One of the appealing reasons to live in the Carolinas is that you have access to both the mountains and the beaches. This is especially true in Charlotte, which is within a half day’s drive of either. There are also several waterfalls near Charlotte that are worth taking a trip to visit.
Best Waterfalls Near Charlotte, North Carolina
Waterfalls can be mesmerizingly beautiful, and several waterfalls near Charlotte are breathtaking. In fact, there might even be a waterfall or two that you recognize from famous movie scenes, but more on that later.
The great thing about living in Charlotte is that you can drive over to most of these waterfalls in the morning and still be home in time for dinner. Charlotte is part of the Piedmont region, which is flatter and features fewer waterfalls, but these waterfalls are still close enough to visit easily.
1. High Shoals Falls at Stone Mountain State Park
Most of the waterfalls on this list will involve a little hiking, which is part of the adventure. Fortunately, hiking to a waterfall makes the activity more experiential. If you like hiking, High Shoals Falls might be the perfect waterfall for you.
High Shoals Falls is part of South Mountain State Park, which is the largest state park in the state of North Carolina. Still, High Shoals Fall is the reason most people visit South Mountain State Park, so if you want to do extensive hiking beyond the waterfall, you will likely find a peaceful experience.
High Shoals Falls showcases a beautiful 50-foot drop from the top of the cliff. You will find a large viewing platform at the waterfall’s base, where you can conveniently and safely take it all in.
The falls are found along an 8-mile hike, which would take about 4 hours to complete if you chose to do the entire hike. If you aren’t up for the entire 8 miles, the waterfall is located about a mile away from the Jacob Fork parking area. You can do a quick out and back and avoid the longer hike if you want to do so.
High Shoals Falls is one of the closest waterfalls to the Charlotte region, which is fortunate since it is also one of the most beautiful waterfalls in North Carolina.
Distance From Charlotte: 60 miles; <1.5 hours drive
2. Looking Glass Falls at Pisgah National Forest
While the other waterfalls on this list are further away from Charlotte, they are still worth the trip, even if you need to camp or find a hotel nearby. Make a weekend excursion out of your trip, so you don’t have to worry about rushing back into the city.
Looking Glass Falls is certainly worth the trip. Not only is Looking Glass Falls one of the most popular waterfalls in North Carolina, but also along the entire East Coast. The waterfall previously boasted an upper observation deck and a lower observation deck, but the lower observation was closed in 2021 due to environmental changes driven by Tropical Storm Fred.
Visiting Looking Glass Falls is much easier than visiting High Shoals Falls in the sense that it doesn’t require much of a hike. You can park nearby and walk about a tenth of a mile to see the breathtaking rush of water cascading over the cliff.
Parking is limited, and Looking Glass Falls is a popular destination, so we recommend arriving early.
Distance From Charlotte: 130 miles; <2.5 hours drive
3. High Falls at DuPont State Forest
While several waterfalls on the list are closer to 50 feet tall, High Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in North Carolina. The water cascades down 120 feet of granite before crashing into a pool at the base of the granite wall.
Still, one of the most appealing reasons to visit High Falls is that it is part of a cluster of waterfalls within the DuPont State Forest within walking distance. You can actually park at the access area for Hooker Falls and hike over to see High Falls, too.
Spoiler alert: If you hike from Hooker Falls to High Falls, you will also see Triple Falls along your hike. Triple Falls is also on our list of the best waterfalls near Charlotte. You get quite a bit of bang for your buck when you visit the DuPont State Forest. Still, High Falls alone is enough reason to make the trek.
For those interested in parking at Hooker Falls and hiking over to High Falls, the hike is about 1.2 miles and takes most people about 30 minutes.
For those that prefer short walks, you can park near the waterfall at the High Falls Access Area. There’s also a prominently covered bridge at High Falls, making it an even more popular spot.
We recommend checking out Brevard, NC, if you want to explore one of the local towns before heading back to Charlotte. Brevard has reasonable hotel options to consider.
Distance From Charlotte: 120 miles; <2.5 hours drive
4. Sliding Rock at Pisgah National Forest
Sliding Rock might be one of the most well-known waterfalls in North Carolina. It’s certainly one of the most fun waterfalls to visit. How many waterfalls do you get to go to where lifeguards are present during the summer months?
While you can visit Sliding Rock as a waterfall in the cooler and cold seasons, it is more frequently used as a water slide during the summer months. The 60-foot natural water slide slopes down into an 8-foot deep pool.
Lifeguards might not be present year-round, but you can still visit Sliding Rock and enjoy the two observation platforms.
Sliding Rock is so popular that admission is run by Adventure Pisgah, and you have to pay admission fees at the gatehouse. If the weather turns bad or the water levels get too low or too high, access to the natural water slide is closed. Still, the natural phenomenon is so popular Adventure Pisgah recommends that you try arriving before noon.
