Catawba Falls – Pisgah National Forest, NC, US
Catawba Falls is a series of waterfalls on the headwaters of the Catawba River, in McDowell County, near Old Fort, North Carolina, United States.
Catawba Falls is relatively close to downtown Asheville (just 25 miles away) and offers stunning beauty thanks to a series of cascades that, together, are 100 feet tall. The U.S. Forest Service recently has made the easy-to-moderate trail even more enjoyable by adding two new footbridges so that you no longer have to rock hop across the river to enjoy the falls. The hike is just three miles round trip.
From the parking lot, take the nearly flat trail that follows what, was once a wagon route from Old Fort to Asheville. There are several stone foundation ruins from the early 1900s along this trail, including the wall of a dam once constructed here in an attempt to create hydropower. Do not stand on the dam wall: it’s treacherous.
As you pass through the hardwood forest, the trail stays close to the water the whole way. The sound of the water varies from a light gurgling to a loud rush, but it’s always a nice accompaniment to the hike.
When you reach the base of the falls, there’s a relatively flat area from which to observe them. The lower portion of the falls consist of many small cascades.
While there is an upper portion of Catawba Falls, emergency management officials urge you not to attempt to reach the upper cascade. There is no trail maintained by the U.S. Forest Service that takes you to the upper falls. Given the upper falls can also be seen from below (especially during the winter months!), it’s not necessary to go any farther. Do not go to upper fall if you're not an advanced hiker. It's really dangerous!