10 Beautiful Waterfalls Near Charlotte

Male hiker at Linville Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina, USA
Seth K. Hughes / Getty Images

The 1990s might have advised us to not go "chasing waterfalls," but it turns out that's actually a pretty popular thing to do here in the Carolinas. The North Carolina mountain​s are home to dozens of great waterfalls

Whether you're looking for a scenic photo background or just want to hike to see some of the state's best natural beauty, here's a look at some of the best waterfalls near Charlotte.

Many of these waterfalls aren't far from each other, so it would be entirely possible to hit several of these in one day trip.

The times listed here are calculated from the center of Charlotte. So, depending on what side of town you're on, your drive may vary by up to 20 minutes to so.

Access to some of these falls varies throughout the year, and some are actually inaccessible at times due to weather, timber operations, or a number of other factors. If you're traveling a few hours to see a waterfall near Charlotte, it's a good idea to verify before you go.

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Triple Falls

Triple Falls in DuPont Forest
  • Location: Dupont State Forest
  • Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours and 5 minutes
  • Falls height: 75 feet

Triple Falls is the third of the "Little River Falls," and there are three separate cascades that actually total about 120 feet overall. You'll recognize these falls from the films "The Last of the Mohicans" or "The Hunger Games". There's a level rock surface that lets you stand (or even have a picnic) right in the middle of the waterfall.

It's about a mile hike to see these falls, but it's not a tough walk. This does get to be a popular spot on weekends, but if you get there early, you may just have the site to yourself. Although it can be a little slippery, this is one of the best wintertime waterfall hikes in the state.

Because currents at these falls can be tricky, no swimming or diving is allowed.

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Looking Glass Falls

Looking Glass Falls

Looking Glass Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in the area, if only because it's one of the easiest to see. Looking Glass is actually a roadside stop, so it's one of the best for people who may have mobility issues. You can view the falls from several roadside platforms. Of course, if you do want a closer look, there's a trail that takes you down to the bottom.

Swimming is allowed at the base, but it can get crowded quickly.

The name "Looking Glass" comes from a rock near the falls where water freezes in the winter months and then glistens like glass in the sun.

Steps lead down to the bottom falls for a close-up view, and it's possible to walk out on rocks in the stream under the falls (and even do some wading and swimming under the falling water when the level is low). If you want to take photos, the sun rises directly over the falls in the morning.

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Elk River Falls

Elk River Falls
  • Distance from Charlotte: About 2 hours and 30 minutes
  • Location: Near Beech Mountain and Banner Elk in Pisgah National Forest on the Tennessee border
  • Height: 50 feet

It's an easy five-minute walk to the top of Elk River Falls, and it's easy to stand on flat rocks near the top to watch the water plummet over.

It might be tempting to dive from this ledge, but don't do that. There are boulders in the water underneath, and people have jumped from this ledge only to not survive. You'll find a nice swimming area not far from the falls though, plus plenty of spots to lay in the sun. And best of all, it's completely free! This area can get crowded on holidays and weekends, so make sure you get there early if you want a spot.

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Sliding Rock

Sliding Rock in North Carolina
  • Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours and 45 minutes
  • Location: In Pisgah National Forest
  • Height: 60 feet

Sliding Rock is (as the name implies) more "slide" than waterfall. The water doesn't necessarily tumble over a ledge but instead glides down a natural rock slide. Because of this, Sliding Rock is a very popular destination for families, as the area is set up to let people easily start at the top, slide 60 feet down, and splash into an eight-foot-deep pool below (and then get back in line to do it all over again). The water is cold, but it's clear, and the perfect getaway on a hot day.

There is a nominal cost per person to enter the sliding area while the staff is there (mid-May through mid-August 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.), but it's free during off hours, and you can slide anytime during daylight. 

Plenty of people take a picnic and make a day of Sliding Rock.

