This is a high, wide series of cascades, best viewed in higher water after the leaves have fallen. Several free-fall sections are combined with rock-hugging cascades giving the falls a variety of character.
GPS Directions & Map
From Current Location
or from address:
From Asheville, take I-240 E to I-40 E. Go just under 20 miles on I-40 to exit 73, the second Old Fort exit. Before the ramp ends, turn right onto Catawba River Road. Go 3 miles to the end of the road. The new, larger parking area is on the left side of the road just across the bridge.
The hike to the falls is about 2.5 miles round-trip and moderate in difficulty. It starts starts by crossing the old road bridge over the river and going around the chain link fence. The first part of the trail across private property and passes a barn. This property will hopefully soon to be Pisgah National Forest; until then access is limited to daylight hours and there are no camping or campfires allowed. The trail follows an old road bed about 1.2 miles to the falls.
The first part is easy. Then, it crosses the river which will get your feet wet and will be impossible during flood. However, just upstream from the obvious crossing is a log at the old powerhouse building. You may be able to scoot across the log as a makeshift bridge, but it was slippery last time I visited. On the other side, the trail starts climbing, moderately. The river will start to cascade and you will pass an old hydroelectric dam. Needless to say, stay off the dam and away from the cliffs in this area. Shortly thereafter, the trail will cross an eroded gully and then Chestnut Branch, which can be rock-hopped. Just beyond it gets a bit more difficult - you'll have to climb up and around on some rocks, and there is another tricky creek crossing, but it's still not considered difficult. The trail ends at the base of the lower falls, where there is a somewhat decent area for hanging out and viewing the falls (but be careful - there are some drop-offs and cascades just downstream).
Technically, the trail continues up the right side of the falls to Upper Catawba Falls. However, that trek is steep, arduous, slippery - and dangerous. You'd be climbing next to the falls where one slip would send you over the edge. Until a better path is established, I do not recommend trying to reach the upper falls.
(Click to enlarge)
- Height: Over 100'
- Stream: Catawba River
- Landowner: Pisgah National Forest
- GPS: 35.604338, -82.245034
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Length: 2.4mi
- Tread Condition: Moderately Rough
- Climbing: Climbs Moderately (345 ft)
- Type: Out-and-back