Dupont State Forest is the epitome of family friendly waterfall hiking. The famous 3 waterfall hike consists of Hooker Falls, Triple Falls and High Falls. The Hunger Games and Last of the Mohicans filmed at the waterfalls. The access points to the waterfalls are about 40 miles from Asheville and only 25 miles from Asheville Regional Airport. The state forest is approximately 10,000 acres and has close to a hundred miles of trails. The 3 waterfall hike is the most visited section of the park.
Waterfalls near Asheville!
On our drive to the Dupont State Forest, a constant rainy mist hovered in the air. The weather ranged from “turn around and head home” to “maybe we can give it a try”. We convinced ourselves to go to the Hooker Falls access area and make a decision in the parking lot. We drove south from Asheville and enjoyed the easy ride down. At some waterfalls, the roads get narrow and twisty. The drive to Dupont State Forest was enjoyable on a misty day. The clouds cloak the mountain tops and the valleys open up on each turn. Approaching the hooker falls access area, we realized the popularity of the trail. No parking signs lined the road and we pulled through two large parking lots to the trail head. Due to New Years Day and the weather, only 4 cars were in the parking lot at 10am. I hopped out of the car and stood in the drizzle for a minute to make the final decision on the trek. After feeling out the weather, we decided to leave the backpack and visit the three closest waterfalls. We loaded up the baby carrier and tucked her inside the water resistant coat. Once she was inside the carrier, we decided to head up hill first with fresh legs and a comfy baby. Crossing the bridge we turned up hill and started going. Under the trees, the drizzle turned into a fine mist adding to the scenery of the adventure.
Triple Falls, NC
Our first section of the hike is uphill and can be intimidating if the group is not hikers. Lucky for us, the first waterfall is only a half mile down the trail. We made it up the hill in the muddy conditions while carrying a baby, so I feel safe saying that most families can make it up. The first section is the one part of our hike that we kept our 1.5 year old in the carrier. The combination of slippery rocks and wet air, we decided to let her walk in other areas. On our way back at the end of the day, we met a group that had two kids a year older that climbed the path on their own. At the top of the Triple Falls section, a small resting area is setup. A pavilion with a dozen picnic tables is setup and most of the tables have views of the Triple Falls Waterfall. Off to the side of the resting area, a porta potty area is setup which is convenient.
On our trip, the pavilion was empty, but I am told the area is packed throughout the summer so don’t expect a seat. While the view at the pavilion is enjoyable, the true scale of Triple Falls is lost without getting closer. The trail has a long and stable staircase built taking visitors down to the base of the falls. The staircase is a welcome addition to the park, but the climb is taxing for small children and elderly. Be prepare to carry children and take your time, the steps get slippery due to the mist from the falls. About halfway down the stairs are some benches to catch your breath.
At the base of the staircase large outcroppings of rock stretch out alongside the river. The outcroppings provide an extraordinary place to take pictures and enjoy the waterfalls. The landing of the staircase is in the middle of the falls. The steps in the waterfall bring in many photographers, hikers and families. Due to the weather, we had the entire waterfall to ourselves. The only person in sight was a fly fisherman at the base of the river. The moment was amazing, we did not realize the size of the falls until we got there. We spent a long time sitting down and enjoying the roar of the waterfall combined with the silence of the environment.
High Falls, NC
Carrying a toddler with us, we moved on to the next leg of the hike to High Falls. After the steep walk to Triple Falls, we decided that the base of High Falls will be far enough for our day trip. Heading up to the High Falls trail, we expected another steep walk. 50 yards up the hill and the trail turns left. After the turn, the path is wide and flat. We let our daughter out to set the pace for us. She loved the wide path and enjoyed the different rocks scattered around. The trail to High Falls from Triple Falls is a half mile and we started meeting other groups coming from the other direction. We learned there is a second parking lot farther in the forest and we may test it out next time. The leg of the trip took us awhile to make it to the falls, and we could hear the rushing water long before we came into view. As we got close, we stopped and put Riley back into the carrier. Waterfalls are dangerous places for kids and until we know the area we tend to be cautious.
As we turned into the last part of the trail, my jaw dropped. High Falls is impressive.The trail to the base of the falls ends at a spot which provides a good view. The trail ends here with a sign stating do no climb over the rocks. The large rocks are covered in slippery surfaces. Yet every year people try to climb up the side of the waterfall to take pictures. The climbers get seriously injured and sometimes die from the fall. Do not climb up the waterfall, be safe on the rocks next to the river’s edge.
We walked over the rocks and for a brief time we had the entire area to ourselves. We sat down on a rock and listened. The pounding of the water draws your attention and isolates your family in the woods. Enjoying the environment, we sat still and a few other hikers caught up to us. I can only imagine how busy the area becomes in the summer. When friends or family come into town, we will head out early morning to capture the peacefulness of the falls. As the groups moved into the rocks around us, we decided to let them enjoy the moment and headed back to the trail.
With the drizzle coming to a halt and the sunshine out, we let Riley lead the walk back to Triple Falls. She held our hands and walked from rock to rock, pointing out interesting things as she went. The trees along the trail turned into peekaboo games and the trail was filled with the sounds of giggling. The High Falls trail ‘base trail” follows along the river and groups have made dirt trails to a few small clearings in the brush for picnic spots.
We eventually made it back to the trail head and put Riley back in the carrier for the walk down to the parking lot. On our way down we passed large groups starting their journeys. The trail down is slippery during the rain, but the maintenance crew keep the trail grated and provide rock fill for the slippery areas. The entire trail system is in great condition even with the heavy foot traffic out there.
Hooker Falls, NC
At the bottom of the Triple Falls Trail, signs point to Hooker Falls Trail following the river. We decided to take the quick .1 mile walk to the waterfall before heading out. As we passed the parking lot, the entire first lot filled in and cars started parking in the 2nd lot. The walk to Hooker Falls is perfect for kids. The trail is wide and flat with good line of sight for the parents. Kids can run around playing while parents follow behind. About halfway down the trail a set of porta potties are available. At the end of the short trail, a flat spot on the river provides a convenient beach and splash zone. The beach is facing the waterfall, giving the area a unique combination of accessibility, convenience and a pretty view. Large groups take advantage of the area and Hooker Falls is one of the locals favorite swimming hole.
At this point in the trip, our little one fell asleep on my back. Our kid carrier isn’t designed for sleeping babies, so we unbuckled her and carried her back to the car. We loaded up the exhausted baby and headed home. We had a wonderful trip, the entire adventure lasting just over 4 hours including the drive time from North Asheville and back home. In the future we will combine the trip with another adventure down in the Brevard / Pisgah area. We could have easily swung over to Looking Glass and Moores Cove Waterfalls. In the fall, Hendersonville is loaded with apple orchards and worth the trip for apple picking.
We have family coming in to Asheville in the spring. The three waterfall hike in Dupont is on our list of must see adventures for the group. If you are looking for a longer hike, your group can extend the Three Waterfall look and add Bridal Veil Falls, which is another 3 to 4 mile hike. We visited Bridal Veil on a second trip to the area.
When we do visit again, I’ll update with more pictures. Thank you for reading, and if you have any questions to help plan your trip, please contact us!