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Catawba Falls - Pisgah National Forest, NC


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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
3.0 mls N/A N/A

Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
Lower Catawba Falls and Catawba Falls
1.5 hours with 30 minutes of breaks
495 ft
3.9 mls N/A N/A

Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
Upper Catawba Falls
2.5 hours with 45 minutes of breaks
863 ft
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Pisgah National Forest
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Park at the Catawba Falls trailhead on Catawba River Road NC1274. 35.61355, -82.23067

By Trail Contributor: Zach Robbins ()

Thanks to an acquisition by the Foothills Conservancy and subsequent purchase by the US Forest Service, access to the beautiful Catawba Falls is open to the public and saved from private development. Located in Pisgah National Forest only a few miles from Old Fort, access to this short trail is easy and thus quite popular year-round. The round trip to Catawba Falls is almost flat as it follows a road grade that was previously used for a power plant. Along the way you’ll pass by an old dam at the top of Lower Catawba Falls, a little gem that comes as a surprise if you find the side trail. The trail ends at the base of Catawba Falls, a tall, multi-drop waterfall plunging more than 150 feet.

It is highly recommended to try to visit this waterfall after recent rain. During drought conditions the water is barely visible on the lower drop as it is funneled through seams in the cliff. A “trail” continues climbing up the right side of the waterfall to multiple overlooks of the upper drops. The trail vacillates between being opened and closed. The forest service has removed the rope at the most daunting section, proceed at your own risk. The scramble path leads to Upper Catawba Falls, a beautiful freefall into a large pool that is seen by few hikers. For most hikers the short 3-mile round trip to Catawba Falls is a perfect outing.

**WARNING UPDATE**

This is the turn around point for the 3.0 mile hike.
The Upper Catawba Falls trail has been marked CLOSED. This section is very dangerous, and there have been serious injuries here

  • Mile 1.5 – The trail continues climbing up the right side of Catawba Falls. There are many warning signs against heading up this trail. It is a very steep, eroded path with sheer drops over open rock faces. There used to be a rope anchored at the top of a vertical rock face but that has been removed. At multiple spots along this climb there are side paths to view the upper drops of Catawba Falls up close. When you reach the top of Catawba Falls the hazardous portion ends and the trail climbs moderately along the bank of the river.
  • Mile 1.9 – The main trail peters out at a large pool at the base of Upper Catawba Falls. The river freefalls ~50 feet onto large moss-covered boulders before cascading into a dark, shimmering pool. Enclosed by an amphitheater of cliffs and trees, this is an incredible scene and a very inviting swimming hole.
  • Mile 2.2 – Use extreme caution downclimbing the trail beside Catawba Falls.
  • Mile 3.9 – Hike ends back at the parking lot.
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