Since I first heard the song, “Waterfalls” by TLC, I have had a fascination with “chasing waterfalls.” Everywhere I live or visit, it is always one of my top priorities, to find not just the biggest and the best, but to find waterfalls, because, when I finally find that spot at the end of the trail and simply sit back and watch, I find myself mesmerized. So, the following are a brief selection of my three favorite waterfalls in the Nantahala Gorge region.
Number one actually does not involve any hiking but is one of the more spectacular waterfalls I have seen. To get there, take a left out of the Wildwater Nantahala parking lot (follow 74 West through the Nantahala Gorge). Take a left on Wayah Rd. at the top of the river. You will cross two bridges as you continue to follow the Upper Nantahala River. After crossing the second bridge, begin looking across the road, you will then see a waterfall through the trees. If you are fortunate enough to be driving this road when the leaves are off the trees, you can look back while continuing on Wayah Rd. and see pieces of this waterfall rising up the mountain. After, driving past this waterfall, continue on Wayah Rd. until you see a paved pull-off on the right side of the road. There are several trails down to the river here to see the waterfalls of the Nantahala Cascades, a favorite swimming hole among locals.
Number two is Mingo Falls in Cherokee, NC. Follow the signs out of Cherokee for the KOA campground (Big Cove Road – North). After passing the campground, continue on the same road until you see a sign for Mingo Falls on the right. The hike is short (uphill mostly) but the view is incredible. For beginner waterfall enthusiasts, this Falls is incredible.
Number three is called Alarka Falls. To get there, take Exit 64 off of Hwy 74. If you are on Hwy 74 East from the Nantahala Gorge, you would take a right. From there, drive to the end of the road. At the end of the road, the last section is gravel, there is a gravel parking lot with two trails out the back. Either trail works as they join in about 100 ft. Follow this trail, the hike can be exerting, to a waterfall that will blow your mind.
I hope this short guide is helpful. I can usually be found at Wildwater Nantahala would love to give you some more waterfalls to explore! Have fun chasing waterfalls!
**If visiting the Chattooga River, download this free Waterfall Guide App (or search “Discover Oconee” from your app store) for information on the 4 lakes, 2 rivers and over 150 waterfalls in Oconee County, SC!