Despite their gentle, green-glazed exterior, the Blue Ridge Mountains are among the most ancient land forms in the world.
When you go hiking, listen to the wind; its that same wind which shaped these mountains, molded them like clay.
The rivers too played their part. And like many things in nature, the wind and rivers are not antagonistic. They may wear down the mountains, but the mountains shape them too, and in some cases, create them. Case in point: waterfalls.
They’re a marriage of rock and river, the result of eons of transformation and preparation. Within an hour radius of Asheville lies a gallery of such natural beauty, hidden within the trails which lace the Blue Ridge Mountains. I invite you to read on, and discover five of the best waterfalls near Asheville.
Nestled with Nantahala National Forest, the Upper Whitewater Falls are the highest east of the Rockies, standing at about 411ft.
In perspective, that’s equivalent to a stack of nearly thirty eight elephants. As impressive as that sounds, the waterfall is the more stunning of the two. It towers triumphantly over the surrounding forest, its black rocks shining under the sun.
The path to the falls and back runs at around 0.6 miles, and follows a paved path, winding up through forest. Alongside this path lies the not-infrequent park bench, perfect for sitting, sleeping, or picnicking on your way back from the falls.
Paired with restrooms at the trail head, Upper Whitewater Falls is one of the most domesticated waterfalls near Asheville. Not to say the destination nor the journey are lesser for it.
Parking costs $2 per car, and the journey from downtown takes one and a half hours. If this distance seems egregious, I shall note that all waterfalls in Western North Carolina count as Asheville waterfalls, regardless of distance.
It may seem like this article has already topped out, with the tallest waterfall already in the rearview mirror.
But, much as in life itself, when it comes to waterfalls, height isn’t everything.
If you’re looking to impress your companions, point out that Looking Glass Rock is technically a pluton monolith. Hopefully no-one will inquire further, as like you. I have no idea what that means. But it does sound cool.
Speaking of cool, Looking Glass Falls often freezes during the winter, resulting in spectacular crystalline formations. Which will almost certainly make up for hiking through the cold.
That hike lies at a half mile round-trip, short enough to make it to the falls and back with all your fingers and toes intact. However, due to all the complications which come with attempting to reach a waterfall in freezing conditions, I suggest viewing the falls during the warmer months. Although you’ll have to imagine the ice-formations, you’ll be able to wade in the pools beneath the falls.
Looking Glass is about one hour away from Asheville, as are all further waterfalls in this list. By this fact, it may be hard to distinguish one waterfall from the other. The solution, of course, is to visit all the waterfalls near Asheville.
No, you can’t go skinny dipping here. The name’s a misnomer; it’s a fraud, a deception, and a crusher of dreams. The falls themselves are pretty nice though.
Its structure is complex: a series twisting cascades, dropping over an array of shallow pools, many of them suitable for clothes-on wading. Although I was too cool to try swimming here when I visited as a brooding Middle-Schooler, I do suggest you give it a go.
Skinny Dip is probably the most popular of the Asheville waterfalls in terms of swimming. It entices great quantities of locals and non-locals alike.
But for my two cents, Skinny Dip is still a must-see. Its structure cordons of each wading pool, and so crowds are dispersed over the length of the falls. Even if you find the pools too crowded, you can always take a hike up the attached Mountain-to-Sea Trail. This ambitious project aims to connect each end of North Carolina, and although unfinished, does allow for access to other waterfalls near Asheville, such as those at Graveyard Fields.
The hike to Skinny Dip lies at about one mile round trip, plus however many you’re willing to put into the Mountain-to-Sea.
It is to my shame as a local that only recently did I discover that Graveyard Fields is not, in fact, haunted. So far as anyone knows.
The name refers to the many headstone-looking stumps which once dotted this flowered valley, now buried under a bed of thick rhododendron. Graveyard Fields is a storied local destination waterfalls aside; Ashevellians come to pick blueberries at the end of summer, and when the leaves turn in fall, Graveyard Fields is truly a sight to behold.
However, this article is titled “Waterfalls Near Asheville,” not “Sights to Behold Near Asheville,” so I’ll get on with it. Graveyard Fields boasts not one but two falls, ingenuously named Upper Falls and Lower Falls.
A visit to both, and back to the trail head runs at over three miles. I advise you take your time and enjoy the journey. Upper Falls is the more rugged of the two, and therefore more suited to viewing than touching. In contrast, the Lower Falls are relatively gentle, and offer an opportunity for wading. In preparation for a trek through Graveyard Fields, I’d suggest visiting the bathrooms at the trail head. As my mother declares every time we drive past : “They’re the only ones around for miles, you know.”
Graveyard Fields may seem impressive with its duo of waterfalls, but what if I told you there was a place with not one, not two, but three waterfalls?
I speak of DuPont Sate Forest. With a round trip distance of almost five miles, an attempt to view all of DuPont’s falls is ambitious to say the least. But such ambition is rewarded.
Luckily, DuPont’s waterfalls are named in such a way that there should be no confusion as to what you’re hiking towards.
High Falls (the highest), lies about twenty minutes away from parking near Triple Falls. I suggest visiting High Falls first, and then going back to your car to retrieve picnic materials and take a break. The other two falls lie close to each other.
Hooker Falls, although of moderate stature, descends into a deep pool, perfect for swimming.
Triple Falls bears the most striking rock formations of its fellows; it cascades three times, forming a series of tall, almost step-like structures.
If I remember correctly, there is a sign at Triple Falls which reads “Do not climb.” Unfortunately, I was seventeen when first I visited Triple Falls, so climb the falls is exactly what I did. To clarify: I in no way endorse this course of action. I nearly slipped and met my doom many a time.
Upper Whitewater Falls Trial Access
Cashiers, NC 28717
Looking Glass Falls Parking
Unnamed Road, Brevard, NC 28712
Skinny Dip Falls Trail Head
Blue Ridge Pkwy, Canton, NC 28716
Graveyard Fields, Canton, NC 28716
Triple Falls Parking
Unnamed Road, Hendersonville, NC 28739