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7 Must-See Waterfalls on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Hiking has become one of our favorite ways to spend time in the beautiful nooks and crannies of this country as we travel. There is no better way to become famliar with an area than to disappear into nature and explore it on foot! The established trails and informal dirt paths are always a way to connect to nature, connect to each other, and feel like a local wherever we roam. The best hikes all have one thing in common-- a reward at the end of the trail in the form of a gorgeous waterfall. Here is a list of seven of our favorite waterfalls to explore along the Blue Ridge Parkway!
The Blue Ridge Parkway stretches 469 miles from Rockfish Gap, VA to Cherokee, NC and connects Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This storied roadtrip route is beautiful in all seasons, with wildflowers in the Spring and gorgeous foliage viewing in the Fall. There are over 65 waterfalls and cascades along the Parkway, so no matter your physical fitness level or how much time you have, there is bound to be a trail for you with an epic view.
#1-Elk River Falls in the Pisgah National Forest
Elk River Falls is in Ashton County, North Carolina. At 50 ft. high, this waterfall cascades over a rock cliff and into a picturesque oval pool. Here's the best part--- The trail to the top of the falls is a breezy five-minute walk! You can also hike down below the falls on a short trail, but beware; it's steep and slick! The pool at the bottom is a very popular swimming hole on the weekends, so you may want to head out on the trail early in the day to avoid the crowds.
#2- Soco Falls in the Maggie Valley
Soco Falls are a rarity, as you get two for the price of one! These twin falls are right in between Maggie Valley and Cherokee. Just a half-mile off the Parkway, you can follow the trail to the viewing platform for Soco Falls near the top. If you'd like to hike down to the bottom, there are some ropes to assist you as you navigate your descent, but even with the ropes it is extremely slippery, so watch your footing! I'd recommend you have your cell phone in a waterproof float bag.....(I speak from waterlogged experience.)
#3- Overall Run Falls in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Standing tall at 97 feet, Overall Run Falls is the tallest along the Parkway. You'll find a more strenuous hike to find this waterfall, as there is a 6-mile round trip trek in store. Although many trails in the National Parks are ADA accessible, be advised this is not one of them. Also, note the time of year you plan to visit, as the falls can have limited flow or completely dry up after June.
#4- Dark Hallow Falls, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
This is a great 'medium-sized' hike, for when you'd like a little exercise and elevation change without committing to an all-day adventure uphill. A 1.4-mile round trip might seem like a walk in the park, but especially on the return leg, you'll get your heart pumping with a 440 ft. elevation change. Although many trails along the Parkway are welcoming to your furry friends, there are no pets permitted on this trail.
#5- Upper Whitewater Falls, Nantahala National Park, North Carolina
For just $2 per vehicle, you can access this beautiful trail in Jackson County on the Whitewater River. Part of a larger fall that climbs over 800 feet, this upper falls section plummets 411 feet. This hike is paved all the way from the parking lot and is only a quarter mile, although if you're ready to feel the burn in your legs, you can take the 154 steps down to another overlook spot further down the falls. The main paved section is ADA accessible for an inclusive day of fresh air and gorgeous views!
#6- Skinny Dip Falls, Transylvania County, North Carolina
Apart from having our favorite name on the list, (don't be fooled-- clothing isn't optional here,) this is a great moderate hike with a refreshingly cool swimming hole for those hot summer days. There's a great rock you can take a leap from into a 6-ft deep pool, and at only three quarters of a mile, this trek can be fun for the whole family. Note that the trail is temporarily closed due to Tropical Storm Fred in 2021, but we think this spot should be on your list when it reopens!
#7- Linville Falls, Linville Gorge Wilderness, North Carolina
This network of waterfalls is arguably the most famous on the Parkway, known as the “Grand Canyon of the Southern Appalachians.” There are four lookouts along the trail winding out from the Linville Visitors Center, so you can choose your route depending on how strenuous you'd like your jaunt to be! Bring your camera, as this is one of the most photographed trail systems along the Parkway!
With so many waterfalls along the Parkway, there are so many more trails to explore! What are some of your favorites? What is a must-see trail we missed? We'd love to hear about your adventures in the comments below! Hit the subscribe button in the green box below so you never miss a post.