Dry Falls NC: a Gorgeous Waterfall You Can Walk Behind

When we first started planning our fall road trip for this year, the one thing Carlos was very decisive about was doing a couple of waterfall hikes. And so, we did! One of our favorites was this Dry Falls NC waterfall.

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dry falls nc
Dry Falls in North Carolina, Mid-October

Supplemented with the breathtaking fall colors of North Carolina, Dry Falls was a dream! It was late afternoon when we visited and it was cloudy and insanely chilly at 42°F, at least for our Floridian bodies anyway.

But the experience of walking behind a waterfall and feeling the mist on your face is beyond amazing which is why we definitely recommend this NC waterfall.

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nantahala national forest north carolina

Where is Dry Falls Waterfall?

This stunning waterfall is inside the Nantahala National Forest located off US Hwy 64 in Highlands, North Carolina.

If you’re traveling from Ashville, NC, this will be about a 1 hour and 35-minute drive. From Orlando, FL, you’re looking at about 8 hours and 30 minutes worth of road-tripping!

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Getting to Dry Falls NC

Dry Falls in North Carolina is one of the most visited waterfalls in Nantahala National Forest. Therefore, planning your visit is 100% recommended!

Since it’s located on a National Scenic Byway, due to the Cullasaja River, the ride up here is absolutely beautiful! Although the road can get quite narrow at some parts, the curves and scenery make this a very enjoyable ride.

dry falls north carolina
October Fall Foliage in Dry Falls NC

Upon arriving at Dry Falls, you’ll notice that the parking area is small and it gets very congested due to the amount of visitors.

Please do not block the road and pay attention to your surroundings when looking for your parking spot. There are also a few accessible parking spots.

The parking fee for Dry Falls is $3 per vehicle and you can purchase it either at the kiosk (pay by card only) or online at recreation.gov. However, this parking fee is waived for America the Beautiful pass holders.

🏞️ Where to display your America the Beautiful Pass? You can place your pass on your dashboard or on your rearview mirror with the hangtag that comes with it. Your signature side will need to be visible on either of these options.

north carolina waterfalls

How to See Dry Falls NC

Thanks to our research previous to our visit, we immediately thought this would be a good waterfall hike for Carlos, and we’re glad we added it to our itinerary.

Starting right from the parking area, this is a 0.4-mile paved trail with stairs that lead your way to behind the waterfalls.

trail with stairs in north carolina waterfall

I do need to mention, though, that the stairs can be mildly challenging for people with mobility issues.

Some of the steps are narrow and once you’re closer to the falls, they are very wet and can be quite sketchy if you’re not wearing proper shoes.

As an amputee, Carlos found this to be a bit tricky going back up but the path does have rails at all times which made it easier for him.

paved trail with stairs on north carolina nantahala national forest
Paved trail with stairs in Dry Falls

However, the paved trail with stairs is not the only way you can see Dry Falls. Adjacent to the parking area there is an accessible observation deck and it has a great view and sound of the waterfalls!

This overlook is excellent for visitors in a wheelchair, kids, or anyone who prefers not to walk downhill to the falls.

dry falls accessible overlook
View of Dry Falls from the accessible observation deck

Walking Behind the Waterfall

If you’re able to, I definitely recommend going down all the way to see Dry Falls up close and personal! The paved trail leads you to behind the waterfalls and the in then continues a bit further out to the other side offering great photo ops along the way.

Getting the opportunity to safely walk behind a waterfall is an incredible experience. But before you go behind this 75-ft waterfall, there are a few things you’ll experience along the way.

couple talking a selfie at dry falls nc waterfall surrounded by fall foliage

As soon as you finish going down the last set of stairs, you’ll start to feel the fresh mist, especially on windy days.

At this point, before continuing your walk towards the waterfall, take a moment to admire the scenery and listen…just listen!

There is something very magical about the sound of a waterfall, especially when it’s tucked away and surrounded by such a scenic forest landscape.

walking behind a waterfall in north carolina
Trail behind the waterfall

Then, continue your way on the paved trail to walk behind the waterfall. This is where it gets very tricky because it is SLIPPERY! Hiking shoes or a good pair of trail running shoes will definitely be your best choice for the Dry Falls NC hike.

Once you’re right behind the falls, you’ll understand the meaning behind its name—Dry Falls. This is due to the fact that you can stay ‘dry’ when you’re behind the falls.

Nonetheless, you can still get a bit wet with the mist, and even more, if the waterfall is at full force. Therefore, we totally recommend bringing a rain jacket for this adventure!

walking behind a waterfall in nc

You can walk behind Dry Falls and enjoy the view of the waterfall flowing down from the cliff. From behind the waterfall, it’s also a great spot to appreciate the sound of the falls.

When is the Best Time to Visit Dry Falls NC?

As I mentioned before, Dry Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in Highlands, NC. Therefore, you can expect large crowds in the summer and in the fall due to fall foliage tourism.

However, the time of day does make a difference when it comes to crowds. If you wish to escape from the crowds, late afternoons are usually the best time to visit Dry Falls.

walking behind dry falls nc

If you’re visiting in the fall, know that peak fall colors are usually visible during mid-October in this area.

If you’d like to experience Dry Falls covered in ice, then peak winter season would be ideal. Just keep in mind that the pathway to walk behind the waterfall is closed during wintertime.

dry falls nc hike

Final Thoughts

Adding this waterfall to your North Carolina road trip is definitely a must! Dry Falls NC is absolutely beautiful and it’s an experience unlike any other.

Another good thing is that it’s close to many other waterfalls inside the Nantahala National Forest which makes this a perfect day trip for chasing waterfalls!

Would you like to adventure walking behind a waterfall like Dry Falls? Share with us in the comments!


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Yanitza Ninett
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Yanitza is one 1/2 of the Next Stop Adventures dynamic duo with 15+ years of hiking experience and adventure travel. As a PADI-certified Scuba diver, she's also passionate about ocean conservation. When she's not exploring the great outdoors, Yanitza obsesses over The Vampire Diaries and dreams of traveling to Spain.

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