Before you explore waterfalls and hiking trails in the North Carolina mountains, please see our below safety tips to help you in planning the perfect trip!
Waterfall Safety Tips
- While there are hundreds of waterfalls in the mountains near Asheville, we feature Top 60 Waterfalls with a trail for safe viewing and open to the public. Many others are on private land and in remote, dangerous areas.
- Most of the North Carolina waterfalls require a hike. All the waterfalls we feature have well-maintained, safe trails that are not overly strenuous or "technical."
- Never climb on or around waterfalls. Deaths occur every year from visitors trying to climb cliffs at many of our waterfalls.
- Never jump off waterfalls or dive into plunge pools since rocks and logs can be hidden beneath the surface of the water. And currents that can drag and keep you underwater.
- Never play in the stream or river above a waterfall. Rocks can be slippery and currents could take you on a deadly trip over the falls.
- Some waterfalls have a safe area for wading downstream from the waterfall, but streams are often very rocky with hidden sharp edges. See our top Swimming Holes.
- Mist from waterfalls can cause slippery rocks or mud along the trail. So look down as you walk near the waterfall!
- Since many waterfalls are in remote areas, a medical rescue could take hours.
- Most of the waterfalls are not signed along the road. So you need to take exact driving directions. Often, the unmarked parking area consists of a pull-off on the side of the road.
- Wear walking shoes with a good grip (no flip flops!).
- Many of the hiking trails cross streams or are wet from springs. So bring an extra pair of shoes and socks for the car in case your feet get wet. And an extra change of clothes is a good idea if you get caught in a summer thunderstorm.
- Bring your camera, but be careful when trying to get that perfect angle!
- Be considerate of other visitors to a waterfall. Don't spoil this special setting for others trying to connect with nature.
- Take time to enjoy the waterfall, after you take all the effort to find it! Bring a picnic or snack (and water of course).
- Practice "Leave No Trace" by removing any trash and respecting all plants and wildlife.
- Be aware of the time for sunset and get back to your car before night.
- If you want to get in the water, see our Top Swimming Holes.
- During the winter, watch for icy patches along the trail and from mist of the waterfalls. Many times, a winter view is better since there are no leaves on the trees to hide parts of the falls. See photos and videos of winter waterfalls.
Mountain Hiking Tips
- Out of the thousands of miles of hiking trails in the North Carolina mountains, we feature top hikes that are safe for all to enjoy and appropriate for a variety of fitness levels.
- Tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return.
- Be sure to take hiking instructions or a map with you. Often trail markers fade, fall or are hidden by leaves. So you don't want to make a wrong turn!
- Do research ahead and print instructions on hikes (since cell reception in the mountains is limited.)
- Go early to avoid crowds and heat.
- Take extra clothes and rain gear, in case of a quick weather change. Higher elevation hikes can be 15-20 degrees cooler than the city. Wear layers and good hiking shoes.
- Stay on marked trails. Do not disturb any wildlife or plantlife.
- Bear sightings are rare, but you need to know how to react if you encounter one. See our Bear Safety Tips especially if you are camping.
- Take plenty of drinking water and snacks. Although it may be tempting, don't drink from the streams.
- Take a cell phone in case of emergency (although service is spotty). Coverage is best on some mountaintops, while there's no service in remote areas of the National Forests.
- Trail lengths can be misleading if the trail has a big elevation gain. We do have the highest mountains in the eastern USA. If you are not a seasoned hiker, start with easier trails.
- Dogs are allowed on most hiking trails (on a leash), except in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. See Pet Friendly Asheville.
- If you have an emergency along the Parkway, call 1-800-ParkWatch. Otherwise, call 911.
- Follow principles of Leave No Trace.
- There are plenty of opportunities for guided hikes. See our Top Picks for Guided Hikes and Top Guided Tours for options.
- Support protection groups like Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy
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