I’ll easily admit that I’m obsessed with waterfalls… so here are few around Asheville to add to your summer bucket list. They’re all free to access and guarantee an afternoon well spent!
Both of these waterfalls are in Gorges State Park, are are easiest accessed by parking in the Grassy Ridge Parking area. The trail to Rainbow falls begins at the trailhead with information boards, and is about 1.5 miles long. The path is marked with orange circles so that you stay on track, and the trail is relatively easy.
Friends & I at Rainbow Falls
At Rainbow Falls, there is a lookout on the trail with a view from the top of the falls, a lookout halfway down the bank, and a trail leading to the base of the waterfall.
Waterfall & rock pool
Panoramic view of the falls
The trail continues another quarter mile to Turtleback Falls, however it does get a little more intense. You will pass many cascades along the way, and there are a few sections with steep stairs. In my opinion it’s well worth the trip, but be the extra quarter mile is a little more ambitious!
Turtleback Falls has a lower area that you can swim in a rock pool, or you can access the top level of the waterfall. Here, you can slide off the flat rock overhang into the pool below, and use a rope to climb back up to the top!
Rock slide at Turtleback Falls
Whatever your fitness level or waterfall comfort level, this is a fantastic relatively-short hike that offers many different options.
Near Old Fort and located in Pisgah National Forest, this hike and waterfall is a fantastic find! Just a few years ago the U.S. Forest Service created a lot for parking and restrooms to enhance this attraction. The hike is 3 miles roundtrip, and winds its way through the woods, passing many waterfalls and and old dam that was used for power generation in the early 1900’s. You cross through a few small rivers, but there are stepping stones and the water is very shallow if you decide to walk straight through. There is only one section where you have to cross a larger river, but there are large rocks to step on and if you take your time you will be fine!
Dam & rocks along the hike
The path is clear, and you will know when you reach the lower falls. This hike is family-friendly, however you may choose to tackle the upper falls if you are a very experienced and fit hiker. To do so, continue up the trail climbing up rocks along the mountainside to reach the top of the waterfall. This trail is only half a mile but is said to be very strenuous, and if you get hurt getting help would not be very easy.
Catawba Lower Falls
Enjoying the waterfall
If you’re interested in the upper falls but a bit timid to challenge yourself, you can easily climb just part way up to get a satisfactory view of the falls. Overall, this trail is very interactive, and great for taking visitors along to get a feel for the North Carolina mountains!
Field of statues near trail
Skinny Dip Falls
This waterfall is probably the easiest of the four mentioned here to get to. Follow the Blue Ridge Parkway to milepost 417, and follow the trail about a half mile to the falls. The path is mostly flat, with a few small sets of stairs, and very walkable.
Skinny Dip Falls
The falls have a bridge, several small pools to sit or swim in, and a couple areas where you can jump off the rocks into the water below. It is a quaint waterfall tucked away into the woods. However, you probably won’t be living up to it’s name, because on a hot summer day it is known to be bustling with visitors. There is a more secluded pool up above the main area, but exploring around is the best way to find a place to enjoy your time there!
Bridge and waterfall at Skinny Dip Falls