The Best Waterfalls On the Blue Ridge Parkway, According to a Local Guide


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Winding its way through the picturesque landscape of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers a scenic route through some of the most breathtaking mountain views in the United States. Among its many attractions, the waterfalls are among my favorite. I love stopping and seeing them in all their beauty.

Before we get started, a note about waterfall safety: do not climb on rocks near waterfalls and use extreme caution when walking along riverbanks. These rocks are slippery from mist and algae. The top of any waterfall is dangerous—never play in the stream above a waterfall.

That out of the way, let’s get started with my favorite waterfalls you’ve got to check out.

Waterfalls and Blue Ridge Parkway Hiking Tour with Expert Naturalist

The best way to see the Blue Ridge Parkway – with a naturalist guiding you the whole way.

Cascade Falls

Milepost 271.9
Hiking Distance to Waterfall: 1.0 mile (round trip)

Located on Falls Creek about 15 miles outside of Boone, North Carolina, you’ll come across this family-friendly waterfall that locals call “The Cascades.” This is one waterfall where you can walk directly to the base and feel the refreshing mist spraying your face.

You can access this trail at E.B. Jeffress Park, and although the trail to this 60-foot waterfall is fairly easy, be prepared for some steps that lead you to two separate overlooks.

Please note: One of our readers wrote in and commented that the “Parkway is closed to thru traffic from the 421 junction to just north of Doughton Park (projected to remain closed until 2025). E.B. Jeffress Park is inaccessible by road. Also the second landing to view the Cascades is closed to hiking for maintenance and has been for a few months now.” So this fall may currently be difficult to access. But keep an eye out for when it opens again and check out Cascade Falls once it’s easily accessible again.

Check out: Best Hotels In Boone, NC

Hebron Falls

Milepost 296.4
Hiking Distance to Waterfall: 2.8 miles out/back via the Boone Fork Trail

Hebron Falls is a waterfall that you can access via Julian Price Park off the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are several trails which will lead you to this popular destination, but The Boone Fork Falls trail is recommended. Although the trail can get strenuous due to steep elevation changes and river crossings, laying eyes on this 25-foot beauty is well worth the effort. 

You may opt to hike approximately 1.5 miles to reach Hebron Falls and retrace your footsteps back to your car for a total of approximately 3 miles The other option is to try your luck at the difficult 5.5 mile loop, accessing the waterfall about halfway through the loop.

Either way, you’ll be rewarded with a scenic North Carolina waterfall that offers the chance to cool off in refreshing mountain water.

Linville Falls

Photo: Megan D

Milepost 316.4
Hiking Distance to Waterfall: 1.6 miles round trip (to access view of Upper Falls)

Linville Falls, located in the Linville Gorge, off the Blue Ridge Parkway, is one of those iconic landmarks that you must see in your lifetime. It is renowned for its dramatic, multi-tiered cascade plunging into the Linville Gorge. Visitors can hike to various viewpoints, each offering a different perspective of this impressive waterfall.

When choosing which trail to hike, consider the Linville Falls Trail. It is an easy-access, 1.6 mile trail that takes you to three different overlooks of the falls. Due to its gentle slope and wide path, families and dogs tend to prefer this path.

If you are seeking a more challenging trail that leads you closer to the waterfall, then opt for the Plunge Basin trail. It’s only 1.0 mile round-trip, but its strenuous nature makes it suitable for those with a moderate to advanced physical ability.

When you visit Linville Falls, you’ll find interpretive signs along the trails, which provide insights into the geological and historical significance of the area. And although the water may look inviting to swim in, swimming is strictly prohibited!

Crabtree Falls

Photo: Megan D

Milepost 339.5
Hiking Distance to Waterfall: 2.5 miles loop

What sets Crabtree Falls apart from other North Carolina waterfalls is its graceful descent over a 60-foot rock face. It’s surrounded by lush forests, so perfect if you’re looking for a tranquil experience in nature.

There’s also a man-made bench at the base of this waterfall. Take your time to relax and watch the peaceful rhythms of nature takes its course.

To access this waterfall, you’ll find the trailhead at the Crabtree Falls Campground off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The trail is a scenic, forested loop hike (approximately 2.5 miles), but you may choose to stop at the waterfall and turn back, cutting the distance to 1.8 miles.

You can expect some stone stairs and elevation change on your way to Crabtree Falls, but with a moderate level of difficulty, the hike seems to be manageable for most people.

Skinny Dip Falls

Photo: Megan D

Milepost 417
Hiking Distance to Waterfall: 0.9 miles roundtrip

Skinny Dip Falls is a great trail if you are looking for a scenic, forested walk with children or dogs. It is to be noted, however, that due to Tropical Storm Fred (August 2021), there is no longer a traditional waterfall and swimming hole at this location. Major flooding from the storm destroyed the river topography, causing massive boulders to collapse into the stream and wash away the footbridge. 

Even though Skinny Dip Falls is no longer a traditional waterfall off the Blue Ridge Parkway, it is still worth visiting for the beauty and easy trail. You can access the trailhead across the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Looking Glass Rock Overlook.

This is the perfect spot to bring a picnic, and spend a few hours soaking up the benefits of nature. Keep in mind that you can turn back once you reach the creek, or you can rock hop across the creek to further your exploration.

Graveyard Fields (Second & Upper Falls)

Photo: Megan D

Milepost 418.8
Hiking Distance to Waterfall: 2.9 miles round trip (to access both waterfalls)

Graveyard Fields continually draws a crowd due to its easy access and natural beauty. There are two distinct waterfalls you can access from the trailhead. The easier one being Second Falls. To witness this impressive cascade, you’ll start by walking down a gently sloping paved path, cross over the creek bridge, then veer right to the base of the falls.

The more daring visitors can rock hop directly to the base where to find a clear, deep swimming hole. Many hikers choose to backtrack from here to complete the 1.2 mile Graveyard Fields Loop Trail.

To access the Upper Falls, you’ll need a bit more sense of adventure. The 2.9 mile hike is slightly difficult to follow and requires more rock scrambling to reach the base of the waterfall. It is best to have a trail map with you when trying to navigate this trail.

The Bottom Line

As you travel along the Blue Ridge Parkway, make sure you leave time to visit a few of these magnificent North Carolina waterfalls. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a casual visitor, each waterfall offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature and experience the awe-inspiring power of water in motion.

Interested in tours of Western NC? Check out Smoky Mountain Soul and let the author Megan guide you to the waterfalls!


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