My hubby was out of town this weekend, taking our son on an overnight backpacking trip, so it was a girl’s weekend! I’ve been wanting to check out Catawba Falls, just a bit north east of Asheville for quite some time, but with COVID pushing tons of tourists outside, our trails have been intimidating for a couple of months.
I thought with the peak leaf peeper season (say that ten times fast) out of the way, the leaves mostly completely gone, and the weather getting cooler, the trails would be closer to “normal” than the last few months.
I know it was a Saturday, but I still thought I had all those things listed above going for me. As I was about a half-mile from the trailhead parking, I realized I was not as in luck as I thought I was going to be. The parking lot was packed, and there were people, families, and dogs everywhere, most without masks (not only not wearing them, they straight up didn’t have them on their person).
Despite the people, I still think I planned it right because it seemed as though most of the masses where on their way down the trail and out of the parking lot when we arrived, which meant we passed a lot of groups, but the trail and the falls weren’t crowded! We arrived around 11:30am or so and it seemed most people were on their way to go get lunch!
The Trail: really well marked 2.4 miles out and back. The terrain is very moderate, the elevation wasn’t bad and it was never really steep. I was hiking with Clara and I took her out of the backpack and let her hike a good chunk of it. These reasons probably contribute to the traffic levels. It’s easily accessible to people who don’t hike. The distance is probably just challenging enough if you’re not used to activity… and there were plenty of people who probably haven’t done a lot of this or normally stay pretty sedentary.
About 0.7 miles up was a small waterfall and wading pond. Clara wanted to play in the water so I let her explore and we took a few pictures. Want to guess what happens when a potty training toddler dips her feet into chilly mountain water? HA!
We hung around for about 20 minutes. She loves throwing rocks into water and I love watching her figure out how to explore. I drew her away from the waterfall, eager to get to our main attraction. She wasn’t thrilled at first but it was worth the tears.
I really had no idea what I was in for. I had no clue Catawba Falls was this incredible. It’s MASSIVE! A hundred feet tall, scaling down, a curtain over the cliffside. And there are so many different ways to experience this! We started at the bottom, climbed over some logs onto a rocky perch. Then I scrambled up to the main wading pool and didn’t hesitate to walk right in. How can you not? I didn’t care about wet shoes… Standing at the base of this thing was mandatory and quite an experience.
I let Clara have a few snacks – she tossed a few goldfish crackers into the pool. She was kind of over it and there was definitely an influx of people coming in. Lunch must have been over and our solitude wasn’t going to last. We started our hike out and headed to meet friends at a local brewery for a late lunch and a beer.
Overall, I one hundred percent recommend this hike; however, either know what you’re in for on a weekend, get there VERY early, or save it for an early morning weekday hike. Way too many people and it doesn’t matter how much you try to physically distance yourself when there are hoards of crowds like that. A bit sad, but grateful I went when I did and know how to use my common sense. Cheers!