Okay, here’s a quiz – what’s the tallest waterfall east of the Rockies?
And where can you find it?
Get ready to explore our area’s waterfalls!
It’s Whitewater Falls on the Whitewater River in the Jocassee Gorge area of Jackson County, NC, not far from the town of Cashiers. Located close the NC/SC state line, Whitewater’s upper falls plunge over 400 feet, making Whitewater Falls the tallest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. And just over the border in South Carolina is the lower falls, another 200+ foot spectacular. Located just south of the town of Cashiers (Highway 64-east), a day trip to visit the both waterfalls, driving through the beautiful mountains and scenery of the Nantahala National Forest, is sure to make memories to last a lifetime.
Whitewater Falls is located in an escarpment of the Nantahala National Forest, and because of the escarpment’s difficult access and rugged, rocky terrain, this area receives fewer visitors than other more popular sights along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The area has remained wild and undeveloped and offers a perfect getaway into the majesty and tranquility of the woods. Wander along some of the trails in these cool moist woods and you’ll find wildflowers and ferns in abundance. In the springtime, enjoy the flowery show of wild rhododendrons and flame azaleas in bloom. Hike along trails that follow steep slopes to rock cliffs offering vistas of the mountain ranges near and far.
But the highlight of a visit to the Nantahala forest is your first view of magnificent Whitewater Falls. In a series of waterfalls and cascades on the Whitewater River in North Carolina and South Carolina, the river traverses more than 3.5 miles across the state line between the upper falls (NC) and the lower falls (SC).
The best views of the falls are from the two overlooks, accessed from the parking area. Follow the paved, wheelchair accessible walkway from the end of the parking lot to the overlook for the upper falls. The walkway can generally be managed by people of all ages, from babies to grannies. Continues down a long wooden staircase to a lower overlook for another view of the falls.
The hike: More energetic hikers can continue down the half-mile spur trail that drops 600 feet in elevation to the Whitewater River and Foothills Trail. As of this writing, the trail was considered difficult due to washouts and large amounts of debris. Many people follow the Foothills Trail for the hike experience, as the views of the falls at the bottom can sometimes be obscured by overhanging limbs and foliage.
The video below provides a great overview of both the upper and lower falls and a good idea of what to expect if you decide to hike the Foothills Trail from one to the other.