Are you looking for gorgeous waterfalls to hike near Asheville? Don’t miss Douglas Falls, a hidden gem deep within the Pisgah National Forest. Discover where to find the Douglas Falls Trail, how to hike to the waterfall, and what to expect — all from an Asheville, North Carolina local.
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It’s no secret that Western North Carolina (WNC) and Asheville are home to the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains and Pisgah National Forest, perfect for hikers and waterfall chasers. Are you singing “Don’t go chasing waterfalls…” yet? I am.
So, which waterfalls can you easily visit while you are in Asheville? Douglas Falls Trail is one of our favorite short and easy waterfall hikes that is one-hour and fifteen-minutes driving distance from downtown Asheville. What makes Douglas Falls so special is that you can walk under this stunning waterfall.
How do you get to Douglas Falls (there are two *very* different trails), and what should you expect? Hint: an unnerving but gorgeously waterfall-filled winding road (FS74), a few possible downed trees along the trail, and either a half-mile hike or almost 10-mile advanced trek. Douglas Falls is adventurous and easy — if that contradiction is even possible.
Below, we’ll share our Douglas Falls hiking tips as Asheville residents. We want you to experience the magic of the falls that we did without any trouble. Please remember, too, that we are talking about Douglas Falls, NC. There are other “Douglass” or “Douglas” waterfalls in Michigan and Washington state with slightly different spellings and names.
Are you ready to hike Douglas Falls? Let’s get started!
Where Is Douglas Falls, NC?
As mentioned above, Douglas Falls is near Asheville, North Carolina in Barnardsville–about 30+-miles away. We’ll get to why this short driving distance takes so long later… We gotta warm you up for Forest Service Road 74 (FS74).
This part of WNC is considered the Big Ivy area of the Pisgah National Forest. From the Douglas Falls hike, if you start off from FS74, you can also trek to the Craggy Gardens area in the Blue Ridge Mountains — an extremely popular hiking and picnicking area, especially for Craggy Pinnacle and Gardens along with the Picnic Area and Visitor Center.
When Should You Go?
Because these waterfalls are hidden deep within the forest and involve a winding road (or the longer hike from Craggy), the Douglas Falls Trail is less trafficked than the other Asheville waterfalls.
I always consider quieter spaces a huge bonus. You still might want to arrive early on the weekends because the narrow dirt road is a pain to navigate when traffic picks up, especially closer to noon. Weekdays and early AM are always best, especially if you hit the summer tourist season. Late evenings can be OK, but I personally wouldn’t want to drive FS74 in the dark.
It’s also best to go after a lot of rain — you’ll see more voluptuous falls.
Why The Douglas Falls Trail?
Level Of Difficulty For The Two Trailheads
Out of all of the waterfalls near Asheville, why hike the Douglas Falls Trail? First, if you go the shorter route, which is what I recommend and will mostly discuss here, the falls are only about 1-mile roundtrip The ground is slippery when wet, and you will have to hike in mud and over small rocks and tree roots. However, the Douglas Falls hike from FS74 is still fairly easy for everyone, including families with younger children.
If you hike from Craggy Gardens or the Visitor Center, though, that trail is more of a 9 to 10-mile hike recommended for experienced hikers. Not Us. Its difficulty level goes up drastically and will take you a large part of the day. We’ve only attempted a few miles this way — we aren’t that cool. You’ll do much more climbing on a less visible trail.
What Makes The Douglas Falls Trail So Special?
If you choose the shorter half-mile hike, you’ll hear the birds singing along the way as well as the quickly approaching falls. We haven’t spied a black bear or snake on the Douglas Falls Trail yet, but they do exist.
You’ll also spot colorful mushrooms, rocks and boulders, and downed trees. While the trees are eventually felled or cleared, don’t be discouraged if you have to hop over or walk around one or two. I promise: the falls are still there. We’ve seen people turn around thinking the trail is closed.
