterfall Byway’). The name comes from one’s ability to walk underneath the falls but don’t expect to stay dry, as the mist coming off of the falls is enough to get you soaked! Make sure to visit during the week, as parking is limited (and bring along $3 for a spot). Frequent cold weather can freeze over this waterfall, making for a dreamy display of shimmering ice crystals. Make sure to visit during the week to avoid the crowds.
Bridal Veil Falls
Also located along the ‘Waterfall Byway’, Bridal Veil Falls loves to put on a frozen show. The water rarely freezes over altogether, but in the winter, it transforms into a wall of icicles in the winter, veiling a portion of U.S. Highway 64—hence the name.
Your Secret Season Escape
Visiting Jackson County during our ‘Secret Season’ is a must. Enjoy snowcapped peaks, no waits at your favorite restaurants, and these frozen falls all to yourself. Cozy up by the fire in a rustic mountain cabin, boutique hotel, mountain resort, or bring your furry friend along for a pet-friendly stay. Make sure to check out our lodging specials to get the most mountains for your money. Use our ‘Trip Planner’ to inspire your frozen waterfall adventure!