Waterfalls of the Southeast: Waterfall Hikes for Families

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Looking for waterfalls in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee? Enjoy a hike with waterfall views as a reward, then relax by the sound of rushing water with a snack. Some waterfalls even have pools suitable for wading where you can cool off after a hot summer hike. We’ve put together a list of our favorite waterfall hikes in the southeast! Most of these hikes are great for families to do together, there are even a few that don’t require anything more than a short walk to view the falls.

We split up our list of great waterfall hikes by state. Use the links below to navigate our list!

This article includes:
Waterfall Hikes Near You, Just Right For Your Family
Waterfall Hikes in South Carolina
Waterfall Hikes in North Carolina
Waterfall Hikes in Tennessee
Waterfall Hikes in Georgia

Remember, exploring waterfalls can be dangerous with slippery rocks and drop-offs. Obey all signage and always use caution.

Rainbow at Rainbow Falls in NC.

Find the Best Waterfalls For You

No hiking waterfalls: If you love waterfalls but need to avoid hikes, try our Waterfall Driving Tour! Many of the waterfalls can be viewed from the road, or require just a short walk down paved paths. These are great for families with small children and those with mobility concerns.

Babies and Toddlers: Not all waterfall hikes require miles of strenuous hiking. Our guide to the Best Hikes for Toddlers and Young Children includes many beautiful waterfalls like Wildcat Wayside, Pearson’s Falls, and Yellow Branch Falls.

New to hiking? There are waterfall hikes for you too! Check out the trails on our Newbie Guide to Hiking in the Upstate.

Don’t miss our Ultimate Guide to Hiking in the Upstate.

South Carolina Waterfall Hikes

Greenville, SC Waterfalls: In our Waterfalls near Greenville guide, we have gathered all the information you need about finding waterfalls close to home! Whether you want to take in a waterfall while enjoying a long hike or a waterfall that you can view with very little effort, local mom Kristina has all the details!

Waterfalls at Laurel Fork Heritage Preserve

Sunset, SC

The beautiful Laurel Fork Heritage preserve is worth the drive, even if you never intend on getting out of the car, although I encourage you to. There are several hiking trails and roadside waterfalls. Depending on recent rainfall, one might be sufficient to splash around in. The over 1,300-acre preserve is an easy place to get away from everything.

Beech Bottom Falls

F Van Clayton Memorial Hwy
Sunset, SC

Not far from Laurel Fork H.P. and on the way to Sassafras Mountain, you’ll see the Beech Bottom Falls trailhead parking lot for the falls. This is an easy two-mile round-trip hike to an observation deck that overlooks the falls. 

Twin Falls

Water Falls Rd
Sunset, SC

This is an easy hike that is only a ¼ of a mile. There are places to splash in the water, but please use caution. While these falls are beautiful, they are also dangerous if you are trying to climb up on the rocks. 

Waterfalls at Twin Falls Pickens
Twin Falls in Pickens, SC

Spoonauger Falls

Burrells Ford Rd
Mountain Rest, SC

Spoonauger Falls is a 50-foot waterfall reached by just a short trail from Burrells Ford Road located in the Ellicott Rock Wilderness. At just 0.3 miles to reach the base of the waterfall, it’s a perfect excursion for a family with small children.

View of a large waterfall
Spoonauger Falls/ Photo Credit: Liene Kukainis

King Creek Falls

Long Creek
South Carolina

King Creek Falls can be accessed from the Burrells Ford campground, from the parking area on Burrells Ford Road, and also while through-hiking the Foothills Trail. If you’re staying in the campground, the hike can be as short as a one-mile round-trip. If you’re coming in from the parking area, the hike is closer to 1.5-2 miles, depending on which trail you take. But since the trail climbs steadily up towards the waterfall, even that ½ mile can be hard for shorter legs when it’s a hot summer day – which is why the pool at the base of King Creek Falls is a perfect reward.

Boys playing at the base of a waterfall at King Creek Falls
King Creek Falls / Photo Credit: Liene Kukainis

Rainbow Falls – Jones Gap State Park

303 Jones Gap Road
Marietta, SC

The trail to Rainbow Falls is around 2.5 miles one-way, mostly up in a staircase manner. Plan to spend plenty of time wading at the base of the falls with a picnic in tow. Hiking alone may take 4-5 hours depending on the ages and abilities of your kids, plus picnicking time.

While this is a strenuous hike, there are no major dangers on the trail itself (other than the falls, of course) it is simply sweat-inducing, and the falls are worth it!