You’ll know when you reach the falls as you look up to a 70-foot tall gushing (if it’s been raining) waterfall over a huge blackish boulder. Enter with care, but you may hop over the stream and rocks to walk under the falls. Forewarning: If it hasn’t rained recently, I am told the falls are a little…drier… But, it rains a ton in the NC mountains.
How Do You Get To Douglas Falls?
FS74 Route / .5-Mile Hike Each Way
If you are looking for the shorter hike, you’ll want to take 19-23 North to Exit 15 Barnardsville. You will turn right on NC Highway 197 and another right 6-miles later onto Dillingham Road. Enter a scenic town that is surrounded by blue-ish, gray, and green mountains while passing cows, farmland, churches, and horses. This area reminds me of Connemara in Ireland.
This road ends in the Pisgah National Forest hitting FS74, which is not for the weak. At times, the edge of the cliff is right there. This is most of your ride to Douglas Falls as you have to drive slowly (20 mph is pushing it). It’s a little under 9-miles to the end.
FS74 is an unpaved, winding dirt road up the mountain. If you have an SUV, I recommend taking it. A low-lying car will struggle with the rocks, divots, and hill-climbing but is also doable. A lower car will also add time to your drive, and you’ll most likely pull over to let the bigger guys pass. You might also want to forgo the fancy car–it may get beat to heck by the flying rocks and dust.
Know that passing on FS74 is difficult but possible in many areas. You might have to pull over, stop, or just move forward carefully. Also, watch for surprise rocks sticking up and giant holes. Cellphone reception disappears for a while so you don’t want any accidents.
Craggy Gardens Picnic Area or Craggy Gardens Visitor Center / 7 to 10-Mile Hike
You can also pick up the Douglas Falls Trail from the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center or Picnic Area, which is the furthest away. Craggy Gardens Picnic area is located at mile marker 367.6 on the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP). The Visitor Center is located at mile marker 364.4. It’s easiest to navigate the BRP with mileposts since GPS is not always 100% accurate.
Don’t Miss Walker Falls
While you are driving to Douglas Falls, don’t miss Walker Falls. Walker Falls is 4-miles up (or down) FS74 on your way to the trailhead. You honestly cannot miss Walker Falls as they will land right in front of you on your way up the mountain. Walker Falls is about 45-feet tall, and there is a pullover spot or two for picture taking.
What Should You Pack For Douglas Falls?
You don’t need to pack much if you are taking the short .5-mile hike. I recommend a few hiking basics:
Stainless Steel Water Bottle – We don’t use anything fancy like water bladders…yet. I love my stainless steel water bottle since it holds the temperature, won’t leak or sweat, and contains no harmful by-products.
First Aid Kit – After slipping around one too many times, I would make your own or pack some sort of First Aid Kit with the basics. Just in case… We always hike with one now.
Trekking Pole/Hiking Stick – There have been quite a few Asheville trails where I’ve been worried about breaking my tailbone or landing on my face. Rocks shift and the mud makes for a wild slide. I think we might need to invest in some trekking poles. Dear Mom-Claus…
Where Can You Stay Overnight Near Douglas Falls?
Since the falls are northeast of Asheville but still close, you may want to overnight in Asheville. Of course, I am biased as this is my home. I’m a fan of:
Aloft – Downtown Asheville *They are newly renovated, and we love working with them for both websites.
Hampton Inn And Suites Asheville Biltmore Area *We stayed here before we moved, and although it’s across from the Asheville Outlets (get some hiking clothes!), they are super clean and central between DuPont, Biltmore, and some of these waterfall hikes.
The Omni Grove Park Inn *We frequently stop by the Grove Park for sunsets, drinks, and food. You’ll catch a killer sunset over the city.
Have you been to Douglas Falls? What are your favorite Asheville hikes and waterfalls? Where else do you love to spend time outdoors in NC?
Have you ever hiked the Douglas Falls Trail? What are your favorite waterfall hikes? What do you like to pack for a safe and successful waterfall hunting trip? Do you have any questions? Please let us know in the comments.
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