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Weekend Getaways

Discover the tallest waterfall in North Carolina

Read on to see this amazing video

With a drop of 811 feet, Whitewater Falls is the highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. Located in the Nantahala National Forest, 60 miles outside of Asheville, the Upper Falls drop 411 feet. It is located on the Whitewater River in Jackson County, North Carolina near the Jocassee Gorge. You can enter South Carolina from a different point to reach the 400-foot-tall Lower Falls.

Although there is significant disagreement, the US Forest Service maintains that Upper Whitewater Falls is the tallest waterfall east of the Rockies. People there claim that Crabtree Falls is higher in Virginia.

Glassmine Falls, accessible from MP 362, is another waterfall brought up in the discussion. It is on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nonetheless, until we find formal documentation to the contrary, Upper Whitewater Falls is our pick for the tallest waterfall in North Carolina and east of the Rocky Mountains.

The Jocassee Gorges location in North Carolina is home to this stunning waterfall. Despite its immense size, the waterfall is relatively accessible. You just can’t beat the gorgeous colors, from fall foliage to lush foliage, that can be seen year-round by viewing the waterfall between summer and fall.

Although there are many waterfalls in North Carolina, this one is a must-see. You should immediately add this to your North Carolina things to do list for its easy access points and stunning views.

Whitewater Falls is a multi-tiered waterfall in North Carolina well worth a visit.


Arrival to Whitewater Falls

The 1/4 mile concrete walkway to the higher lookout takes you to a great viewpoint of the Upper Whitewater Falls. Wheelchairs can enter the path that starts at the end of the parking lot. At the bottom of 154 wooden steps is a lower vantage point that offers an even better view.

These two vantage points offer the only full view of the waterfall. But some leave the trail in search of better views. Tragically, some of these individuals were seriously injured or died when they fell at Whitewater Falls. Please stay on the paths.

For those feeling more intrepid, there is a half-mile by-path that descends 600 feet to the Whitewater River and Foothills Trail. It’s a pleasant place to swim and relax on the big rocks. Arriving at the bottom of the stairs, it goes steeply down the mountain. It will be very slippery on a rainy day.

Follow the path to the left towards the waterfall after crossing the metal bridge. The Foothills Trail, located on the right, takes you beyond the base of Corbin Creek Falls and into South Carolina as you descend the river. The path to the falls is occasionally difficult and quite dangerous.

Lower Whitewater Falls SC
Lower Whitewater Falls is a large 200-foot waterfall accessible via a stunning two-mile hike.

©Cavan Images/

Wildlife around Whitewater Falls

Although there isn’t much information online about what specific animals you can see at Whitewater Falls, many of the wildlife found throughout North Carolina call the area home. The once nearly extinct moose, which can weigh up to 1,000 pounds and reach 10 feet in height, is currently thriving in this region of North Carolina.

American bull moose
The once nearly extinct moose is now thriving in this region of North Carolina.

©om Reichner/

Another animal you are likely to hear during your trip is a woodpecker. They thrive in the forest with unlimited trees to choose from! More than 475 wild bird species are found in North Carolina, in part due to the state’s diverse environments, ranging from coastal swamps to towering mountain peaks.

Unlike other species and habitats, the number of bird species in the state fluctuates constantly as many species migrate out of the state to other parts of the world depending on the season. You might also want to pack some bear spray, as black bears have been known to hang out around Whitewater Falls.

Black bear (Ursus americanus)
You might also want to pack some bear spray, as black bears have been known to hang out around Whitewater Falls.

©Holly Kuchera/

Other mammals here include white-tailed deer, red foxes, red wolves, rabbits, skunks and more! There are 11 different species of lizards in Whitewater Falls, but none of them are poisonous or poisonous. In general, lizards have four limbs, raised heads on small necks, rounded torsos, and long tails. There are three types of legless glass lizards that are commonly mistaken for snakes.

There are 38 different species of snakes in North Carolina. Only six of these 38 species are venomous, and of those six, only the copperhead is widespread across the state. It is the only venomous snake found in many places including most major urban areas. Although there are small populations of the timber rattlesnake in the Piedmont region, they are mainly found in the mountainous and coastal plain regions.

Eastern Copperhead
The Copperhead is widespread throughout the state.

©Jeff W. Jarrett/

bottom line

There’s no reason not to go now when there’s a 411-foot waterfall in your statewide backyard! Make a full weekend of it by visiting nearby Gorges State Park, which contains an incredible North Carolina rainforest.


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