My Top 10 Waterfall Hikes

Updated 10-28-2018

This list is a little different because it doesn’t rank the waterfall but what I felt were the most enjoyable, scenic and/or challenging hikes. I never once considered distance a factor, although most of these tend to be on the long side. The majority of these hikes will take you to numerous waterfalls along the way. This was a factor. It’s all about maximizing the bang for your buck. In the instance of multiple waterfalls, the hike is listed by the most notable waterfall on the hike, not necessarily the most distant.

1 – Big Falls (Thompson River) 

Hike Summary: This is an epic hike that covers almost 8 miles if you want to see all 6 waterfalls: Big Falls, High Falls, Standing Stone Falls, Rich Falls, Simon Falls and Fall on Reid Branch.

What to expect: Steep scrambles, off-trail hiking, river walking, difficult rock sections.

Difficulty: 10 out of 10

2 – Rainbow Falls (Gorges)

Hike Summary: This is a family friendly hike along a defined and well marked trail. The round trip to see all 5 falls is around 5.0 miles: Drift Falls (the most distant), Turtleback Falls, Rainbow Falls, Secret Falls and Stairway Falls.

What to expect: Creek crossings, elevation change

Difficulty: 5 out of 10

3 – Dismal Falls – Panthertown Valley Hike #5

Hike Summary: This is about as difficult a hike as you will find on my site. To see it all you will hike around 6.0 miles. There are 5 waterfalls and a massive rock wall known as the Great Wall of Dismal: Aunt Sally’s Falls, Trailside Falls, Rhapsodie Falls, Lower Dismal Falls, Dismal Falls

What to expect: creek crossings, long steep ascents, rope descents, difficult scrambles

Difficulty: 9 out of 10

4 – Upper Bubbling Springs Branch – Pisgah Forest 215 N – 2 falls / 1.5 miles

Hike Summary: This isn’t an overly difficult hike but the trail is very hard to follow in places. The total hike is around 1.5 miles and features two waterfalls: Upper and Lower Bubbling Springs Branch Falls

What to expect: creek crossings, slippery rock sections, poorly defined trail

Difficulty: 6 out of 10

5 – Warden’s Falls – Panthertown Valley Hike #3

Hike Summary: This is a challening hike but not overly dangerous. Due to the confusing nature of the trails in some of the areas, especially between Elbow Falls and Red Butt Falls you need to have a map. The total hike is around 5.5 miles and features 5 waterfalls: Warden’s Falls, Jawbone Falls, Riding Ford Falls, Elbow Falls and Red Butt Falls

What to expect: creek crossings, slippery rock sections, poorly defined trail, steep scrambles

Difficulty: 7 out of 10

6 – Waterfall on Grogan Creek

Hike Summary: This is a family friendly hike but neither of the waterfalls is going to make it onto anyone’s favorites list. The trails are easy to follow and the total disatnce is 5.5 miles. Bring a map. You will see two waterfalls: Falls on Long Branch and Falls on Grogan Creek

What to expect: long up/down grades

Difficulty: 5 out of 10

7 – Moonshine Falls (SC)

Hike Summary: This is a relatively friendly hike that follows defined trails from the start to finish and it features 4 waterfalls. The biggest challenge is a cable bridge crossing of Matthews Creek and some shot scrambling. The out and back is nearly 6 miles but with little in the way of elevation change.

What to expect: cable bridge crossing, steep scramble

Difficulty: 6 out of 10

8 – Flat Creek Falls

Hike Summary: This is a 7 mile round trip hike to a single waterfall. The hike to the falls is 3.5 miles downhill. The return is all uphill. The trail system is very confusing and to get to the upper portion of the falls there is a dangerous rock ascent.

What to expect: creek crossing, steep scramble, slippery rock section, confusing trails, long uphill stretch

Difficulty: 8 out of 10

9 – Waterfall on Log Hollow Branch

Hike Summary: This is a 2.4 mile, kid-friendly hike along FR5043 that encompasses four waterfalls: Log Hollow Falls, Discovery Falls, Logging Road Falls and Upper Log Hollow Falls. The only challenges are the last part of Discovery Falls and Upper Log Hollow Falls

What to expect: steep scramble

Difficulty: 6 out of 10


10 – Upper & Lower Falls – Graveyard Fields

Hike Summary: This is a 3.0 mile, kid-friendly hike along defined trails on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Graveyard Fields. There are two waterfalls on this hike, Upper Falls and Second Falls.

What to expect: crowds

Difficulty: 4 out of 10

All distances are calculated to the most distant of the waterfalls on this hike

Most of these hikes follow established trails but sometimes getting ‘the shot’ required my venturing off of the beaten path. I urge caution when venturing off any trail. Know your surroundings and look for potential danger before you step. Remember, just because you can get down the scramble path doesn’t mean you can get back up. This can really come into play on the hike to Lower Dismal Falls. Always remember that rocks around waterfalls are slippery and the banks are steep. I DO NOT venture near the top of any waterfall and neither should you. There are no warning signs or fences once you go off-trail. Approach any scramble or descent with caution.