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Plan a North Carolina waterfall trip

Bridal Veil Falls can be viewed without leaving the car and provides a free car wash, as well.
Bridal Veil Falls can be viewed without leaving the car and provides a free car wash, as well.

North Carolina waterfalls are just a few hours from the Triad area and the cooler mountain air provides a respite from the hot days in the Piedmont. The accessibility of the waterfalls varies, and the viewpoints range from vigorous to moderate hikes, short walks from a parking area, and some are able to be viewed without leaving the car. Because of these variables, families with or without mobility limitations can take in the beauty of the N.C. mountain waterfalls.

Pictured: Looking Glass Falls
Mark File -

Mark File who is the editor of makes the following suggestions for families:

Looking Glass Falls

File said that this waterfall is perfect for families with babies through preschool age.

"Looking Glass is right beside the highway, so it can be enjoyed from the parking area, or you can walk down some stairs to the base of the falls," said File.

This 60-foot waterfall is located along U.S. 276, North of Brevard, near the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Sliding Rock

For families with older children, Sliding Rock provides a smooth sloping waterfall that plunges into an eight-ft. basin. Swimmers can plop on their bottoms and ride down the falls into the icy-cold refreshing pool. Life preservers are allowed, but no other flotation devices can be taken down the rock. There are several observation decks for parents or children who don't want to brave the natural water slide.

Sliding Rock is also located on US 276 North in the Pisgah National Forest, so for families with older and younger children, a Looking Glass and Sliding Rock day tour would provide fun and entertainment for all.

Rainbow Falls

Families who have teenagers or who have children who can hike longer distances, then Rainbow Falls provides the perfect challenge.

"Take a three mile round-trip hike to the impressive 150-ft. Rainbow Falls from Gorges State Park," said File.

"The entire family will enjoy the close-up view from vantage points at the base of the falls, beside the cascading water midway up the falls, and the view from the top! Then hike a short distance up the river to slide down Turtleback Falls – a great place for swimming at lower water levels, but is not recommended for small children."

A Week of waterfalls

There are only a few more weeks before school starts in the Triad area, and if the family needs a getaway the above trips are great for a weekend, but File also suggests making it a waterfall week.

"Stay in Asheville since it’s in the middle, and then plan day trips out to the various areas to see the waterfalls," said File. "For a very full first day, coming from the Triad, folks could drive US 421 toward Boone to the Blue Ridge Parkway, then head south. They can stop at Linville Falls and Crabtree Falls as they drive south to Asheville."

The Web site provides detailed information on many of the waterfalls located in the Asheville area with maps of the parks, driving directions, and insider tips on how to access the falls.

A Couple's weekend getaway

Although a family trip is fun, sometimes the best respite means leaving the kids at home. "At Dupont State Forest a couple could enjoy three waterfalls with a moderate 3-mile hike," said File. "Triple Falls has plenty of space for a picnic between two drops of the falls."

So whether a family trip or a couple's trip sounds appealing, the N.C. waterfalls provide fun, cooler temperatures, and a place to make memories.


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