Want to see the great outdoors without actually hiking? Kidding Around’s Kristina Hernandez loves hunting out great waterfalls. She’s created this amazing driving tour packed full of stops where you can see waterfalls without hiking. It’s a perfect day trip activity. She even included a map with all the stops. So fire up that GPS or pop open your favorite map app and get going!
Looking for more waterfalls?
- Love waterfalls? Here’s our list of Waterfalls in the Southeast with great hiking in South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennesse.
- Also, if you happen to just love waterfalls like we do and are looking for opportunities to keep them clean and pristine, look into volunteering with Waterfall Keepers of North Carolina.
There are few places I’d rather be on the weekends than hiking with my kids to some spectacular waterfall. I’ve done a lot of them and plan lots more. But sometimes hiking a few, or more, miles just isn’t happening. But waterfalls? Yes, I still want to see them!
So if you have the grandparents on board and can’t hike or if there is no way you are listening to kids whine for two hours in the woods or for whatever reason you aren’t hiking, we’ve put together an epic (yes, this is epic) waterfall tour in North Carolina for the ultimate day trip that will kill it on your Instagram feed.
North Carolina Waterfall Driving Tour Map
Just beyond the South Carolina/North Carolina border lies the “Land of the Waterfalls” – it’s true, there is an actual sign that says this – so this is where our epic tour takes you. And because we love our readers and want to make things super easy, we also put together a map of the tour!
I suggest you pack a lot of snacks, drinks, lunch, and some car entertainment since you will have to spend time on the road, even though the drive through the mountains is gorgeous.
You can do this tour starting at either the first or the last waterfall as it takes about the same amount of time as well.
Looking Glass Falls
This waterfall is huge and gorgeous. It’s been on my list since I saw an incredible shot of the falls frozen during the winter. I was really hoping to catch the same photo when I went but it wasn’t cold enough. However, ice did cover the stairs at the very bottom of the falls and the surrounding trees, branches and rocks. It was awesome.
You can literally see the falls from the car but park it anyways, get out and if you have people who are willing and able to walk down the stairs, you can get a close-up view. But if not, you will still get to see the falls in all their glory.
From Greenville, take 276 W to 25 N and take Exit 5 to 25 N. Take Crab Creek Road to 64 W in Brevard and then take 276 N into Pisgah National Forest. The falls will be on your right.
Right down the street from Looking Glass Falls in the Pisgah National Forest is the popular summer destination of Sliding Rock. During the winter, there is no one there and you don’t have to pay to enter (during the summer season, it is $5/person).
You can see Sliding Rock from the top where the bathrooms are located and it’s a short walk down the stairs to the platform that overlooks the gigantic natural waterslide.
The pool is about eight feet deep and during the summer there are lifeguards to keep everyone safe. It’s a sight to see though!
From Looking Glass Falls, keep going on 276 into the forest and Sliding Rock is about four minutes away on the left.
Bridal Veil Falls
It’s about an hour and 20 minutes from Sliding Rock to Bridal Veil Falls in between Cashiers and Highlands but the drive along 64 is gorgeous. And you can go through Brevard if you like and grab lunch (I’d suggest Rocky’s Soda Shop) to space out the trip and fuel up.
Bridal Veil Falls is literally on the side of the road. You could even stay in your car and see this beautiful 60-foot cascading waterfall but really, you should get out because it’s so pretty, especially in the winter when it freezes over occasionally and icicles drop down and make the whole scene ethereal.
You can walk behind this waterfall too, which makes it even cooler. You used to be able to drive behind it but you aren’t allowed anymore.
Take 276 back to Brevard and make a right on 64 W. Take that all the way through Cashiers and the falls will be about 11.5 from Cashiers on your right.
A two-minute drive down the road will bring you to Dry Falls on the left. Park in the lot and either use the handicap accessible ramp to go to the overlook or in the warmer months head down to the falls and walk behind them and take photos to make everyone you know jealous.
These falls are huge and loud and incredible. If you are able to walk behind the falls, stay on the path and behind the railing and don’t walk out on the rocks. Waterfalls are dangerous and you don’t want to become a statistic.
If you’re hungry on your way out from Dry Falls, stop at Slabtown Pizza in Cashiers for delicious pizza.
Stay on 64 W for .8 miles and the falls and parking will be on your left.
Bonus: Lake Jocassee Overlook
I wasn’t expecting this driving to the last waterfall stop so it was a bonus for me. About three miles or so from Whitewater Falls is this overlook that will take your breath away.
You can see all of Lake Jocassee and marvel at the beauty of the gorge. Stop, take photos, have a snack. It’s worth it.
It’s on Route 130 from Cashiers to Whitewater Falls. You can’t miss it.
The last waterfall on our list is the biggest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains, standing at a whooping 411 feet tall, cascading down the mountainside in all it’s beautiful glory.
Whitewater Falls is just under 40 minutes from Dry Falls and is totally worth the trip. Even though I promised no hiking, don’t be mad about this quarter-mile paved trail to the falls. The sign says the falls are a half-mile from the parking lot but they mean round trip. The trail is very short and the view is amazing.
If you are ambitious and want to get out energy from the car ride, head to the stairs on the right, which will take you down to the viewing platform where you can see all of Whitewater Falls. It’s a nice little workout getting back up those 154 stairs.
From Dry Falls, go east on 64, hang a right at the center of Cashiers onto 107 South, and then make a left onto 130 North and follow signs to the falls. It’s about 25 miles total.
For other wheelchair accessible/short walk/roadside waterfalls around Western NC, see Blue Ridge Mountain LIfe Wheelchair Waterfalls and this list of roadside waterfalls.
Do you have a favorite easily accessible waterfall in the Upstate? Let us know in the comments below!