Sliding Rock is just a few miles from Looking Glass Falls, so if you choose to visit Sliding Rock in the morning, you can visit Looking Glass Falls in the afternoon.
If you are looking for a place to stay, Brevard is 20 minutes away.
Distance From Charlotte: 130 miles; <2.5 hours drive
5. Rainbow Falls near Chimney Rock
There’s a reason Rainbow Falls has its name. From the observation platform, beautiful rainbows can often be seen. Aside from the naturally forming rainbows, the waterfall is also more than 150 feet tall.
You can access the waterfall from the Rainbow Falls Trail at Gorges State Park. When you visit, plan to see Hidden Falls and Turtleback Falls as well. They are all within close proximity of each other.
One interesting thing about Rainbow Falls is that it technically sits inside Pisgah National Forest, but the Rainbow Falls Trail starts from Gorges State Park. Like other popular waterfalls on our list, the parking lot at the trailhead tends to fill up quickly. We recommend that you arrive early to make sure you find a parking spot.
The Rainbow Falls Trail is a mostly moderate 3-mile long out and back (1.5 miles in each direction). Still, the trail is listed as strenuous, largely because the hike from the waterfall back up to the parking lot is uphill.
While you might be tempted to swim, deaths have occurred at Turtleback Falls and Rainbow Falls. The rocks are slippery, and the current is strong. That’s a bad mixture, so avoid the water and go home safely.
Still, as long as you stay don’t the beaten path, the natural rainbows at the waterfall are a special sight to take in.
Distance From Charlotte: 100 miles; <2.5 hours drive
6. Catawba Falls at Pisgah National Forest
Catawba Falls at Pisgah National Forest might hold a special place in the hearts of Charlotteans. After all, the Catawba River winds down to Charlotte.
The waterfall is a series of drops; in fact, the river drops about 600 feet over about a half mile. As incredible as this is, the largest single drop is the upper part of Catawba Falls. The near-50-foot drop is impressive in its free fall and contributes to the beauty of the greater waterfall.
Another reason that Catawba Falls is enticing for Charlotteans is that it is closer to Charlotte than waterfalls down near Brevard. It’s also closer to Asheville, in case you want to make a weekend trip of your adventure. Brevard’s a wonderful little town, but there aren’t many places to sleep or eat. Asheville offers more options.
Distance From Charlotte: 110 miles; <2 hours drive
7. Triple Falls at DuPont State Park
Last but not least, Triple Falls is stunning, and you have to visit at least once if you live within easy driving distance. Triple Falls was used as a backdrop for the Last of the Mohicans and scenes of The Hunger Games. You will love Triple Falls if you’re a fan of Katniss and Peeta.
While Triple Falls comprises three cascades, the total drop is about 120 feet. As you can imagine, it’s as an impressive of a backdrop for a hike as it is for a movie. As noted above, High Falls and Hooker Falls are also in the same vicinity.
Make sure to take your camera with you to DuPont State Park. You will likely feel compelled to capture the one-of-a-kind scenery. We have pictures of DuPont waterfalls hanging in our house.
While there’s no parking access area directly adjacent to Triple Falls, the access areas at High Falls and Hooker Falls are both within about half a mile and a 15-minute walk.
Distance From Charlotte: 115 miles; <2.5 hours drive
Visiting The Best Waterfalls Near Charlotte, NC
There are plenty of waterfalls near Charlotte, NC, and each one has its own unique vibe. One of the waterfalls on our list works as a natural water slide, while another frequently throws off rainbows. Still, another is so unique that it served as a backdrop for multiple movies.
We often head toward Boone when we leave Charlotte for the mountains. After all, if we go toward Boone and Blowing Rock, we can consider Moses Cone Manor, the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster, or even Tweetsie Railroad.
Still, sometimes it’s nice to go get lost in a forest and look at waterfalls. And this list represents our favorite waterfalls near Charlotte.
Are There Waterfalls Near Charlotte, NC?
The High Shoals Falls waterfall at Stone Mountain State Park is the closest waterfall on our list to Charlotte. At 60 miles away, you can drive up to the park early on a Saturday and still be home in time for dinner.
The other waterfalls on our list are further away. All of these waterfalls near Charlotte, NC, are close enough that you could make a day trip if you really want to do so. Still, most of the best waterfalls are about a 2.5-hour drive from Charlotte. Your best bet might be to find a hotel near Brevard or Asheville.
North Carolina is known for scenic views, most of which are accessible from Charlotte.
The Overall Best Waterfall Near Charlotte, North Carolina
We love these waterfalls, but only one has served as a backdrop for Hollywood’s biggest celebrities. Triple Falls is so beautiful that Last of the Mohicans and The Hunger Games filmed scenes at the waterfall. Plus, you can see Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls within a 30 minutes hike from one another.
Over time, hopefully, you can visit multiple waterfalls on this list; we recommend that you start with Triple Falls at DuPont State park.