Catawba Falls

A family-friendly hike to one of North Carolina's best waterfalls.

Hiking Moderate

Distance
3.4 km
Ascent
98 m
Descent
98 m
Duration
0-1 hrs
Low Point
484 m
High Point
583 m
Gradient
Catawba Falls Map

Just a short drive from Asheville, this hike is an excellent opportunity to experience one of North Carolina's premier waterfalls. Most would consider the hike easy, though as you approach the base of the falls, off-camber rocks and roots may pose challenging obstacles to some.

Description

From the Old Fort exit on Interstate 40, follow Catawba Falls Drive southwest 3 miles to the large gravel parking lot. For those in larger vehicles or with small trailers, there is plenty of parking as well as a turnaround to ensure anyone can enjoy this hike. At the trailhead, you will find a kiosk with information, as well as a vault toilet.

According to the National Forest, the trail is 1.2 miles to lower Catawba falls. Much of the path is an old two-track originally used to access a hydropower dam that powered nearby Old Fort in the early 1900s. Today, only remnants remain, offering a glimpse into the areas rich history. What many don't know, is that Pisgah National Forest was the first official National Forest under the 1911 Weeks Act. Not far away along Curtis Creek Road, a placard denotes the first official tract of land acquired—one that laid the foundation for modern-day public lands.

From the trailhead, the path climbs gradually to the falls. Along the way you will pass over a couple of newer bridges, as well as streams that might require you to get your feet wet.

The two-track degenerates into a rough singletrack just short of the falls. Watch your footing as you walk the final portion to lower Catawba Falls - the namesake of the hike. Enjoy the beauty of this 100-foot waterfall and take the opportunity to cool off in the headwaters on a hot summer day.

Sources: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/nfsnc/recarea/?recid=81789 https://www.fs.fed.us/land/staff/Documents/ASEH%20-%20NFs%20in%20the%20South.docx

Difficulty

Moderate

Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Features

  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Dog friendly
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area