nature trips


dogs on leash

wild flowers

trail running


kid friendly


mountain biking




dog friendly


horseback riding


With 531,270 acres in Macon, Graham, Cherokee, Jackson, Clay, and Swain counties, Nantahala National Forest is the largest of North Carolina's four national forests. The park features many western North Carolina waterfalls and the final stretch of the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway winds it's way through this forest. The word "Nantahala" is a Cherokee word that translates to "Land of the Noonday Sun. Three Wilderness areas are located within the Nantahala National Forest. Ellicott Rock Wilderness is located near Highlands, North Carolina, the Southern Nantahala Wilderness is in the Tusquitee and Nantahala Ranger District, and there is also the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness. The Nantahala Ranger District includes attractions such as Standing Indian Mountain, the Nantahala Gorge and Wayah Bald. The Nantahala National Forest offers easy access to a wide variety of recreation options. While it is well known for it's hiking and mountain biking, it also has great trout fishing in the Nantahala River. There are also great opportunities for off road driving. The most famous off road driving area is the Tellico OHV area in the Tusquitee Ranger District, and there is also an OHV area in the Nantahala Ranger District.

on Hooper Bald

1 day ago

Nice short walk.

Absolutely fabulous hike! Not really difficult, but can be a little muddy and slippery at parts. I highly suggest going all the way to the turtleback waterfall. Also, try going on the rocks (dry ones) that are a little bit off-path to get really good shots. We were warned about copperheads, but did not encounter any.

Really great hike. Good trail for beginners as there are not many difficult parts to it, but one is still rewarded with breathtaking views. I suggest going around noon or in the afternoon as in the morning the views are a little limited.

* Nice views of stream (with small waterfalls), forest, & mountains from tower on top.
* Consistent slope.
* Shady but not stuffy

* a few places it's overgrown as not used much
* Slippery in places

Other notes:
* more like 8.2 miles than 6.6 miles
* Narrow so single file

I must see what an adventure

This trail offers a steep hike through a nice forest to a series of beautiful waterfalls. However, there is very limited space available for viewing these falls, and the crowds detract from any possibility of a wilderness experience. The falls are very popular and located just outside of the Highlands city limits. If you hike this trail and want a chance to enjoy the falls, get there very early.

bear encounter

Great hike especially with younger hikers. Awesome views and a real sense of you made it to the top for the young ones.

Have only done the upper portion from the parking lot to platform. Very easy. Post fire rebuild is excellent.

Started at upper parking area not as shown.

4 days ago

Down hill is easy. Uphill is hard. A series of falls with limited viewing.

Clockwise is the easier route.

5 days ago

Excellent trail with a view that cannot be beat. The road up is very rough so t as ke your time and know it's worth it.

Very nice easy trail. Well marked and enjoyed the numerous plants that were identified with signage. The trail is shared with bikers but everyone we encountered was respectful and courteous.

6 days ago

Great hike for me and my dog. The end is a little more of a climb than the rest but overall a good hike. The trail was overgrown in a few areas and several felled trees across the trail but that didn’t slow us down much. I’d love to do it again, especially if they clean it up.

Good shady trail. Good amount of flowing water at various points along the trail. The falls are great and a nice cool break before finishing up the hike.

peaceful and very well maintained trail.

Great family hike.

Heavily shaded. Took about 1.5 hrs counterclockwise.
Stopped to read trail markers and enjoy ranger falls.

Went after a heavy rain and waterfalls was amazing!!

8 days ago

A quick and short walk to view the falls and it was impressive. The area has received a lot of rain recently and the falls showed it. If you are in the area it’s definitely worth the trip.

10 days ago

Excellent short but easy hike. The road in is rough but worth it. I suggest a truck or Jeep as the recent rain has down damage to the roads.

This state park has a gorgeous waterfall. There is a very large paved parking lot ($2) with parking available for buses and RVs. A paved trail leads up an easy slope to the first viewing area and takes about 10 minutes from car to viewing area. A long staircase of well-made and reasonable new steps lead down to a second viewing area that offers an even better view. From there a trail leads down to the water but a sign warns that there are no waterfall views below that point.

10 days ago

Located just south of Cashiers on HWY-107, the trailhead is marked by a roadside sign near a telephone pole. Park there and follow the obvious trail into the woods for about 10 minutes to get to this small waterfall. There is a viewing area (a large flat rock) where you can view and photograph, but the plunge basin is very shallow so those with sandals can walk right to the base of the falls.

This trail starts in Gorges State Park (but eventually leaves the park property). Drive past the Visitors Center and down the hill to the large, paved parking lot. Downhill from the trailhead the trail splits - left is the Raymond Fisher Trail and right is the Rainbow Falls Trail. Go right. On the trail there are two creek crossings. The first is a shallow and easy two stepper but the second is a deeper six stepper. I made it across without poles. Rainbow Falls has two nice viewing areas (one farther away to take in the full view and one up close to feel the mist). Turtleback Falls is where all of the swimmers go to slide down the falls. There is no formal viewing area there but the large boulders are easy to climb and navigate and afford great views. Both waterfalls are particularly picturesque.

The parking lot is big but fills quickly so arrive early. There is a short hike up switchbacks and stairs to get to the top quickly or a long gravel road to get there more easily but takes longer. I'm 60 and found the switchbacks to be easy and the best route. I went on an overcast day and found that visibility was 0 feet when I got to the many viewing areas along the SE face of the mountain. However, after lingering for 15 minutes the haze lifted and visibility stretched to the horizon after about 30 minutes. The main trail is well guarded by safety fences but the side trails are not so watch children. I'm posting the hazy pictures but also some unique photos of the mountain taken off-trail. There are many gated communities in the area but the shot of the mountain over the lake was taken on Whiteside Cove Road at 35* 04.035'N and 083* 07.194'W. The clear and sunny shots were taken at a place called "The Spa" along SR-64 between Cashiers and Sapphire. (It is a beautiful place that is not gated and the people were friendly.)

Great exercise. Limited viewpoints was only negative

Good, quick loop. The falls are worth the trip and the diversity of trees along the way made for a pretty enjoyable time. We went right at the loop junction, and we were glad that we did. Either way, this is a good loop.

What a great day hike. I agree with the other posts about the directions. The trail head is not hard to find, but I was glad that we followed the directions posted by others on this site.

We took the Jones Gap side trail and we were glad that we did. The views are spectacular. There is significant diversity of trees and flowers on the trail and the hike is not too strenuous that our entire family - 18, 15, & 9 year olds included- did it have fun. At White Rock Gap, we dropped down to Stephens Creek and were really impressed by the trees along the way.

Overall, this is a great day hike and we will be back.

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