Shunkawauken Falls is a roadside 150-foot tall waterfall just outside Columbus (near Tryon and Saluda) on the twisting, scenic White Oak Mountain Road. Along the way, see some panoramic vistas as you climb 2,000 in elevation in five miles to the top of the mountain.
Start your drive up White Oak Mountain Road at the First Peak Visitor Center for Polk County in downtown Columbus (20 East Mills St). From the center parking area, turn right onto Houston Road. Drive a short distance and Houston Road will fork to the right. Then turn left onto White Oak Mountain Road.
Drive three miles up the mountain on a very curvy road to Shunkawauken Falls. Unfortunately, there is not a nice viewing platform. However, the road is not busy, so you can stop briefly in front of the falls. There are small pull-offs just before and after the waterfall if you want a longer look. We visited after some rain, so there was plenty of water flowing. During very dry periods, the water flow is much less. Named for an Indian Chief, there are no signs for the falls. So be sure to take along these directions. It's about 10 miles from Pearson's Falls, so you should see that one also.
3.7 miles: Continue driving up the mountain about a half mile to an overlook in front of some condos with an amazing view down into the flatlands (above) and Columbus. Elevation here is about 2,600 feet.
5 miles: Keep driving up the ridge to the back of the mountain for Sunset Rock (elevation nearly 3,000 feet). Look for a pullover with a rock ‘platform’ and an amazing view of the valleys and next row of mountains. Turn around and head down the mountain. Then you can stop again at the falls so the driver of the car can see!
Directions: From I-26, take exit 67 for Highway 108 and drive a few blocks into Columbus. Start at the First Peak Visitor Center (20 E Mills St, Columbus, NC).
See our Waterfall Drives & Maps.