Picture a summer’s day hike in the NC Mountains where the temps are nice and there’s a cool breeze in the air. As your trek continues, you peek around the corner of a hidden cove to discover a breathtaking waterfall. As you approach this beautiful cascade, you are first greeted with the relaxing sounds of falling water, then the cool mist, dancing off of the rocks to refresh you after your hike.
In Jackson County, North Carolina, waterfalls abound, and are open year-round for your viewing pleasure. The mountain towns of Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro and Sylva, are home to some of the most picturesque waterfalls in the country, all with their own story and beauty to discover. From one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Rockies, to gentle cascades with sandy swimming holes perfect for the family, here, you will experience the ‘Top 10 must-see waterfalls in the NC Mountains.’
Short Hike, Big Payoff
Easiest to get to: Silver Run Falls – Tucked away in a hidden cove right off N.C. Highway 107, Silver Run Falls is only a short and easy 5-minute walk from the parking area. Although it may not be the largest waterfall in the NC Mountains, its accessibility and prime swimming spot underneath the falls, makes it perfect for families. Visitors are greeted with crystal clear waters along with a silver shimmer from the mica-rich sand that shines through.
Pro Tip: Beat the heat and the crowds! Get there early in the morning (especially on a weekday) and enjoy this hidden treasure all to yourself!
One of the Few Double Waterfalls You’ll Find: Soco Falls – Cherokee’s Soco Falls is an ideal trip for a wonderful waterfall adventure. This 120-foot cascade is one of the few double waterfalls you will find in Western North Carolina. The two falls converge into one, creating the perfect scene as the sun rises, exposing the foliage that lies behind. If you plan to go to the base of the falls, make sure to wear sturdy boots to safely get through the sometimes muddy trail.
Most Awe-Inspiring: Whitewater Falls – At 411-feet high, Whitewater Falls is one of the tallest cascading waterfalls east of the Rockies. In addition to this unique distinction, it is also the most accessible. With a short paved path to the overlook and views of neighboring South Carolina along the way, you’ll enjoy the falls, as well as the convenient amenities including covered picnic benches, restrooms, ample car and bus parking, and a large grassy field for the kids to play in! Make sure to bring along $3 for parking, as this is a U.S. Forest site with a required parking fee.
Best Viewed in Autumn: Dry Falls – Affectionately named after the path that allows you to go underneath the cascade, keeping you “dry” (although, “damp falls” may be a better name) Dry Falls is a must-visit! Located off of Highway 64, it is one of many that run between Sapphire and Franklin North Carolina.
Pro Tip: The earlier you go, the better. The parking lot provides convenient amenities but is rather small. Try to head out earlier in the day so that you won’t have to wait. There is a $3 use fee for this site. Be sure to pack a raincoat if you plan to go under the falls.
Worth the Walk
Great Photo Op: Mingo Falls – located in Cherokee, NC, Mingo Falls is a 150-foot cascade with a multitude of waterfalls pouring from smaller ledges. It is a bit of a trek due to the 164 stairs leading up to the falls, but, as you can see, the walk is worth it!
‘Yosemite of the East’ Waterfalls – The following waterfalls are just four out of more than a dozen waterfalls that can be found in Panthertown Valley, known as the ‘Yosemite of the East’. Located near Cashiers, NC, the valley offers more than 30-miles of multi-purpose trails and over 6,295 acres of untouched natural beauty. It’s for this reason that we encourage EVERY VISITOR to request a map of Panthertown online or to purchase one at Highland Hiker in Cashiers, NC.
Secluded and Private: Greenland Creek Falls – Enjoy Greenland Creek Falls all to yourself, as this 45-foot cascade is one of the more undiscovered falls. Located along Panthertown’s Macs Gap & Greenland Creek Trail, this remote waterfall offers a great place to pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a meditation by the water for a relaxing afternoon.
Hidden Gem: Granny Burrell Falls – This is undoubtedly the smallest waterfall on the list but makes it for a good reason. Its location in the heart of Panthertown offers a great spot to spread out and relax along the sandy beach area next to the falls. Anglers will also find the spot appealing, as it is a great place to cast a line for the native brook trout that call Panthertown home.
Fun to Find: Frolictown Falls – Standing at 15-feet high, Frolictown Falls is a favorite stop along Panthertown’s Great Wall Trail. It’s a nice relaxing mix up from grandiose cascades, as the water gently tumbles from Frolictown Creek. Don’t be alarmed by the color of the water; the color comes from the tannic acid-rich soil that makes up the creek bed.
Show Stopper & Most Popular: Schoolhouse Falls – When most think of Panthertown Valley, the iconic Schoolhouse Falls is typically what comes to mind. Schoolhouse falls is one of the most photographed waterfalls in Jackson County, due to its space to spread out, and access to the walk-behind cove behind the cascade. Many visitors like to bring the family along, as there is a perfect place to swim underneath the falls and a relatively gentle hike in and out.
Know Before You Go
Waterfalls in the WNC Mountains are as beautiful as they are potentially dangerous. Never climb, stand on or look over a waterfall; they can be deadly. Take no chances only photos for memories. Please make sure to check out our Waterfall & Hiking Guide, along with our Waterfall Safety Guide to keep you safe during your visit!
Chasing waterfalls in the NC Mountains offers the perfect opportunity for a much-deserved vacation. While these 10 are a great place to start, Jackson County is full of adventures for you and your loved ones to enjoy! More than just waterfalls, Jackson County is home to a thriving culinary and shopping scene as well. From Cozy Cabins, Boutique Hotels, Airbnb’s, and more, you’ll find lodging that fits your lifestyle and budget. Plan your trip by checking out our FREE Visitor Guide for an all-inclusive guide to your Jackson County adventure.