Waterfalls near Asheville can be even more spectacular to see during the winter months. Leafless trees often make for clearer views. And experience magical icy scenes during winter cold snaps in our North Carolina mountains. Not only are the ice formations incredible, but the absence of crowds make for a very personal experience. Above is Looking Glass Falls, always our very top choice in the winter since it's roadside and easy to reach from Asheville. Brave the winter cold snaps to check out the ice created by the mist. While many waterfalls are difficult to access during winter, these are our favorite to visit. All of these are in state or national forest or parks, so they are accessible every day.
DuPont State Forest has many waterfalls to see during the forest's quieter winter months. A three mile hike takes you to Triple Falls (photo), High Falls and Hooker Falls. Extend the hike another four miles to see Bridal Veil Falls. Read more.
Deep Creek Waterfalls: See three cascades on a 2.4-mile loop trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just a few miles from downtown Bryson City. It's a popular tubing spot in the summer, but very tranquil in the winter. Definitely one of our top favorites. Read more.
Linville Falls has mulitple viewpoints, so you could hike several trails to see it from above or below. During winter months, access to the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center is often closed, so hike from the National Forest parking area. It's probably the most photographed waterfall in North Carolina. See our special Linville Falls Winter Hike feature.
Rainbow Falls lives up to its name on sunny days and especially when the water is high to create lots of mist. Heads up... the 3-mile roundtrip hike has muddy sections after decent rains. Plus, a couple of creek crossing may be wet if the water is high. But most of the time, you can rock hop across. Continue above Rainbow Falls for a great view from the top and up to Turtleback Falls in Nantahala National Forest. Read more.
The hike to High Shoals Falls in South Mountains State Park takes you across boardwalks over cascading water, making it one of the most spectacular hikes in western North Carolina.
Catawba Falls is a gorgeous hike in Pisgah National Forest with many cascades, more visible thanks to leafless trees. Plus, two new footbridges opened in 2016 to help keep feet dry. Just a few miles from I-40 in Old Fort, so easy drive from Asheville.
Daniel Ridge Falls in Pisgah National Forest is also near Looking Glass Falls. It's just a half mile hike to see. In the extreme cold of a recent winter, it was almost completely frozen. What a sight! Read more.
Log Hollow Falls is an easy hike near Looking Glass Falls, tucked away in a very quiet part of Pisgah National Forest.
Sliding Rock, the popular summer swimming spot, frozen after a January cold snap. Without the big summer crowds, it's a very serene setting.
Slick Rock Falls in Pisgah National Forest is completely frozen in motion in this photo, taken after some extreme cold weather. Often, you can hike behind the cascade to marvel at the ice formations. It's roadside on a Forest Service Road near Looking Glass Falls. Be extremely careful walking on snow and ice.
Cullasaja Falls is roadside near Highlands and Dry Falls. Although there's not an official trail to the base of the 250-foot waterfall, there's a short but steep path from the highway that is more visible during winter months thanks to leafless trees and shrubs. Read more.
Soco Falls is another roadside beauty with a short paved trail to an observation deck with best views with leafless trees. You can also take a short, steep hike to the base if the trail is not too muddy or icy. It's between Cherokee and Maggie Valley. Read more.
Elk River Falls is a great side trip if you are skiing at Beech Mountain. It is a popular swimming hole in the summer. This short hike has a big reward with a beach for picnics on mild days. Read more.
Upper Whitewater Falls (near Rainbow Falls) is part of the tallest waterfall in eastern America. A short paved trail guarantees easy viewing year-round, located in Nantahala National Forest. Read more. (Closed for 2016/2017 winter season due to wildfire damage to stairs. Hopefully it will reopen later in 2017.)
Remember: You should always watch the weather forecast, and wear shoes with good traction since the trails can be icy in spots. And don't venture out on frozen sections of water near the base of the waterfalls, since the ice could be thin.
Watch our video for four frozen waterfalls.
See Looking Glass Falls in the snow.