Hiking in the Catawba Basin

Information about trails and places to hike in the Catawba Basin.

The Catawba basin, particularly the upper portion of the basin has many excellent places to hike and camp.  The best known areas are the Linville Gorge Wilderness area and Wilson Creek, but there are many other great places to hike, including trails to some seldom seen waterfalls.

Wilson Creek area - waterfall on Steel Creek

Links to some of the best places to hike are listed below:

    • Catawba Falls - This is a short (2 hours or less round trip) hike to one of the largest waterfalls in the Catawba Basin.  The trail head is less than five minutes from the Old Fort exit from I-40.
    • Crowders Mountain - Crowders Mountain State Park has an extensive network of short trails, with great views from the ridge and pinnacles of the Charlotte skyline and the entire region.  It is a short drive west of Charlotte.
    • Linville Gorge Wilderness Area - There are a wide variety of trails in and around Linville Gorge (the Grand Canyon of North Carolina) ranging from moderate day hikes to mult-day strenuous wilderness treks.  Almost every trail has some spectacular views of the gorge.  The hikes along the east rim of the gorge are slightly more strenuous, but may offer more spectacular scenery.
    • Linville Falls - Enjoy spectacular views of two waterfalls surrounded by the steep walls of the Linville gorge.  Linville Falls drop 90 feet into the 12-mile long Linville Gorge.  Viewpoints of Linville Falls are easily accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway.  
    • Upper Creek Falls - Upper Creek Falls is located in the Jonas Ridge Area of Burke County near Linville Gorge. Trails leading to the top and bottom of the falls are popular among sunbathers, swimmers, and fishermen, and the view from the top is spectacular.
    • Grandfather Mountain - There are many different day hikes and nature trails around Grandfather Mountain (near Blowing Rock, NC).
    • Moses Cone State Park - This former estate has a variety trails, many of which are former carriage paths that are suitable for hiking, mountain biking or horseback riding.
    • South Mountain State Park - This park is closer to Charlotte than Linville Gorge or Wilson Creek, but provides a decent network of trails for anything from a short day hike to a 2-day hike.  There are also some beautiful waterfalls, or at least cascades. From the peaks, it is possible to view the Charlotte skyline.
    • Wilson Creek and Lost Cove area of Upper Wilson Creek - This area has an excellent network of trails that is suitable for multi-day hikes or day hikes.  There are numerous waterfalls on the creeks that feed Wilson Creek.  For more information on how to get to the waterfalls, click here.
    • Carolina Thread Trail - The Carolina Thread Trail will eventually connect large sections of the the Catawba basin with foot and bicycle trails.  Some sections have been constructed and more sections are being opened regularly.  More information about the Carolina Thread Trail is at http://www.carolinathreadtrail.org/.  A conceptual map of the eventual network of thread trails is at http://www.carolinathreadtrail.org/index.php?id=18.
    • Riverwalk in Rock HIll, SC - The section on the west side of the River just below Hwy 21 is open and will soon connect to a section on the east side of the River north of Hwy 21.
    • Landsford Canal State Park - Located south of Rock Hill, SC, Landsford Canal has a trail that follows the historic Landsford Canal and there are viewing platforms of the Catawba River that offer beautiful views of the Spider Lilies when they are in bloom between mid-May and early June.


When you are hiking, particularly when you are around water cascades or waterfalls, remember that wet rocks are very slippery and people fall to their deaths from waterfalls every year!  Please be careful and use common sense!  Do not climb rocks around the waterfalls.  Be careful on any stream crossing and do not ever cross a stream or swim at the top of a waterfall.  Most of the trails described on this website are primitive trails and do not have any fences or safety nets to prevent children or adults from falling off of rocks.

Please be very careful not to trample vegetation while exploring around streams and waterfalls!  There may be species of rare plants living in or near the spray areas.


Photographs on this page are provided courtesy of Rich Stevenson at ncwaterfalls.com.  Copies of the photos can be purchased at www.ncwaterfalls.com.

Document Actions
Help Catawba Riverkeeper

Your River needs you as much as you need the River

Support Our River

Help in other ways

Jan 25, 2017 NC Riverkeeper Report
From the perspectives of 12 NC Riverkeepers, this report discusses how multiple environmental issues pose challenges in the pursuit of clean, plentiful water. Whether you are in North Carolina or downstream in South Carolina, read this report about the state of environmental enforcement.
Dec 13, 2016 Community Foundation of Gaston County grants $5,000 to CRF for Riverkeeper Program
The Community Foundation will fund Catawba Riverkeeper's work in Gaston County.
Dec 12, 2016 A Successful Launch of our Water Education Program at Great Falls Elementary
Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in partnership with 4-H Clemson Cooperative Extension successfully completed our pilot Education Outreach Program with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students from Great Falls Elementary.
Sep 27, 2016 Lake Wateree Fall Cleanup a Sweeping Success
86 volunteers collected 5,490 pounds of trash from Lake Wateree
Jun 13, 2016 Dozens of Youth Reached in Water Education Outreach Program Pilot Lessons
More news…
Report Pollution in the Catawba River

Help protect your River! 

Tell your Riverkeeper if you see:

  • Sewage Overflows
  • Failure to control sediment from construction sites
  • Illegal clearing of buffer areas
  • Fish kills 
  • Unpermitted discharges
  • Other issues that concern you

Click here to fill out a pollution report or to report water pollution to Catawba Riverkeeper by phone, call 1-888-679-9494 or 704-679-9494.  In addition, to informing your Riverkeeper, you should also report spills or contamination to federal, state and local environmental officials.

To report South Carolina water pollution call 1-888-481-0125.

To report North Carolina spills or fish kills, call your local regional Department of Environment & Natural Resources office during normal business hours (704-663-1699 for most Catawba basin areas or (828) 296-4500 for Burke, Caldwell, McDowell and other mountain counties) or 800-858-0368 after hours.  (For more information on NC spill reporting, click here)


The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation is a proud member of EarthShare North Carolina, the North Carolina Conservation Network, River Network and the Waterkeeper Alliance.  It also in in an alliance with Clean Air Carolina to address issues, such as sprawl, that cause air and water problems.

Clean Air / Clean Water Alliance Logo

NC Conservation Network Logo


EarthShare of North Carolina Logo


4-H Clover leaf logo


River Network Logo


SC 4H Science on the Move logo



715 N. Church St., Suite 120 . Charlotte, NC 28202 . Phone: 704.679.9494 . Fax: 704.679.9559