Glen Falls is more than just a single waterfall. It is a series of beautiful falls as the river rushes down the mountain.
Just a few miles south of the beautiful North Carolina town of Highlands, in the Nantahala National Forest, flows the east fork of Overflow Creek which produces an abundance of waterfalls and cascades in the area known as Glen Falls. While most uses of the word “Falls” referrers to a single waterfall; that is not the case with Glen Falls. Glen Falls is made up of a number of waterfalls as Overflow Creek rapidly works its way down the mountain. While most sources put the number of waterfalls at three, you could make the argument that the number is actually higher. The trail to view the falls is well maintained and the out-and-back hike is just over 2 miles in length. This is a great spot for people who love waterfalls.
The trailhead to Glen Falls is located at the end of Glen Falls road in Highlands North Carolina. Glen Falls road is just off NC Highway 106 about 1.8 miles from Highway 64 and the center of Highlands. Look for the signs on highway 106 and Glen Falls Rd. Glen Falls road is unpaved but it is in great shape so travel to the trail head shouldn’t be a problem. You travel the dirt road for about 1 mile and it will dead-end at a decent sized parking lot. There are no restroom facilities at the parking lot or trailhead.
The trail starts in the corner of the parking lot to the right of the informative sign boards. It is very obvious and marked so you should have no problem finding it. The hike loosely follows the creek down the mountain with designated viewing areas for the different falls along the trail. It does switchback so the incline isn’t too bad although it will be all uphill on your way back to the parking area so allow enough time for ample daylight on the return trip up the mountain. You can also decide to stop at any lookout along the trail and only hike as far are you are comfortable. Most people only go as far as the second large waterfall and skip the shorter waterfall at the bottom. As with any hike, it is important that you stay safe and enjoy yourself. The upper falls are beautiful and if that is the only portion of the trail you choose to walk, you will see some impressive waterfalls.
Soon after starting the hike, you will encounter the first viewing platform which is essentially where Glen Falls begins. There isn’t much to see here except for the start of a small cascade as the rock narrows and the incline increases.
Continuing down the trail you will encounter a fork where the path to the left continues down the mountain, but the short path on the right takes you to another viewing platform. This vista is right at the top of the first major waterfall and just below the cascade that started at the previous viewing platform. There is a small trail that leads down to the creek but be very mindful of the fact that you have a 70ft waterfall just below you . A slip into the creek here would almost certainly be fatal if you went over the falls.
When you have finished enjoying the view at the top of the falls, walk the short distance back to the main trail to resume your hike down the mountain to the next viewing area. The trail will switchback a few times and then you will end up at the base of the first major waterfall, about 1/2 mile from the parking area.
The view here is exceptional as the creek falls and cascades from about 70ft above you. The viewing platform is in a great location where the spray from the falls might even get you wet if the water flow is good. Hang out and enjoy this view but remember the trail continues and there is more to see.
The next section of the trail is much like the previous section. While the creek is heading straight down the mountain, the well maintained trail will take a couple of switchbacks to make the hike a little easier. After about 1/3 mile, you will reach another observation platform at the base of the next major waterfall. This section of the creek falls about 60ft and is spectacular as the creek widens and multiple cascades form as the rock forms multiple ledges. It is absolutely beautiful.
Most people turn around and head back up towards the parking area from this spot but there is another small waterfall downstream if you continue on the trail. We think it is worth the additional effort to visit the last falls.
The trail continues down the mountain although the trail narrows and is not as well maintained but continue on the trail where you will encounters a fork. There is a small wooden sign pointing right which is the trail you want to take. It isn’t too far and eventually you reach the 3rd and final waterfall of Glenn Falls. This humble 15ft beauty is a little different than the previous falls as the incline of the creek is decreasing at this point. The water plummets into a large sandy pool that is perfect for cooling off tired feet. We thought that this was the best spot for relaxing after a nice hike before heading back up the mountain to the parking lot. Regardless of how far you choose to hike on your trip to Glen Falls, you are definitely going to enjoy this location at any or all of the falls.
This is an out and back hike so whenever you are ready to head back, hike safely back up the mountain to the parking area.