Whitewater Falls Recreation Area

Categories: Play, Hiking & Backpacking, Kid-Friendly, Picnic Areas, Picnic Areas, Waterfalls, Hikes to waterfalls, Outdoor Fun, Parks & Recreation Areas, Easy Access/Roadside Picnics, Our Favorites


  •  At 411 Ft. tall, tallest falls East of the Mississippi River 
  •  Large Parking Area w/Bus, RV & Vehicle areas 
  •  Fee Area, $2 per vehicle (up to 7 people/ vehicle), $1 per person if over 7 people per vehicle (bus, RV or large van) 
  •  Suitable for all ages 
  •  Handicap accessible (picnic area, parking & upper viewing area) 
  •  Paved path to upper overlook
  •  9 picnic tables (2 sheltered & 2 Handicap) 
  •  Meadow-like setting at picnic area 
  •  Alternate view via 154 stairs and fenced platform (strenuous return climb)
  •  Easy walk with gradual incline to upper overlook 
  •  Restrooms

The Local Scoop

Whitewater Falls Recreation Area is a popular spot to visit, so be prepared to see some other folks while you're there. The best time to visit would be through the week to try and avoid any large crowds. However, we recommend this area highly because of the magnitude of the falls and great viewing area. This is an easy stroll along a paved path (very wheelchair accessible for someone to push a chair or would be accessible for a motorized chair) to the upper viewing area. If you are able, access the stairs that head down the hill to a viewing platform below. There are 154 steps, so be prepared to head back up those once you've finished your viewing from the gated platform, it's a workout but very worth while, so take your time. If you're feeling more adventurous, take the trail that heads even further down the hill from the lower platform. You'll see a sign saying that there is no view of the falls from here, but you can access the bottom of the falls by going left after you cross the metal bridge. The trail can be rather difficult and dangerous, so be very careful, especially around the wet boulders.  
No matter which overlook you decide on (upper or lower), you will not be disappointed with Whitewater Falls.
Bring your camera, binoculars, picnic supplies and proper clothing/shoes (if you plan on going to the bottom of the falls via trail below lower platform) and take full advantage of this wonderful area with the entire family.
We recommend planning a picnic here, especially if you have a full day planned for the outdoors.  This makes a nice "pit-stop" for everyone.  Plenty of parking, restrooms and exploration opportunities. 

Note:  We do not recommend taking children or unexperienced hikers down the spur trail to the Foothills Trail. Nor do we recommend going by yourself.  This can be an exhilarating experience, but dangerous at the same time.  Do not take this trail down to the river during high water levels or if there is a chance of severe thunderstorms.

The Local Directions

From the main intersection of U.S. Hwy 64 & N.C. Hwy 107 in Cashiers, NC, go South on N.C. Hwy 107 (Towards S.C.) for approx. 9.3 mi. Turn left here, you'll see a sign that says "to SC 130 & Whitewater Falls" (this is the "Oscar Wigington Memorial Hwy", a 2.3 mile connector Hwy between N.C. Hwy 107 & S.C.130/N.C. 281). At the stop sign you'll turn left and travel approx. 0.3 mile to the Whitewater Falls entrance (F.R. 328). S.C. Hwy 130 turns into N.C. 281 at state line.

Alternate Route  
From the main intersection of U.S. Hwy 64 & N.C. Hwy 107 in Cashiers, NC, go East on Hwy 64 (Towards Brevard, NC) for approx. 10.2 miles to "Sapphire, NC" (Not to be confused with Sapphire Valley, which you'll travel through on your way). Here, turn right onto N.C. Hwy 281 and sign for "Whitewater Falls Rec. Area." Travel another 8.6 miles to the entrance to the falls and F.R. #328. A white & brown "Nantahala National Forest" sign will be on your right at the entrance.

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Difficulty Levels

  • Hike3 (upper) 7 (lower) 11 (bottom)What's this?
  • Waterfalls3What's this?
Hike Distance
0.5 mile (one-way)
Easy via N.C. Hwy-281
Nearest City
Transylvania County
Distance From
Sapphire, 8.6 miles
Cashiers, 12.3 miles