5 Roadside Waterfalls in North Carolina

When you think of Western North Carolina, you may conjure up memories of hiking to long-range mountain views or beautiful cascading waterfalls, but did you know that not every Appalachian treasure is buried among these ancient hills? Some of North Carolina’s largest (and most impressive) waterfalls are sitting roadside, allowing visitors of all skill levels and mobility abilities to enjoy. These five roadside waterfalls in North Carolina are proof that everyone can enjoy the beauty of The Blue Ridge Mountains!

 

Always practice waterfall safety! Do not climb on rocks near waterfalls and use extreme caution when walking along riverbanks. These rocks are slippery from mist and algae. The top of any waterfall is dangerous—never play in the stream above a waterfall.

Looking Glass Falls

Looking Glass Falls, North Carolina
Looking Glass Falls. Brevard, NC

Looking Glass Falls near Brevard is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in North Carolina. It also happens to be right off US 276, the main road that cuts through a popular area of Pisgah National Forest! 

 

Looking Glass Falls is one of the easiest waterfalls in North Carolina to reach; therefore, one of the most popular. If you are driving into Pisgah National Forest from Brevard, you will find roadside parking on the right after about five miles, with enough room for approximately 20 cars. Once parked, you can easily make your way up the paved sidewalk to gaze upon one of the most photographed waterfalls in North Carolina. 

 

For those with mobility issues, there is a viewing deck where you can clearly see the 60-foot waterfall from the road. For those who want to get a closer look, you can walk down the wooden steps to get to the base of this beauty. 

 

If you do choose to go to the base of Looking Glass Falls, you’ll have the opportunity to go swimming, grab scenic photos, or eat a picnic on one of the many large rocks (just be sure to carry out any trash). 

 

Whether you remain at the top observation deck or you walk down the stairs to the base of Looking Glass Falls, this North Carolina roadside waterfall will not soon be forgotten!

Sliding Rock

Sliding Rock is one of those North Carolina roadside waterfalls you have to see at least once! This natural waterslide, located just up the street from Looking Glass Falls on US 276, is a safe, fun way to enjoy Mother Nature’s playground!

 

If you are daring enough to try the slide, you’ll find yourself on a 20′ natural waterslide which plunges into an 8′ deep pool. Keep in mind that the water at this North Carolina swimming hole stays at a chilly 55 degrees year-round, so bring a towel to warm up after your swim!

 

During the summer season, between May 2-September 15, there is a $5 per person entry fee for the use of lifeguards and restrooms. Outside of those dates, you are still free to visit and play at Sliding Rock, but facilities are closed. However, alcohol and picnicking is always prohibited. 

 

Watch as I do the Polar Plunge at Sliding Rock on 01/01/2023! 

 

But, you do NOT have to swim at this waterfall to enjoy the experience! There are two observation platforms for anyone wanting to watch the action. For a more in depth look at this roadside waterfall, check out Sliding Rock: An Insider’s Guide.

best swimming hole near asheville north carolina sliding rock
Sliding Rock. Brevard, NC

Cullasaja Falls

Cullasaja Falls
Cullasaja Falls. Highlands, NC

Keep your eyes peeled for parking when seeking out Cullasaja Falls! This incredible North Carolina waterfall sits roadside on Highway 64 between Highlands and Franklin, but there is only room for a few cars. If you are lucky enough to snag one of these coveted parking spots, you’ll scramble up a small dirt embankment to see this cascade from the top.

 

However, once you lay eyes on the 200 feet of plunging water, you’ll understand why parking is premium real estate around here. This natural attraction is one of North Carolina’s tallest waterfalls! How clear your view is for this roadside waterfall depends on what time of year you visit. During winter months, you won’t be fighting with the leaves for a view, but you are often trying to overcome fog. If you try your luck in any other season, you’ll most likely have to jockey for position to gain a clear view through the leaf cover. Don’t let that discourage you from trying, though. Even a partially obscured view of this Cullasaja River beauty is breathtaking!

 

Some adventurous travelers dare to leave the comfort of the upper bank to scramble down to the base of this North Carolina waterfall, but since there’s no official trail to the base, it’s highly discouraged due to the risk of injury. Another word of caution when visiting Cullasaja Falls: the road on which this waterfall sits can be extremely dangerous. It is a winding, twisting, 2 lane road with very little room for error if you swerve. Please exercise common sense when driving near here, and always keep your eyes on the road, not on the waterfall! 

Dry Falls

Dry Falls sits on the same river as Cullasaja Falls, off Hwy 64 near Highlands, NC, but offers a completely different viewing experience. What makes this North Carolina roadside waterfall unique is that you can actually walk behind it without getting drenched! 

 

Once in the paved parking area, and you’ve donated the $3 per vehicle user fee, an accessible boardwalk leads you from the parking lot all the way behind the waterfall, spitting you out to see the cascade from the other side. Don’t worry if you can’t make the walk, though, the boardwalk includes a handicapped-accessible viewing platform where you can easily see the waterfall.

 

This is a popular waterfall during high tourist seasons, so plan on arriving early or late if you aren’t a fan of crowds. The concept of walking behind this 75-foot waterfall is appealing any time of year, but one of my favorite seasons to visit is winter. You’ll find fewer crowds, but the greenery never dulls. So, while winter weather may be gray and drizzling, you’ll find vibrant green hues here.

Dry Falls. Highlands, North Carolina
Dry Falls. Highlands, NC

Whitewater Falls

Whitewater Falls
Whitewater Falls. Cashiers, NC

What makes Whitewater Falls different from every other waterfall on the East Coast? It’s the tallest waterfall East of the Mississippi, standing at an impressive 411 feet! What makes this waterfall even better? You can view it in all its glory from a handicapped-accessible viewing platform!

 

This magnificent roadside waterfall in North Carolina sits right on the border to our neighboring state in the south. To see this waterfall in its entirety, you’ll pull into a paved parking lot ($3 per vehicle usage fee) where there are restrooms and information signs. From here, simply follow the pathed path 0.25 miles to the upper viewing platform. If you’re coming from the Lake Toxaway area, you’ll head south on NC 281 for about 8 miles until you see the sign for Whitewater Falls on your left.

 

Although the top viewing area showcases the waterfall brilliantly, if you are able to walk down the 154 steps to the second viewing platform, you’ll be rewarded with a clearer view. Don’t bother going further down the stairs if you are trying to gain even more perspectives, the two platforms are the only ones where you can see the falls. 

 

This roadside waterfall is surely one of the most impressive, but if you’re looking for more waterfalls near Asheville, check out The Best Waterfalls near Asheville blog post!

Responsible Tourism

The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina deliver some of the most beautiful scenery in America, but please keep some important advice in mind when visiting:

  • Leave No Trace (dispose of waste properly, respect wildlife, leave what you find, and more). For detailed information on sustainable outdoor recreation, please visit the Leave No Trace website.

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