Plan a day trip or made a roadside stop to one of these 10 lesser-known waterfalls scattered across Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina.
The southern Blue Ridge Mountains are home to an abundant number of waterfalls, ranging from small roadside cascades to deep mountain gorges. Transylvania County in North Carolina has even been proclaimed the “Land of Waterfalls,” with surrounding counties boasting just as many – if not more – of their own. This guidebook showcases 10 waterfalls you have likely never heard of, or have yet to visit, with hikes as far north as Grandfather Mountain and others reaching southwest to Upstate South Carolina.
The waterfalls in this guidebook are mostly located in Pisgah, Nantahala, or Sumpter (SC) National Forests along the southern end of the Blue Ridge Mountains. While they are lesser visited by tourists, many of these spots are small swimming or fishing holes frequented by locals on holiday weekends and during the warmer months. Timing is everything when planning a visit to one of these amazing waterfalls. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, your best chance for solitude is on a weekday morning or later afternoon. During the colder months, typically November through March, solitude is almost guaranteed. The views during the winter also reach further, thanks to the deciduous forests dropping their leaves in lieu of winter.
Due to their proximity to nearby roads, if you’ve heard of any on this list, Douglas Falls and Upper Creek Falls are likely it. Douglas, which sits at the top of Big Ivy Road, is only accessible between April and December, though you could always ride your bike there when the road is gated. The 70’ tall waterfall is rarely more than a trickle, but the drive includes several roadside waterfalls, many of which don’t even have names. In contrast, Upper (and Lower) Creek Falls is a roadside stop along NC-181, and often overlooked if you’re making your way from Asheville to Grandfather Mountain or Boone. The falls are stunning, and there is even a swimming hole with a rope swing popular with locals during the summer!
On the opposing end of the map and hugging the SC/NC/GA state lines, Spoonauger Falls, Big Bend Falls, and Picklesimer Rock House Falls are three options perfect for those staying in Walhalla, Clemson, or along the Cashiers-Highlands Plateau. Spoonauger is a 50-foot high falls that feeds the Chattooga River just above the historic Burrells Ford area, while Big Bend is a shorter 15’ – 30’ falls further downstream on the Chattooga itself. With a name that may bring a grin to your face, Picklesimer is due west in Blue Valley Experimental Forest and a great short hike for everyone in the family. Though not particularly powerful, the water plummets over a cavernous rock “house” that you can walk into.
The iconic and scenic Pantertown Valley in Nantahala National Forest is a world-renowned destination oft-touted as the “Yosemite of the East.” One of the most elusive and difficult to find waterfalls is Red Butt Falls, which hosts a cavernous overhang at a sharp bend on the Tuckasegee River. If you’re looking for an all-day adventure chasing waterfalls through a rainforest scoured with dense tunnels of rhododendron and mountain laurel, this one is for you. North in the valley, Paradise Falls is often noted as one of the most scenic waterfalls in the vicinity. Steep, eroded trails with fixed ropes help you make your way down, and it’s a favorite among locals, so expect to share the view with others unless you visit during the winter.
The final three to make the list are ones that you’ve likely never heard of – or even been near to. Sugar Creek is a short, low-commitment hike in Caney Fork with three waterfalls just 20 minutes from where you park, while The Narrows in Eastatoe Gorge and Rufus Morgan are spectacular options deep in the mountains. While these could be argued as three of the best falls to make the list, their remote locations and limited access make them destinations worth planning an entire day around.