Big Laurel Falls Nantahala National Forest, NC
DURATION 30 minutes
There And
Back Again
Big Laurel Falls

Enjoy beautiful cascades meandering around moss covered rocks as you explore several creeks and the Nantahala River on your way to Big Laurel Falls. A short hike that can get crowded, but for good reason. Combine with other short hikes in the Nantahala National Forest or enjoy as a great easy walk on its own.

Begin at the sign for the Laurel Falls Trail and the Timber Ridge Trail. There is no parking lot, you'll just park along side the road. Make sure not to block traffic.

The hike descends briefly, turning right passing an unmarked side trail going straight. Look for the blue blaze. Cross over the picturesque tumbling waters of Hemp Patch Branch by way of a narrow bridge. Here the Timber Ridge Trail turns left and the Laurel Falls Trail continues to the right.

The trail soon begins to follow the Nantahala River, staying within earshot of it's low roar. Just before reaching the falls, a section on the right opens up to explore the river more intimately and take a snack break.

Continue on the trail past here, leaving the Nantahala to arrive at Big Laurel Falls along the Big Laurel Branch. The last few feet of this trail is narrow and can be slippery when wet and muddy, but it's not difficult just be careful. Sliding and cascading down the rock, Big Laurel Falls empties into a small pool before joining with the Nantahala River downstream.

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Elevation Map Length (miles) by Elevation (feet)
Slope Breakdown
Elevation Gain
Elevation Range
Grade Range
Elevation Gain
0 - 250 ft/mi
~ 0 - 5 %
0.3 mi
37 ft
250 - 500 ft/mi
~ 5 - 10 %
0.1 mi
50 ft
500 - 750 ft/mi
~ 10 - 15 %
300 ft
33 ft
750 - 1000 ft/mi
~ 15 - 20 %
357 ft
63 ft
1000+ ft/mi
~ 20+ %
74 ft
21 ft
For out-and-back hikes, elevation loss is the same as the gain.
Terrain Map Click to control map
0.0 mi
0.0 mi - Trailhead
60 ft
60 ft - Turn Right An unmarked trail continues straight. Look for the blue blaze to the right.
230 ft
230 ft - Turn Right A signs points the way at the split with the Timber Ridge Trail.
0.5 mi
0.5 mi - Nantahala River
0.55 mi
0.55 mi - Big Laurel Falls
length1.1 miles
difficulty1.4 Easy
duration30 minutes
trail typeThere And Back Again
elevation gain180 ft.
park/forestNantahala National Forest
ranger districtNantahala Ranger District
90 Sloan Road
Franklin, NC 28734
parking feeNone
trailhead coordinates 35.022028, -83.503642 (Degree Decimal, DegDec)
N 35°1.32, W 83°30.22 (Degree Minutes, MinDec)
N 35°1'19'', N 35°1'19'' (Degree Minutes Seconds, DMS)
Trailhead Directions
35.022028, -83.503642 (Degree Decimal, DegDec)
N 35°1.32, W 83°30.22 most GPS units use this one
N 35°1'19'', N 35°1'19'' (Degree Minutes Seconds, DMS)
Google Map It
From the US-64 side you will have to cross a concrete slab ford. I was able to make it in a sedan but after heavy rain a 4WD vehicle may be necessary. The Forest Service roads in general are fine for 2WD low ground clearance vehicles but coming from the US-23 side may be a little rougher as it is steeper and can get washed out.
Parking Capacity
10-12 vehicles along the road.
Few minor creek crossings and muddy areas
Be careful on slippery wet rocks at the falls and while exploring the river.
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Reviews / Comments
Average Review Rating
5 (1)
hikethesouth-5 years ago
Beautiful Waterfall, River, and Streams
This is a beautiful short hike, crossing over streams, walking along the Nantahala River, and ending at Big Laurel Falls. It can get crowded, but it's still worth the short hike. Bring your camera and the doggo.
Easy | Hiked Spring 2019
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