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Log Hollow Falls

Log Hollow Falls
Mshake/Getty Images
  • Location: Pisgah National Forest
  • Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours and 40 minutes
  • Falls height: 30 feet

Log Hollow Falls doesn't get many visitors, so there's a good chance there won't be too many people around if you visit here. It really does feel like you've stumbled across a secret treasure when you're standing there all alone. It takes a one-lane, unpaved road to get here, but you can actually see 4 different falls with a small hike (including the 80-foot Kissing Falls).

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Second Falls

Second Falls in Pisgah National Forest
  • Location: Pisgah National Forest
  • Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours and 45 minutes
  • Falls height: 70 feet

There is about a half mile walk to see Second Falls, but it's mostly steps (steep ones). Second Falls is a multi-level waterfall and the slopes around the falls are covered in flowers in the spring. You can get a close look at the falls from the bottom, and even slide down a portion of the falls. Second Falls can be seen from the roadway as well, but it's only about a .25 mile hike down to a better view.

Second Falls is a part of "Graveyard Fields," a popular hiking spot.

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High Falls

High Falls in NC's DuPont National Forest
  • Distance from Charlotte: 1 hour, 56 minutes
  • Location: West Fork Tuckasegee River near Tuckaseegee, NC in DuPont State Recreational Forest
  • Height: 150 feet

The hike to High Falls is little over a mile and is an easy to moderate walk. Park at the High Falls Visitor Center parking area. There are several falls available in this area if you're interested in hiking to more like the three-mile DuPont hike to three different waterfalls. When the water is low, it's easy to hop on rocks to get an up-close view of the falls, but when the water is high, the falls are much more powerful. It's worth a trip to see at both times.

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Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls is one of the most spectacular and most photographed falls in the Blue Ridge. To view Rainbow Falls, you're in for a hike of about a mile and a half. As the name hints, you'll see a rainbow in the mist here many days, especially after rains when the water is high.

During winter months, there are some impressive ice formations around the falls.

While you're walking to the falls, you're going downhill, but of course, that means you're walking uphill on the way back, so plan accordingly.

Turtleback Falls is about a quarter mile upstream, another popular natural water slide.

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Upper Creek Falls

Upper Creek Falls
By Ken Thomas [Public domain]
  • Location: Pisgah National Forest
  • Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours and 55 minutes
  • Falls height: 48 feet

You'll have to walk about .4 miles to get to Upper Creek Falls from the parking area, but it's not a bad walk. Once you get to the end of the trail, you can choose to go to the swimming area to your left, or head right for a view of the falls. Alternatively, you can walk straight over some rocks for a much better view of the falls. Depending on how high the water is, this may be a wet walk (and a walk that should be avoided period if water is too high).

Upper Creek Falls is unique in that there's not only a swimming area at the bottom, but a rope swing to have a little more fun plummeting in.

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Wintergreen Falls

Wintergreen Falls
  • Location: Dupont State Forest
  • Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours and 15 minutes
  • Falls height: 20 feet

People checking out the nearby High Falls and Triple Falls often miss this one, but it's worth visiting. At only 20 feet or so, it's not the tallest, but it's in a beautiful setting. 

Walking to the waterfall, you'll see some beautiful cascades along the way. Getting to the main vantage point means stepping over a couple small boulders, but it's not too treacherous.

The falls is about a 20-minute walk from the Guion Farm access area nearby. It's about a mile and half walk which is downhill on the way to the falls. The whole walk is shaded though, and not strenuous. The trail here is a popular spot for horseback riding and mountain biking.

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Linville Falls

Linville Falls
By Ken Thomas [Public domain]
  • Location: On the Blue Ridge Parkway near milepost 316
  • Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours and 10 minutes
  • Falls height: 90 feet

Linville Falls is easily the most popular waterfall in the Blue Ridge Mountains, mostly because it's visible right from the Parkway (and because it's fairly tall). If you see just one waterfall on this list, Linville should be it.

The falls were actually used by Native Americans to execute prisoners, and only one person (a kayaker in 2010) is known to have survived going over the falls.

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