Top Four Waterfall Hikes in N.C. Mountains

Centrally located in the Western North Carolina mountains, Jackson County has some of the most scenic mountains and breathtaking valleys in the state with 185 named summits and approximately 250 named rivers and creeks. Therefore, it not surprising that the area is also home to dozens of majestic waterfalls.

Here, hiking trails are surrounded by natural beauty, particularly in the spring with warming temperatures and blossoming flowers. To make the most of this refreshing time of year, we’ve compiled a list of our visitors’ top four favorite waterfall hikes in the North Carolina mountains that every type of hiker can enjoy.

Hike to Get There

  • Schoolhouse Falls: The most well-known waterfall of Panthertown Valley, these 18-foot falls are a wonderful mixture of small cascades that coalesce into a free fall from Greenland Creek. Reaching the falls can be a bit challenging to traverse, so we recommend that you grab a map to navigate this one. We promise, what awaits at the end is well worth the effort to get there. Schoolhouse Falls is one of about a dozen waterfalls in Panthertown Valley.
  • High Falls: Fed by the West Fork Tuckasegee River, High Falls totals 100 feet, resulting in a beautiful display of natural power. While the actual hiking trail is less than 1 mile long, it does contain a lot of stairs, so prepare yourself for the climb on your way back up. The walk down will be easy, however! High Falls made up of a few smaller streams that cascade down most days, but on certain days throughout the year becomes the most powerful waterfall in N.C. due to the dam releases. Regardless of the flow from day to day, the view that awaits is never any less than spectacular. Bring a bathing suit or picnic to enjoy on the nearby sandy swim beach.

Short Treks to Stunning Waterfalls

  • Silver Run Falls: For an easier-to-access waterfall, the hike to Silver Run Falls is short and sweet. The path is approximately 500 feet long, at which point you encounter a footbridge crossing the Whitewater River. Just beyond the footbridge, you’ll see the base of the stunning falls and the pool below. Be sure to bring a bathing suit with you – nothing is as refreshing as a dip at the bottom of a gorgeous waterfall!
  • Whitewater Falls: Totaling 811 feet between the upper and lower falls, Whitewater Falls is one of the highest waterfalls east of the Rockies. Like the path to Silver Run, the hike to Whitewater Falls is very short. It also is paved, making it accessible to all hikers. Once you reach the falls, you’ll find a staircase to a lower viewing platform, which provides beautiful views of the falls that seem to go on forever. Extend your stay at the falls by bringing along a picnic to enjoy while taking in the view. Bring a few dollars for parking.

Take Care

When heading out on a waterfall hike, it’s important to put safety first. Always read and follow the directions on all posted warning signs indicating danger. Also, do not wander off established trails or climb on the slippery rocks in and around the falls.

Beyond the Falls

When you’re ready to experience other outdoor adventures, Jackson County has more than enough to keep you on the go. There are miles of hiking trails that will take you along the area’s mountain summits where you can enjoy the panoramic vistas.

Brews, Bites and Views

After a long day of hiking and taking in the most beautiful waterfalls our area has to offer, stop by one of our local four breweries. Jackson County’s Ale Trail stretches from Dillsboro to Cashiers and has something from every taste. And, for any children in your party or for those who aren’t big drinkers, try the shakes at Jack the Dipper in Sylva or Innovation Station’s homemade organic ginger ale.

Grab a bite to eat and stop by one of our many delicious farm-to-table restaurants. Whether you’re looking for a mouthwatering burger, a lighter salad option, or anything in between, our restaurants have something for every taste.

Plan a Getaway

Visiting Jackson County for a hike is just the beginning of your experience. Plan a weekend getaway to make the most of your time in the area. Given the great variety of accommodations, it couldn’t be easier to plan and book a trip that fits your style and budget. Order a free Visitor Guide today to get started.

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