9 waterfalls within 3 hours of Charlotte that you can see this weekend

High Shoal Falls
High Shoal Falls(Emma Way/Axios Charlotte)
Published: Jul. 1, 2022 at 3:55 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Axios) - North Carolina is home to hundreds of waterfalls — enough for a lifetime of day hikes from Charlotte.

We’ve narrowed down the pool for you with 9 of our favorites within three hours of Uptown.

(1) Elk River Falls

Location: Pisgah National Forest.

Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours, 20 minutes.

Hike details: An easy five-minute walk.

What you should know: Arrive early to avoid the crowds at this popular spot.

» Related: Learning kayaking basics before getting out on the water

(2) High Falls

Location: West Fork, Tuckasegee River

Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours, 20 minutes

Hike details: A moderately challenging two-mile hike

What you should know: When the water is high, this hike has several slippery steps, but that just makes it all the more rewarding. Wear your hiking boots.

(3) High Shoals Falls

Location: South Mountain State Park

Distance from Charlotte: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Hike details: You can reach the big falls about a mile into your hike, but keep going for a challenging 2.7-mile loop.

What you should know: Follow the winding boardwalk for the best views of the falls and then use the railing to prop up your phone for a picture.

High Shoals Falls is located inside South Mountain State Park.
High Shoals Falls is located inside South Mountain State Park.(Emma Way/Axios Charlotte)

(4) Bird Rock Falls

Location: Balsam Grove along the North Fork French Broad River.

Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours, 40 minutes.

Hike details: An easy half-mile hike.

What you should know: See three waterfalls in less than a mile. The falls are all located around the Living Waters Ministry so you’ll see inspirational phrases and Bible verses as you walk.

(5) Deep Creek Falls

Location: Great Smoky Mountains

Distance from Charlotte: 3 hours

Hike details: An easy two-mile walk will get you to three waterfalls. Continue your hike for two-and-half more miles with the Indian Creek Loop for a bit more of a challenge.

What you should know: This hike is close to Bryson City. After your hike, stop by Mountain Layers Brewing for a craft beer on the rooftop.

(6) Looking Glass Falls

Location: Pisgah National Forest

Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Hike details: Easy half-mile walk.

What you should know: Drive right up to view [these] popular falls. If you want a closer look, head down to the creek.

(7) Rainbow Falls

Location: Nantahala National Forest

Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours, 40 minutes

Hike details: 3 miles

What you should know: Arrive early in the day to catch a rainbow peeking through the waterfall’s mist.

Related Axios guide: Brevard getaway: Stay off-the-grid and explore North Carolina’s “land of waterfalls”

Hey, it’s me in front of Rainbow Falls.
Hey, it’s me in front of Rainbow Falls.(Emma Way/Axios)

(8) Sliding Rock

Location: Pisgah National Forest.

Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

Hike details: An easy park and walk right up.

What you should know: This area just reopened in April 2022 after a tropical storm forced its closure in August 2021. Arrive early as this popular swimming hole fills up fast. There’s a $5 registration fee per person, too.

(9) Triple Falls

Location: DuPont State Forest

Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours

Hike details: Easy 0.3-mile walk from the Hooker Falls Access Area.

What you should know: Located about a half-mile hike from High Falls, you may recognize this waterfall from the movie “Last of the Mohicans.”

Full guide: This 3-mile hike through a 10,400-acre forest features three waterfalls — as seen in Hunger Games and Last of the Mohicans

This guide was first published in 2016 and last updated in June 2022.