Rainbow Falls at Jones Gap State Park
Rainbow Falls at Jones Gap

Jones Gap Falls – Jones Gap State Park

303 Jones Gap Road
Marietta, SC

Jones Gap Falls is a round-trip 2.6-mile hike along a river that ends at a fan waterfall splashing over a 50-foot drop, spilling over a staircase of granite ledges. Pack a picnic and plan to spend a few hours on this lovely trail with your kiddos. The trail is so beautiful that if your kids couldn’t stick it out to the falls, nothing would be lost alongside that gorgeous river.

Jones Gap Falls at Jones Gap State Park
Jones Gap Falls

Issaqueena Falls

Walhalla, SC

Issaqueena Falls is a short hike from Stumphouse Tunnel through a covered bridge to an observation deck for viewing a lower area of the falls. 

There is a path that continued past the observation deck, but parents should be aware that it isn’t a maintained trail and poses safety concerns. There have been several deaths and many accidents at this waterfall so be careful and aware of your surroundings even on the marked trails.

Horseshoe Falls – Musgrove Mill State Historic Site

Horseshoe Falls Rd
Enoree, SC

Horseshoe Falls is located at the start of the Battlefield Trail at Musgrove Mill State Historic Site. It is a very short walk from the parking lot and is accessible by wheelchair.

Hikers of the battlefield trail will continue on past the falls, where the trail is no longer paved. The battlefield trail is a 1.3-mile loop, with frequent signage that describes the backcountry’s role in the Revolutionary War.

Horseshoe Falls at Musgrove Mill State Historic Site
Horseshoe Falls at Musgrove Mill State Historic Site

Blue Wall Preserve

Landrum, SC

Blue Wall Preserve is a 575-acre preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy and has stunning views of the Blue Ridge mountains. The trails are well defined, and at the back end of the 3.4-mile loop, you will be rewarded with a waterfall.

Blue Wall Preserve waterfall
The waterfall at Blue Wall Preserve / Photo Credit: Kristina Hernandez

Raven Cliff Falls – Caesars Head State Park

8155 Geer Hwy
Cleveland, SC

Getting to Raven Cliff Falls at Caesars Head State Park is a long and arduous trek along a few different trails, but if you have the kids with you and prefer something more manageable, you still have the option to see the falls from afar. Start at the Raven Cliff Falls parking lot and take the Raven Cliff Falls trail about 2 miles out to an overlook where you can view the falls in all their glory.

Raven Cliff Falls at Caesars Head State Park
Raven Cliff Falls at Caesars Head

Carrick Creek Falls – Table Rock State Park

158 Ellison Lane
Pickens, SC

The Carrick Creek Trail at Table Rock State Park begins at the Nature Center. It starts out paved and immediately opens up to the beautiful Carrick Creek Falls where your kiddos can wade around in a cool, shallow lagoon fed by a cascading waterfall.

Beyond that, the pavement ends and the trail becomes a bit more moderate as it follows the creek for a while and then loops around back to the falls for a grand total of two miles. You and your kids will enjoy traveling alongside the creek as the rushing water drops over boulders and slides along ledges, creating an amazing backdrop for a hike.

Carrick Creek waterfall
The waterfall at Carrick Creek

Riley Moore Falls

Riley Moore Falls Trail
Westminster, SC

Riley Moore Falls is a waterfall at the end of a short trail with a small beach. It’s a beautiful place but be aware some people are careless with their trash at this location, unfortunately. The trail is about two miles and starts at the end of the forestry road.

Riley Moore Falls
Riley Moore Falls

Wildcat Wayside

US 276/SC 11
Cleveland, SC

This waterfall, swimming hole, and trail are located right off SC 11 in Cleveland. There are stone steps leading up to the trails – the Wildcat Wayside loop is an easy mile.

Heading north on Route 11, the trail and pull-off parking area are located on the right side of the road. There is a brown wooden sign that says Wildcat Wayside, but it is easy to miss. It’s about 5 miles north of the 276/11 intersection.

Waterfall at Wildcat Wayside
Wildcat Wayside

Yellow Branch Falls

Walhalla, SC

A moderate three-mile round trip hike near Walhalla with a beautiful waterfall payoff. Parking is trailside on the road. This one is fairly popular so try to get there early in the day to get a parking spot.

waterfall at Yellow Branch Falls
Yellow Branch Falls

Station Cove Falls

State Rd S-37-95
Walhalla, SC

Station Cove is an easy trail less than two miles round trip that has a huge, beautiful waterfall. It’s located at Oconee Station State Historic Site and is an easy trail perfect for little kids.

Waterfall at Station Cove Falls
Station Cove Falls

North Carolina Waterfall Hikes

Waterfall Keepers

Waterfall Keepers is a nonprofit that seeks to protect the natural beauty and landscape of waterfalls in Western NC. Read more about how you can help protect our waterfalls. Get your kids learning about the environment by signing them up for the Junior Waterfall Keepers program!

