A motorcycle rider’s guide to North Carolina’s Land of the Waterfalls Loop

Waterfall in North Carolina
Waterfall in North Carolina
Author Michael Milbourn
Product Manager – Dairyland
March 6, 2024

If you dream of the open road and stunning views, the Land of the Waterfalls Loop in North Carolina is a must-ride. This loop's scenery has everything from whitewater rivers to rugged peaks, which is what draws many to the Great Smoky Mountains. 

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The Land of the Waterfalls is often known as a tourist loop, which can deter some. However, if you're willing to trade light traffic for some of the most stunning views, it's certainly a ride you'll never forget. Here's everything you need to know when touring this scenic region. 

NC Land of the Waterfalls Loop route map

North Carolina's scenic Land of the Waterfalls Loop will take you on a journey. In addition to the breathtaking Smoky Mountains, you can enjoy over a dozen roadside waterfalls within one day. However, you can always travel at a slower pace and split your ride across multiple days. There are several places to stay along the way. Choose your route based on your desired stops. 

Check out our interactive route map as you plan your trip.

Weather along the Land of the Waterfalls Loop

Weather can vary throughout your ride as elevations and conditions change—for example, spots like the Nantahala National Forest are often slightly cooler than nearby cities like Brevard.

Here is what you can expect month-to-month in cities and towns along this loop. The following weather chart is for Brevard.

Climate data chart for Brevard, N.C.

Keep in mind, this region's average annual precipitation is around 67 inches—with some areas receiving over 100 inches. The national average is just over 30 inches. So, consider these conditions when packing clothing and planning rest stops. 

Motorcycle safety tips

Along with the standard safety checks and maintenance you perform on your bike, you'll want to dress for the road (and weather), follow all traffic rules, and prepare for this specific loop. 

This is a high-tourist area, so you need to remain mindful of other riders, vehicles, and pedestrians. This region has 100,000 acres of public land, hundreds of waterfalls, a dynamic music scene, and plenty of excellent restaurants—so depending on where your bike takes you, expect some minor hustle and bustle. 

You’ll need to remain focused—there are twisting sections and areas with loose gravel. These considerations are critical regardless of the weather but are particularly important when rainy and windy. 

As stated above, this region gets quite a bit of rain. Take extra measures to ensure your bike is safe to ride in the rain and take all necessary steps to reduce your risk of a potential accident. Before you hit the road, check your tires. If there is noticeable wear, your traction will be compromised in wet conditions. You'll also want to check your tire pressure.

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Stops to make as you ride the Land of the Waterfalls Loop

Why you come to the Land of Waterfalls Loop will depend on what you want to see and do. Since you'll enjoy incredible views of the mountains, the fall season is a fan favorite. While the lush green rolling hills are picturesque all year, you can witness the magical fall colors in late September and early October.

Regardless of when you visit, consider these towns and notable stops.

Cherokee and Bryson City

As you head west on US 19, you'll see Cherokee before winding along the river into Bryson City, home to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. If you enjoy historic sites, are looking for a bite to eat, or want to check out the shops, stop in Bryson City's vibrant downtown before getting on the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway. It’s a great place to top up on fuel if you're getting low. 

Top places to check out in Cherokee:

Top places to check out in Bryson City:

Nantahala National Forest

Nantahala National Forest has much to offer—two river gorges, hardwood forests, and beautiful countryside views. Bridal Veil Falls and Dry Falls are two roadside stops you won't want to miss. Dry Falls is a 75-foot waterfall you can access from the road and walk behind. Parking is available nearby, but remember, visitor volume usually peaks midday. 

Waterfall viewing

Speaking of waterfalls, what would this loop be without all these enchanting sites? Here are the falls you can enjoy directly along your ride or within close proximity. 

  • Soco Falls 

  • Cullasja Falls 

  • Bust-Your-Butt-Falls (Quarry Falls)

  • Dry Falls

  • Bridal Veil Falls

  • Sequoyah Falls

  • Toxaway Falls

  • Looking Glass Falls 

  • Sliding Rock

  • Second Falls

  • Upper Falls

  • Bubbling Spring Falls

  • Sunburst Falls

And that’s just a start! The Land of the Waterfalls area of Brevard in Transylvania County is home to 250+ waterfalls. Plan to take slight detours to hit up some of the most iconic falls—like Triple Falls and High Falls, which you may recognize from movies like The Last of the Mohicans and The Hunger Games


After passing through Franklin, known as the "Gem Capital of the World" based on its ruby and sapphire mining traditions, you'll ride into Highlands. This mountainside town is one of the highest east of the Mississippi River. It is also located in one of North America’s few temperate rainforests. You can enjoy various outdoor activities, culture, art, fabulous restaurants, and great shopping here.  

If you're looking for a memorable place to stop and stay, check out Old Edwards Inn and Spa, a historic resort with a full-service European-style spa, restaurant, and wine garden. You can hire a local guide if you'd prefer to stop and fly fish for trout. There are options for every budget and interest. If you're riding during mid-October, don't miss one of fall's coolest phenomena—the Shadow of the Bear


While Brevard isn’t technically on the loop, it's not far off the path—especially if you're planning a multi-night tour. When you hit the most south-eastern point of the loop, you'll be in Rosman, just nine miles from Brevard. If you ride to Brevard and the surrounding area, there's plenty to experience. Here are some of our favorites: 

  • Sliding Rock, where over 11,000 gallons of water pour down sixty feet every minute. This roadside attraction is a good place to take a dip—lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

  • If you like to hike and climb, don't miss Looking Glass Rock, offering a challenging 6.5-mile hike. This activity isn't recommended for beginners. If climbing isn't your thing, check out Looking Glass Falls, one of the most photographed falls in the nation.

  • For music lovers, time your trip when there's a performance you'd like to see at the Brevard Music Center—one of the premier classical music institutes in the region. The 180-acre, wooded campus alone is worth the trip.

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*Data accuracy is subject to this article's publication date.