Accessibility – Easy
Height: Approx 345′
Distance – 0.5 Miles (out and back)
Beauty – 9
Photo rating – 9
Solitude – 6
GPS Info: LAT 35.036125 LONG -83.017885
Last updated – 03-19-2017
Whitewater Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in North Carolina as well as one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River. Depending on the publication, the falls range in height from 345′-410′. For the sake of argument I’m using the 345′ figure provided by the World Waterfall Database. Regardless of the actual high, Whitewater Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls you’re going to see in Western North Carolina. Views can be had from across the valley from several locations. The entire falls is open the lighting is even but you’ll want to get your shot in fall for the color.
You can get to Whitewater Falls by following Highway 281 south from the intersection with Highway 64. The entrance to the parking area is 9 miles from the intersection and well signed. The entrance to the parking area is on the left. There is a $2 cash fee per person to enjoy the view. After parking you’ll see the paved path heading up the gentle grade. The entire hike is on the asphalt walkway making it easily accessible for everyone. On my last visit back in early 2014, there were a lot of curious lines and indentations in the parking area, almost as if the entire precipice the parking lot sits on is slowly sliding down into the valley. The walk to the top of the viewing area isn’t quite a quarter mile.
The upper observation area provides a nice view across the valley but the lower viewing deck gives a better view. To access the lower platform take the staircase to the right of the upper platform. On my most recent visit, after the stairs were rebuilt after a wildfire last year, we counted 154 steps. The lower viewing deck is smaller but the view is far superior to the one above. Steps from the lower platform lead to a trail that switchbacks down the mountain to the river. You can use this trail to get to the base of the falls or to access the Foothills Trail. I didn’t take the trail to the base since I was pressed for time so I can’t really say anything about the condition of the difficulty.
There are numerous photo opportunities from either the upper or lower viewing platforms. For whatever reason I have never been able to take a good picture of this waterfall despite the even lighting.