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Whitewater Falls
The first paragraph below gives
directions for an easy, half-mile
stroll to the highest cascade in
the eastern United States. Keep
reading for a hike up the river,
approaching the falls from below.
Difficulty (1-5):
Distance (round trip):
Trail time:
Driving time:
4.6 miles
1090 feet
3 hours
1/2 hour
From Toxaway’s main entrance, drive west
on Highway 64 toward Cashiers. After about
one mile, turn left at the Sapphire Country
Store, heading south on Highway 281. You
will reach the entrance to Whitewater Falls
after 8.5 miles. Park here (and pay a $2
fee) for an easy 1/2 mile walk to the falls.

If you’re ready for a hike, skip the first
entrance and continue another mile on
Highway 281. Turn left through the gate into
Duke Power’s Bad Creek property. The
gate opens automatically for vehicles, but it
doesn't open after 6 p.m., so plan to be off
the property by then.

Inside the Bad Creek generating station,
Duke drains water from a series of
reservoirs to turn underground turbines and
generate the electricity that powers Western
North Carolina. At nights and on weekends,
it pumps the water back up to drain it again.

Drive 2 miles into the property and turn left
at a sign pointing the way to the Foothills
Trail. After .3 miles, turn into the Bad Creek
Parking Area on the right.

From the parking area, begin the hike on
the blue-blazed trail leading to Upper
Whitewater Falls. After half a mile, the trail
reaches and crosses the Whitewater River.
(Note the Coon Branch Trail to the left
immediately before crossing the river. It
leads to a rare patch of virgin forest.)

On the far side of the river, turn left and
follow the white blazes upstream on the
Foothills Trail, a network of paths in North
and South Carolina. Most of the next 1.7
miles to the falls is generally flat. Only the
last half-mile or so – beginning after the
second river crossing - involves steep
switchbacks. Note the thick-skinned beech
trees and the trunk of a dead chestnut as
you hike. You’ve reached the end when you
climb to a viewing platform overlooking the
411-foot falls. Return the way you came.
(Alternately, for a 2.3 mile hike, leave a car
Whitewater Falls (2006)