The seemly never ending pandemic has allowed us to explore our own state and the beauty offered in the North Carolina mountains. You might be surprised that North Carolina boost some amazing waterfalls and opportunities to hike in the majestic Smokey Mount regions of the Tar Heel state.
Some of these waterfalls offer the ability to swim, some require a little effort to see by hiking to them, and others can be seen from the road.
Each of these waterfalls offer a different experience. There are some 250 waterfalls to enjoy just in the Brevard area of North Carolina alone.
Exploring this part of North Carolina, you will never be too far away from a waterfall. So, let’s explore the top 3 amazing waterfalls (in my opinon) in beautiful NC.
1. Looking Glass Falls
One of the most photographed waterfalls is Looking Glass Falls. This waterfall is located not very far off the Blue Ridge Parkway close to the town of Brevard.
The views of this beauty can be seen from the road, but the scenes are best enjoyed up close and personal.
I highly recommend hiking the short hike (less then 1/2 mile total) for a better experience. The hike is easy and for all levels of hikers.
As you can see from the above image, Looking Glass Falls is rather tall with water towering down from a cliff. One can dip their toes in the bottom pool to cool off during the summer months.
2. Skinny Dip Falls
Another very popular waterfall (especially during hot summer days) is known as Skinny Dip Falls. Please don’t let the name fool you as there are no skinny dipping going on here (at least not during our visit). These falls offer the opportunity for swimming. Still, this secret swimming hole is no more.
You might find it quite refreshing to jump in the swimming hole enjoying the views of the fall up close. Please do keep in my the safety tip (see below) before deciding to jump on in.
Milepost 417 is a very popular stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Please don’t let a full parking lot deter you from hitting the trail to the falls.
From the Looking Glass Rock Overlook (Milepost 417), you can find several areas to explore. In fact, even with the full parking lot, the falls weren’t so crowded that we felt uncomfortable
Getting to the falls is easy, but does require some hiking through the woods watching for tree stumps, roots, and rocks. Don’t forget to notice an unusual looking tree known as the Dragon Tree.
As you continue to hike toward the falls, you will come across a bench and stairs at the end of the trail. To get to the falls, you will need to follow the stairs down.
Skinny Dip Falls consists of three levels and is approximately 30 feet in total height. The swimming hole is in the middle. The creek that flows here is known as Yellowstone Prong and often is quite chilly even late into the summer months.
Some Safety Tips to Keep In Mind
Deciding to swim here is at your own risk as there are no lifeguard on duty. So, all that swimming, jumping, climbing should be taken cautiously. Please bring appropriate life vests and puddle jumpers for the kids and those who aren’t strong swimmers.
3. Soco Falls
A waterfall located on the edge of the Cherokee Reservation, is actually a twin waterfall. You can find Soco as you drive along Highway 19. The falls are created by two creeks that cascade into a lush cove filled with rhododendrons and old forest.
It’s a short drive from the Blue Ridge Parkway near milepost 455.7 to get to Soco Falls
As you drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, look for the Soco Gap access point (Milepost 455.7) turn R (North) onto Highway 19 (Soco Rd). Then, drive about 3.8 miles to Soco Falls. You can take a short five minute walk on a well maintained trail leads you to the observation deck for Soco Falls. You can choose to take the rather step trail (to the left of the observation deck) to the top of the smaller fall or all the way down to the creek below the falls. A word of caution, this part of the hike is a less maintained trail and can be very slippery. Please be careful!
These are the top three waterfalls that I fell in love with during a recent visit to Western Nc. I have only covered a small part of the 250+ waterfalls up for exploring in this part of NC. Go out and enjoy nature as there is so much to explore in this part of the North Carolina. You might find Blue Ridge Parkway Visitors Center a valuable source of information to start planning your first or next trip to Western NC.
Note: I work hard to maintain update to date information on each post, some activities, sites, and places just might not be accessible during this pandemic. Please check hours of operation of any location you wish to visit to confirm availability.