Sapphire Valley, Land of the Waterfalls

Cashiers, NC

Kidding Around’s Kristina visited Sapphire Valley with her family and discovered why it is nicknamed, “Land of the Waterfalls.” She has all the details on the numerous waterfall hikes in this beautiful area in her article Sapphire Valley.

Sliding Rock
Sliding Rock

Waterfalls of DuPont State Recreational Forest

Staton Rd
Cedar Mountain, NC

With its 900 miles of hiking trails, six major waterfalls, and over 10,000 acres of forest, DuPont State Forest is a showcase of some of the most fabulous scenery in western NC, just an hour from Greenville! KAG Contributor Liene tells us all about the best waterfalls hikes in Dupont State Forest.

Waterfalls at Triple Falls, Dupont State Forest
Waterfalls at Triple Falls, Dupont State Forest

Catawba Falls

3074 Catawba River Rd
Old Fort, NC

This trail east of Asheville is a fantastic trail for families because it’s not long and ends at a stunning waterfall. Total mileage is around 2.5 miles and it’s a fairly easy trail.

Pearson’s Falls

2748 Pearson’s Falls Rd
Saluda, NC

Located in Saluda, NC this trail to Pearson’s Falls is a moderate, .75 mile hike through a botanical preserve. Most of the trail is made up of a stone stairway going up to the falls. The falls and the pond at the base of the falls are not accessible to the public, but there are multiple wading pools among the rocks at the top of the trail that are perfect for cooling off little feet on hot days.

waterfall at pearsons falls
Waterfall at Pearsons Falls

Little Bradley Falls

Holbert Cove Road
Saluda, NC

To reach Little Bradley Falls, hikers can park at a gravel pull-off on Holbert Cove Road, which is about three miles from exit 59 on I-26. There are no signs, but the hike to Little Bradley starts on the opposite side of the road from the main parking area, across the bridge on the east side of Cove Creek.

The trail is a 2.4 mile out and back moderate hike across boulders and through streams. It ends at the 35-foot, triple-tiered waterfall that feeds into a large pool at the bottom, perfect for wading and cooling off on a hot summer day. 

Little Bradley Falls
Little Bradley Falls

Moore Cove Falls

Brevard, NC

The trailhead to the Moore Cove Falls Trail is between Looking Glass Falls and Sliding Rock in the Pisgah Forest on 276. If you’re coming from Brevard, the trailhead will be on your right.

To get to the falls, just cross the bridge and head up the stairs to the right. The trail is well-marked and has a few creek crossings and bridges. It is about 1.2 miles round trip and is great for families with smaller kids since you don’t need to work hard to see a beautiful sight!

Moore Cove Falls
Moore Cove Falls

Hickory Nut Falls

431 Main Street
Chimney Rock, NC

The trail to Hickory Nut Falls at Chimney Rock State Park is a 1.4-mile round trip moderate hike. The waterfall at the end is an epic 404-foot-high beauty that was featured in the film, “The Last of the Mohicans.”

Hike to the waterfall at Chimney Rock in North Carolina
Hickory Nut Falls at Chimney Rock

Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls at Gorges State Park

976 Grassy Ridge Road
Sapphire, NC

Rainbow Falls at Gorges State Park is one of my favorite waterfalls and trails in our area. The waterfall is enormous, and you can get a really good view from the overlook on the trail or you can take a smaller trail down to the bottom of the falls (just be careful). 

But if you keep going another quarter-mile from those falls, you’ll come to more waterfalls. Turtleback Falls isn’t as stunning but it’s really fun. It’s a great place to cool off and go for a swim before heading back to the trailhead. 

The trail is about four miles round trip and of moderate difficulty. The hike back is harder and more uphill than the hike to the waterfalls.

Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls

Whitewater Falls

NC 281
Cashiers, NC

Cascading more than 800 feet tall, Whitewater Falls is the tallest waterfall in the Eastern United States – and it’s easily accessible just over the border into North Carolina and close to Gorges State Park.

The trail is a paved quarter-mile walk that gets you to the overlook of the falls. You can go down a stairway to get a closer view.

Waterfall at Whitewater Falls
Whitewater Falls

Looking Glass Falls

US-276
Brevard, NC

Right off 276 in Pisgah Forest in North Carolina, you can see this stunning waterfall from the road. It is beautiful and loud and amazing. If it’s really cold, Looking Glass Falls has iced over in the past, making it a winter wonderland.

It’s very close to Brevard, about 15 minutes away in the forest. Park on the shoulder of the road and you can walk down to the bottom on the path and stairs.

