This cascade in Pisgah National Forest is just a quarter-mile upstream from the 150-foot Rainbow Falls. It's a 3.5-mile roundtrip hike from Gorges State Park. Also known as Umbrella Falls, it has been a popular natural water slide for many years. But there have been too many injuries lately, so we recommend enjoying this from the surrounding boulders that create natural overlooks. Find a much more serene swimming hole about 1/3 of a mile downriver at Hidden Falls.
2023 Update for Swimming Hole: Due to many injuries, rescues and deaths here during the past two years - especially during frequent high water due to record rainfalls - Gorges State Park Rangers warn against sliding and swimming here any longer. While riding down the cascade is not prohibited, water currents are often too strong for safe play. If you go to slide, be sure water is at a lower level. You should be a strong swimmer and keep children away. Take drinking water. Be safe! Rescues are difficult in this remote area.
Start your hike in Gorges State Park at the Grassy Ridge Parking area, about a 2-mile drive from the park entrance. Look for the cluster of information boards at the end of the parking lot. The trail to Rainbow Falls begins there, blazed with orange circles until you reach the National Forest. The downhill trail is easy to follow, with a creek crossing that can be a wet one when the water is high. It's about 1.5 miles to Rainbow Falls and another quarter mile to Turtleback Falls. You'll hike by the many cascades with a few steep sections with stairs. Just past the main view of the falls, keep on the trail to the right for the final ascent to Turtleback. The last mile of the hike back to the parking lot is uphill, so save some energy! There are restrooms at the parking area.
Another nice vantage point is by the top of the falls. Just continue on the trail to this point. The trail continues to a camp site along the river.
You'll pass Rainbow Falls on your hike to Turtleback. If the water flow is low (like above photo), find safe sunning spots at the base of the waterfall. For safety, don't climb the cliff by the waterfall. See our Rainbow Falls Guide. A short walk on the trail down river from Rainbow Falls is the serene pool at Hidden Falls.
Gorges State Park is approximately 55 miles southwest of Asheville (1.5 hours driving time). From Asheville, take exit 40 from I-26 East onto NC 280 (airport exit) and travel west to Brevard. Follow US 64 West through downtown Brevard toward Sapphire. Turn south on NC 281 in Sapphire. The park entrance is about a mile on the left. Stop at the visitor center (open daily 8-5), located about a half mile from the entrance, for questions and more park information. Street address for the visitor center: 976 Grassy Ridge Rd, Sapphire, NC 28774. But don't rely on GPS, since it is sometimes not reliable. Read more about Gorges State Park.
Turtleback Falls is a great picnic spot for fall color in October.
Drift Falls Update: Hike another 1/2 mile upstream to reach the Drift Falls area with a few campsites along the river. It was once a popular natural slide (also known as Bust Your Butt), but it's on private property. So stay away! You can only get a glimpse of the waterfall from the end of the trail at the park boundary sign.