Catawba Falls Footbridge Construction Begins Next Week

posted in: WNC Hiking | 1

Edit: as of July 29, 2016, the first bridge is now complete!

The hike to Catawba Falls has always involved a tricky rock-hop near the beginning of the trail. While it’s not terribly difficult or at all dangerous, it does represent an obstacle to some people who wish to enjoy the falls – especially dry!

The Forest Service long ago announced plans to improve the access to the falls, and it looks like that begins next week with construction on the footbridge near the parking area. The full Forest Service announcements (regarding construction and completion) are below!


US Forest Service Logo

National Forests in North Carolina
160A Zillicoa St.
Asheville, N.C. 28801

Media Contact: Lisa Jennings, 828-337-1359

Catawba Falls Footbridge Construction Begins May 3

NEBO, N.C., April 29, 2016 – Construction is set to begin on Tuesday, May 3, 2016 for the footbridge across the Catawba River on the Catawba Falls Trail. The Catawba Falls Trail is a popular hiking trail near Old Fort, NC on the Grandfather Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest.

The Catawba Falls Trail will remain open, but the public can expect to see construction traffic in the area. The US Forest Service asks that visitors stay on established trails and steer clear of the construction area.

The Catawba Falls Trail Bridge project is part of a larger effort to provide safe access to Catawba Falls. For more information contact the Grandfather Ranger District at 828-652-2144.

US Forest Service Logo

National Forests in North Carolina
160A Zillicoa St.
Asheville, N.C. 28801

Media Contact: Cathy Dowd, 828-257-4215

First Trail Bridge at Catawba Falls Complete

NEBO, N.C., July 29, 2016 – The first of two trail bridges on the Catawba Falls Trail on the Grandfather Ranger District is complete! In partnership with McDowell County, North Carolina State Parks, and a federal Recreational Trails Program grant, the Pisgah National Forest has rerouted the Catawba Falls trail and installed a trail bridge crossing the Catawba River.

The Forest Service will be rerouting the trail and installing a similar bridge across Chestnut Branch as well as surveying and designing a safer route to the upper falls.

“I am so excited to make progress on improving access to these amazing waterfalls. We’re at a point now where soon we will be able to get people safely to the upper falls,” according to District Ranger Nick Larson. “Catawba Falls is our single most popular waterfall. Take the trail to the lower falls and find out why. It’s a beautiful hike that takes you through the historical structures of the old hydroelectric dam and lands you right at the base of a stunning 100 foot waterfall.”

The Forest Service and its partners are continuing to make progress to make this area more accessible and safe for forest visitors though the route to the upper falls remains dangerous and the public is warned against attempting it. Every month, McDowell County Emergency Management responds to at least one critical rescue at the site from the public seeking access to the upper falls.
The best way to enjoy a waterfall is from a safe distance. Stay on established trails and be aware of the extreme danger posed by attempting a closer view of the waterfalls. Never climb on or jump off waterfalls. Don’t swim or dive in waterfall pools or wade in streams above waterfalls because of hazardous rocks and currents.

Catawba Falls has a long history of tourism, and has become an iconic National Forest destination. From the days when the railroad and dirt paths were the only way up to the mountains, the public has sought out Catawba Falls for its breathtaking beauty. The relatively easy 1.5 mile hike to the lower falls is a little easier now. Less than 5 minutes from Interstate 40, and less than 30 minutes from Asheville and the northern end of the Pisgah Ranger District, Catawba Falls is one of the easiest areas to access and provides a unique opportunity to connect a diverse public to their National Forests.

The Foothills Conservancy, a local non-profit, began acquiring these lands for public access and conservation with the full support of McDowell County and the Town of Old Fort. Ultimately the property, along with the historic trail and waterfalls, was granted to the U.S. Forest Service. In 2013, the road access and an accessible trailhead were constructed in partnership with Foothills Conservancy, McDowell County, and McDowell Trails Association.

For more information contact the Grandfather Ranger District at 828-652-2144.

  1. Ed

    I am trying to plan a backpacking trip for my brother and myself. We are both in good shape and experienced hikers. I have just move to the area and still learning my way around the woods.

    We would like to do a 2 night 3 day trip, thinking somewhere around 20 miles. I was looking at leaving the Pink beds area and working my way over to Turkey Pen but could not determine the distance. Would you happen to know about how far that would be and the best route to take? Or could you suggest some other routes in Pisgah? I would like to be somewhat close to streams so we don’t have to carry our water and just use our filtration system. Any suggestions on some routes would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you.

Leave a Reply