Taking a Scenic Journey Through Western North Carolina’s Waterfall Loop

Western North Carolina, home to our mountains, including the Appalachian Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains, is known for its unique destinations and attractions. Geographically diverse, the region is filled with outdoor activities, family friendly attractions, ski resorts, caverns and much more. You and your family could spend the day in cities, such as Boone, Asheville, Banner Elk, Lake Lure, Maggie Valley, Wilkesboro or Cherokee. Each of these cities has treasures, special to themselves. Yet, there is a one-of-a-kind spot, just outside of Bryson City, that only a few people know about. 

The Western North Carolina Waterfall Loop is one of the most beautiful drives throughout our state. About 4 ½ hours long and accessible from Bryson City, this drive includes 11 waterfalls that can either be seen from the road or after a short hike. These waterfalls are grouped into four main categories, or areas, for easier travel: the Deep Creek Waterfall Loop on Foot, the Cherokee Waterfalls, the Nantahala Gorge and the Highlands/Cashiers Waterfalls. Within each area are multiple waterfalls for you to enjoy and plan a fun adventure around. 

The Deep Creek Waterfall Loop on Foot

Start your journey on foot with this portion of the waterfall loop at the Juney Whank Waterfall. Located inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Juney Whank is a 90-foot cascade that goes under a footbridge. However, beforehand, you will need to make a short ¼-mile hike along a trail. Fun fact: The waterfall is said to be named after the Cherokee phrase “the place where the bear passes.” 

Next, still part of the Deep Creek Waterfall Loop are the Tom Branch Falls and the Indian Creek Waterfalls. A short distance away from Juney Whank is the Tom Branch Falls, which is 60 feet tall. Along with resting and relaxing, this area is also known for fishing and tubing. Lastly, the Indian Creek Waterfalls measure in at 25 feet high and are just as beautiful as the other two waterfalls in the Deep Creek Waterfall Loop.

The Cherokee Waterfalls

As for the next set of waterfalls, driving is required as they are located closer to Cherokee, North Carolina. The Mingo Falls and Soco Falls are located on the Cherokee Indian Reservation. Mingo Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in the Appalachian Mountains, standing at 120 feet tall, and its name means “Big Bear” in Cherokee. When it comes to the Soco Falls, they are unique in the fact that they are a double waterfall with dual cascades. En route to Maggie Valley and just under two miles west of the Blue Ridge Parkway, these waterfalls have a viewing platform, allowing visitors time to soak in the beauty of this destination. In addition, there is a steep trail down to the base of the waterfalls. 

The Nantahala Gorge Waterfalls

The Nantahala Gorge is known to be a favorite spot for adventurers at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Upper Nantahala Cascades are at the southern end of the Nantahala Gorge and begins 1,000 feet above the gorge. This cascade is an ideal spot for kayakers and whitewater rafters. Also, in this portion of the waterfall loop are Findley Falls, a small series of waterfalls in Ledbetter Creek in the Nantahala Gorge.

The Highlands/Cashiers Waterfalls

The last category of the Western North Carolina Waterfall Loop is the Highlands/Cashiers waterfalls, which include the Cullasaja Falls, Silver Run Falls, the Whitewater Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and the Dry Falls. Let’s start with the Cullasaja Falls, a 250-foot waterfall that is visible from the road and is located off Highway 64 East. Continue going down Highway 64, and you will come to Dry Falls. At this spot, you will find a paved trail with easy access. There is also a cool mist for travelers to enjoy. Next comes Bridal Veil Falls and the Silver Run Falls. At Bridal Veil Falls, a fun pull-off area for sightseeing is just beyond the falls with a rainbow featured in the afternoon. As for Silver Run Falls, it is a 25-foot waterfall cascade that falls into a pool which acts as a swimming hole. Lastly comes the highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains, the Whitewater Falls. Take the paved walkway to the upper overlook to get the best view of the 411-foot waterfall. 

The Western North Carolina Waterfall Loop is a must and should be on every North Carolinian’s state bucket list. This loop offers magnificent, one-of-a-kind sites with beauty that visitors will never forget. 

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