Paradise Falls is one of the best secret swimming holes in the southeast. The short, but challenging hike helps minimize the crowds. There are deep swimming holes on top and bottom of falls with room for big air for those who dare!

To the north of Panthertown lies a chain of dammed lakes that are some of the most peaceful waters in Western North Carolina. These make up the headwaters of the East Fork of the Tuckasegee River. The gorges that run between the top lakes are wild, scenic, and adventurous to even the most experienced hiker and/or canyoneer.

Paradise Falls lies deep within the narrow and winding ravine below Wolf Creek Lake, and is a hidden treasure worth finding. The path to this magnificent oasis is difficult and not the easiest to find.

From the parking lot indicated on the map (within site of a local church) there are two ways to approach the falls. The easier route is to follow the path heading towards the rear of the church, ultimately dropping down to the river. Cross the river and continue following the path to the top of the waterfall. The more challenging path goes straight down from the back of the parking lot into the trees and rhododendron. This trail also comes to the river where you must cross, but in this case you head back up a small rise directly across the stream. Keep following the trail, and from the top of the hill you should see a long descent dropping almost straight down to the pool below Paradise Falls. Be careful here as the hill is quite steep, and after rain can be extremely slippery and treacherous. Make your way carefully down to the bottom where your reward awaits.

The Falls are actually tucked into the walls of the gorge, so you will only see a full view from directly below the base. Don't be surprised upon breaking from the trees that you feel a sudden urge to drop your clothes and dive freely into the pool in front of you. This swimming hole is hypnotic, begging you to dive beneath it's surface. The water is not warm, but in the middle of summer the plunge is a welcome reward for the hot and sweaty hike down the hill. Swim all the way up into the falls, and if you are looking for a challenge try to climb your way up onto the flat plateau below the major drop.

Explore the river and the surrounding area as it's a magnificent site. There is also a pretty well hidden geocache to find if that is your thing. The trail actually continues back up the canyon on river right to bring you up to the top of the large rock walls overlooking the swimming hole below. If you are feeling brave, there is a heart stopping cliff jump off the wall, but make sure you swim the pool and confirm the water is clear of dead logs or branches before taking your huck of glory. The trail continues around the rock to bring you to the rock plateau below the falls major drop and within the stone amphitheater where the cascading water reverberates.

The top of the falls has another, smaller, swimming hole that is safe and deep enough for diving. Take a picnic with you as you can spend a few hours exploring and swimming within this magical refuge.

Pack List

  • Clothes you can get wet and muddy
  • Astrals, TEVAs, or other water shoes that double as good hikers
  • A bathing suit or your birthday suit depending on your mood and the crowd
  • Camera
  • Water and snacks
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RT Distance 1.5 Miles
Activities Photography, Swimming, Hiking, Rock Climbing
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Easy Parking
Cliff Jumping
Swimming Hole


Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

about 2 years ago

Paradise falls Experience

Man what an incredible place, the hike is all down hill and can be tricky if wet so wear some good chacos or shoes. Spent over 4 hours just relaxing, cliff jumping, and swimming, this place lived up to its name. Perhaps one of my favorite swimming holes in the south

Fairly tough terrain to get to the lower falls. The jump rock is awesome. Defiantly recommend this as a little weekend day trip.

Wear shorts and the shoes you plan to swim in. assuming you plan to swim in them. Once you hit the lower falls jump from the rock into the water first thing. The rush is awesome.

over 2 years ago

So so dangerous

Please do not let the beauty tempt you into putting your life at risk. Paradise Falls is very beautiful but the danger far outweighs. Did you know that 2 students from WCU were killed when visiting the falls because the spill gate at the dam was opened and they were literally washed away and found in Bear Lake which is downstream. And today, Aug 27, there are numerous emergency vehicles & a helicopter there. It is very common to see emergency vehicles there. Please stay away because it's just not worth it. Oh I forgot to mention, about a month ago, a tourist had her car window broken & purse and other valuables stolen.

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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