Catawba Falls is a beautiful waterfall thirty minutes east of Asheville. For years the waterfall was on private land tucked behind fences and no trespassing signs. The 100 foot waterfall is now open to the public, including two new bridges on the trail. With the low altitude and only 3 miles from the trail head, Catawba Falls is a perfect year round trip.
After our last hike out to Bridal Veil Falls, we were ready for our first trip using the new kid pack. The weather was a bit cold in the morning and we waited until noon before heading out. It was a short scenic drive through the eastern mountains on I40 outside of Old Fort. When looking down from the highway, you can see the Catawba valley from above. The highway is a few hundred feet above the falls, so a fun game to think about when walking up the ridge to the waterfall. The only research we had on the waterfalls was a round trip of 3.2 miles and nice creek views during the winter. We arrived at the trail head parking lot around 2pm and spent some time deciding on how many layers to wear. It was a weekday, so the parking lot only had a few cars. After a quick review of the trail signs, we loaded the baby into the carrier and struck out on the trail. She wasn’t the happiest camper the first 100 feet, but once she realized she could move around and steal my hat, all was well in her world. The new carrier lets her snack and enjoy juice while we travel. The trail followed the creek, and we quickly learned why the hike is a great winter hike.
With the leaves on the ground, we could view the creek for the entire hike. The trail to the falls is a pleasant walk and we passed a few groups on their way back to the parking lot. All along the main trail offshoots formed leading to swimming holes and picnic sites. From our understanding, the area is very popular in the summer when the weather is warm. We definitely plan on visiting again in the summer and fall. The path up to the falls is well made and wide enough for a group to walk alongside each other. We took our time as I got winded carrying the new carrier. It takes time to earn those mountain legs! The trail has two nice bridges over the creek donated and built by a local group. The bridges are newer to the trail and a welcome addition during wet weather. In one place we needed to hop across a few rocks to cross a stream but it was a small hop that even small kids can make. The stream crossing only added to the adventure.
As we moved towards the waterfall we passed an old dam and the foundation of a mill. A small piece of history to add to the trip. Do not climb on the dam, people get hurt every year there and they fenced it off for a reason.
When you reach the first pools of the waterfall, decide if you want to move forward a bit more. There doesn’t seem to be a true single pool as the falls cascade over such a distance. We moved up another ten to twenty feet and found ourselves at the base of the large cascade with a small splash area. The trail going farther up was very rugged and we did not want to carry a toddler up farther. The pool is much smaller than most falls in the area and the woods close down around you. The setting provides a wonderful isolated feeling and we enjoyed a long break in the area. The colorful rocks in the pools entertained the daughter as she splashed around in happiness. Eventually another group came up the trail and we decided to give them a chance to enjoy the falls in solitude.
The walk back to the parking lot is a peaceful downhill stroll. The kid was happy playing in the carrier and we stopped to poke around in a stream. The entire trip lasted just over two hours and we enjoyed a leisurely pace. Overall the entire hike was worth the trip out there. We highly recommend the trip to families looking for an entry level hike. If your family isn’t ready for a 3 mile hike, Toms Creek Waterfall is only 20 minutes away and a half mile round trip. Read about our most recent trip to Toms Creek.