Hike Details

Related Info

Trail Map

Printed Trail Map


Hike Stats

2.4 m, 500 ft   E 

2027 ft max elevation

Seasonal Accessibility

This area is open all year.

Trailhead Coordinates

N35 36 48.48 W82 13 50.46 (DMS)
N35 36.808 W82 13.841 (DM)

Google Maps and other cell phone and car navigation systems generally accept destinations in the above lat/long formats

Download GPX File

Important Update !!

Since we last visited Catawba Falls there have been extensive improvements to the trail that will make it more accessible to less experienced hikers.  Two new steel and wood bridges have been added over the most difficult stream crossings and the trail has been much improved.  Trees have been removed opening some of the views and the trail itself has been somewhat widened and smoothed.  The trail is now rated Easier for almost all of its length but is still moderate to difficult for the last 50 yards approaching the lower falls.

The trail to the upper falls is now open and there have significant improvements to this trail as well although it remains very difficult and requires a very steep climb up a rocky section using a rope permanently installed at that location.  The rope is new and features handy knots along its length and is anchored at the top into rock with stainless steel bolts.  It is still quite a challenge but it is now somewhat safer.

The photo gallery has been updated to show both the old trail and the new trail where they differ significantly.  However, it was very wet, muddy and slippery on the day we hiked the improved trail so we did not attempt the climb to the upper falls.  We will definitely complete the climb in drier weather and will update the photo gallery accordingly.

View – view of a waterfall on the Catawba River.

Hike Profile – this popular hike is out and back on a trail that follows the Catawba River to a lower falls. There is also an upper falls and that trail is now open after renovation. We have not climbed up to the upper falls on the newly opened trail yet but we will be updating this page once we do. The trail includes multiple stream crossings but two new steel and wood bridges have been added to the more difficult crossings.  The other crossings are short using stepping stones in shallow water.  Almost all of the trail is now  wide, open and relatively smooth until you approach the lower falls after crossing the last bridge.  At this point, the trail becomes a rock scramble to reach the base of the lower falls.

Trail Surface – the trail is easy going on mostly flat dirt with some rocks and tends to be muddy in many places. There are a few large rocks that need to be crossed close to the falls.

Environment – the trail passes through open woods with an abundance of wildflowers during the spring season.

Navigation – the trail follows the river trailhead to the lower falls. Closer to the falls there is the option of crossing over the river for a better view of the falls.

Directions to Trailhead – going east from Black Mountain, take I-40 to Exit 73, one of the exits to Old Fort, and immediately turn right on Catawba River Road before coming to the end of the exit ramp. This road runs parallel to I-40 going west and then turns southwest. Stay on Catawba River Road for about 3 miles until it ends at the Catawba Falls parking area.

Photo Gallery