Best Waterfall Hikes in the South

These stunning waterfall hikes across the Southern United States will turn your next outdoor excursion into an environmental expedition.
Prepared By:

Shannon Lowery

Writer & Traveler

Waterfall hikes are like getting an automatic upgrade when it comes to hiking and outdoor adventures. While hiking trails are plenty memorable on their own, waterfall hikes can make the great outdoors experience even more impactful. These semi-secret waterfalls are an added bonus to these scenic hikes in the South.

Big Falls at Pinnacle Trail, Virginia

The first waterfall hike on our list isn’t located in a national park, or even a state park. Instead, this rural oasis is nestled on a 1,000-acre nature preserve in southwest Virginia. Winding Appalachian backroads (Pro tip: pack some anti motion sickness medicine!) lead visitors to Pinnacle Natural Area Preserve’s Pinnacle Trail, located near the small town of Lebanon. Hikers start the nearly four mile trek by crossing a magnificent suspension bridge, then proceed down the trail which runs parallel to Big Cedar Creek and the Clinch River. The preserve’s namesake comes from the impressive Pinnacle rock formation, which towers roughly 400 feet above the trail. You’ll pass several smaller rapids along the trail until you reach the grand finale cascade known as Big Falls. In the warmer summer months, cool off with an invigorating swim in the waterfalls and surrounding pools.

Big Falls at Pinnacle Trail in southwest Virginia
Big Falls in Pinnacle Natural Area Preserve in southwest Virginia

Skinny Dip Falls, North Carolina

The drive alone to Skinny Dip Falls, located along the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway, is a spectacular journey. To get to the trailhead, you’ll have to drive a little over an hour from Asheville, North Carolina, to the Looking Glass Rock overlook. Just across the parkway from the overlook is the entrance to the trail. After a brief hike into the forest, hikers descend towards a series of falls and swimming holes. Cool off with a refreshing dip in the water during summer months but visit in the winter to beat the crowds. Despite this waterfall hike’s name, we kindly ask that you keep your clothes *on* during your visit to this remarkable spot.

Skinny Dip Falls in North Carolina
Skinny Dip Falls located off the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.

Spruce Flats Falls, Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park may be one of the most popular national parks east of the Mississippi River, but this waterfall located in the Tennessee portion of the park is off the beaten path. That’s because the trailhead to this beautiful waterfall hike isn’t included on official park maps, but it is relatively easy to find and follow. The path leading to the falls is short but challenging, traversing rocks and exposed tree roots in many places. Test your sure-footedness in the winter months for the ultimate challenge and you’ll likely have the trail and frozen falls all to yourself!

Jacks River Falls, Georgia

Located in the Cohutta Wilderness of the Chattahoochee National Forest, Jacks River Falls is a serene escape from the hubbub of urban life in nearby Atlanta, Georgia. There are several hiking trail options when accessing this remote waterfall, and hikers should be mindful that some of the pathways cross Jacks River dozens of times! Whatever route you choose, you’ll experience northern Georgia’s incredible rugged wilderness and add another waterfall to your list. 

The Cohutta Wilderness in Northern Georgia
The Cohutta Wilderness in the Chattahoochee National Forest

Elakala Falls, West Virginia

Elakala Falls in Blackwater Falls State Park is a hidden gem of West Virginia, just north of Monongahela National Forest. One of the state’s more popular attractions during the warmer summer months is the park’s namesake falls, but Elakala Falls is an equally captivating and less-popular waterfall located in the same area. Elakala Falls features four sections of falls, the first of which is the most accessible. Exploring farther down the trails to catch a glimpse of any of the other three waterfalls is recommended only for the most avid and skilled hikers. Visit in the winter for icy waterfall views and take advantage of additional winter activities in the park like cross-country skiing and snowshoe hikes. For a dose of adrenaline, test your wits on the East Coast’s longest sled run. 

Elakala Falls at Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia
Elakala Falls in Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia

Falling Waters State Park, Florida

Most people don’t think of waterfalls when they think of Florida, due to its relative flatness and lack of extreme topography. Though this waterfall hike isn’t located along mountainous terrain, it is arguably one of the most unique waterfalls on the list. To put it simply: when you can’t go up, go down. Here at Florida’s largest waterfall located at Falling Waters State Park, water cascades nearly 100 feet down into a massive sinkhole. The park is an easy day trip from anywhere in the panhandle region. To experience the most impressive flow of water, visit the day after a spring or early summer thundershower or between August and November when tropical weather systems bring more significant rainfall to the area.

These Southern waterfall hikes turn an ordinary outdoor excursion into an extraordinary adventure. Whether chasing waterfalls is just a hobby or a bucket list passion, be sure to check out these waterfalls near you the next time you find yourself in the great American South.

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