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High Shoals Falls

The No. 1 attraction in South Mountains State Park


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The High Shoals Falls trail is one of the most scenic hikes in western North Carolina. Nestled in South Mountains State Park, some 64 miles (100 km) northwest of Charlotte, NC, and 72 miles (115 km) east of Asheville, NC. The loop trail to and from High Shoals Falls offers sights along Jacob Fork River and the picturesque rocky gorge.

Best time to visit High Shoals Falls

High Shoals Falls is a popular attraction year-round. Each season has its perks and advantages. Colder months bring more rainfall and see fewer visitors, while warmer months bring longer daylight hours and tourist crowds. Consider different options and pick what's best for you.


Winter is an exceptional season for visiting High Shoals Falls: there is typically more rainfall from December to March. Temps tend to bring drop below freezing, so the possibility of part of the waterfall freezing is a unique draw for some people. Additionally, trees drop their leaves for the cold season, opening up some sweeping views of the waterfalls. For instance, you can get a view of High Shoals Falls far across the gorge from the Jacob Fork Gorge Overlook on Chestnut Knob Trail. Only in winter can you catch a glimpse of High Shoals from the Raven Rock Trail at one particular opening along the edge of the trail. The park authorities remind visitors to expect more mud and ice on the trails, making the hike quite slippery, so sturdy footwear would come in handy. In January, South Mountains Marathons gather trail running enthusiasts for the strenuous runs. High Shoals Half Marathon, one of the South Mountains Marathons series, challenges the athletes to run the 13.3-mile course with 600 stair steps and 2,800 ft (850 m) elevation gain.

Summer and early fall

Summer months tend to get more crowded: the High Shoals Falls parking lot for a hundred vehicles has no room left. Yet, June and July are some of the best months to hike the High Shoals Falls trail as it's the rhododendron blooming season in South Mountains State Park. Moreover, these months receive lots of rainfall, which makes the roaring falls even more spectacular. Also, longer daylight hours and extended opening hours from May–September (from 7 am to 10 pm) give more time to enjoy the hike and the scenery. Late October brings splendid fall colors to the South Mountains; and mild temperatures are excellent for a pleasant hike.

Getting to High Shoals Falls

The trail to High Shoals Falls starts at the Jacob Fork parking lot. From there, you have two options: a 2-mile (3-km) out-and-back trail or a 2.7-mile (3 km) loop with a short section of steep stairs. The loop trail is a more popular option. The trail crosses the Jacob Fork River and reaches High Shoals Falls about a mile from the parking lot. Then the route continues up the steep steps to an observation deck beside High Shoals Falls. Afterward, the trail runs to the top of the waterfall, meanders across a ridge, passes by backcountry camping areas, and at the last section rejoins the trail along the Jacob River.

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