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. Continue past the waterfall to complete a 11-mile loop drive.
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 half mile and Houston Road will fork to the right. Then turn left onto White Oak Mountain Road in another half mile.
Drive two miles up White Oak Mountain Road 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. Be careful walking along the road.
After rainy periods, find plenty of water flowing. During very dry periods, the water flow is much less. It's a great winter scenic drive. Named for an Indian Chief, there are no signs for the falls. So be sure to take along these directions.
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.
Continue six miles back down the mountain on Skyuak Mountain Road to return. At the base of the mountain, turn left to return to the Visitor Center. Or turn around go back the same way so the driver of the car can see the waterfall!
It's about 10 miles from Pearson's Falls, so you should see that one also.
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.