Waterfall at Looking Glass Falls
Looking Glass Falls

Mingo Falls

Eastern Cherokee Reservation
Cherokee, NC

Located in Cherokee, NC, the hike to Mingo Falls involves climbing a lot of stairs. I think it’s worth it because the waterfall is beautiful. It’s a great stop if you’re near the Great Smoky Mountains.

High Falls

358-1486 State Rd 1158
Glenville, NC

Also in North Carolina near Cashiers is High Falls. The waterfall is located below the dam of Lake Glenville and the dam releases water a few times a year which kayakers really love. The trail is of moderate difficulty and under four miles round trip.

Tennessee Waterfall Hikes

Mouse Creek Falls

Hartford, TN

Mouse Creek Falls can be accessed via Big Creek Trail, a 4-mile moderate hike along a river. While you’re in the area, check out the gorgeous Midnight Hole Lagoon!

Cataract Falls

Sevier County, TN

In the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, there is a one-mile round trip easy nature trail you can take along a creek that goes to the small but pretty Cataract Falls. It’s perfect for families with small kids.

Georgia Waterfall Hikes

Anna Ruby Falls

Helen, GA

Anna Ruby Falls is actually a spectacular double waterfall, as two waterfalls combine to form Smith Creek. The down and back trail to the falls is paved, with a moderate incline at times, as it follows the boulder-lined creek to the falls. It’s a very pretty trail, and though short, it’s worth a trip in and of itself. There are multiple overlooks to enjoy the falls for a while before returning back down the trail.

The trail begins at the Anna Ruby Falls visitor center where you will find restrooms and a gift shop, plus scenic picnic areas along the creek.

Don’t miss the Alpine town of Helen, GA while you are in the area. If you’re looking for more hiking, don’t miss nearby Unicoi State Park. The hike around the lake is pretty and family-friendly.

Anna Ruby Falls in Helen, GA
Anna Ruby Falls

Trahlyta Falls

Blairsville, GA

At Vogel State Park, you’ll find a scenic trail around a small lake: Trahlyta Lake. You’ll start at the visitor’s center and as you walk around the lake you’ll come to a spur at the lake’s dam. Take the short spur trail down and you’ll quickly come to Trahlyta Falls. After viewing the falls you’ll walk back up the spur trail to finish the trail around the lake. The trail around the lake is mainly gravel and flat, while the spur trail to the falls is a bit steep on the way back up.

There are lots of other fun things to do in Blairsville, GA, too!

Trahlyta Falls at Vogel State Park in Georgia
Trahlyta Falls

Long Creek Falls

Blue Ridge, GA

The trail to Long Creek Falls is an easy 1.9-mile hike. Want to say you’ve walked some of the Appalachian Trail with your family? The Long Creek Falls Trail combines with the AT and the Benton Mackaye Trail for most of the hike until it veers off to the falls. The signage to the falls is very clear, so you won’t end up hiking all the way to Maine.

The falls itself is beautiful with a nice area to relax, enjoy a snack on a rock, or even string up a hammock and enjoy the afternoon.

Note that the trailhead for Long Creek Falls is off of a gravel road. You’ll need to drive on gravel Forest Service Road 40 for about 5 miles once you turn off the main road, Doublehead Gap Road. We did this drive in a minivan. We likely would not have been able to make the drive had there been recent rain and the road was wet. 4×4 vehicles are generally recommended on the forest service roads, although we did see many 2-wheel drive cars using the service road. Go slow and watch for potholes and larger rocks in the road.

Long Creek Falls and AT trail signage
Long Creek Falls

Fall Branch Falls

Blue Ridge, GA

The trail to Fall Branch Falls is only 0.9 miles. It’s a down and back trail that is very heavily trafficked. It’s an easy hike for families with children, and the drive is nearly all on paved roads, with just the last tenth of a mile or so on gravel. Fall Branch Falls has several cascades and then a 30-foot drop into the pool. There is an observation deck right beside the pool. These things make the Fall Branch Falls trail pretty popular. The parking area is also a very short walk away from a pretty mountain creek you should check out before or after your hike to the falls.

The trail to Fall Branch Falls sees a lot of traffic. Please stay on the trail and notice the places where hikers have cut off parts of the switchback by going off-trail. These areas show significant erosion. Check out our article on Leave No Trace to learn about caring for trails and nature.

Fall Branch Falls
Fall Branch Falls

What is your favorite waterfall to explore?

Elizabeth Lambert
About the Author
Elizabeth Lambert moved to the Upstate in 2013 and immediately fell in love with the natural beauty of the area. She enjoys taking her three kids hiking and camping and is an aspiring gardener. As one of the founding Branch Ambassadors of Hike it Baby Greenville, she loves being active in the community and is so excited to continue that by working for Kidding Around Greenville.

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