Upper Whitewater Falls, a photo by waterfallshiker on Flickr.
Upper Whitewater Falls, at 411′ is the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi. That is argued by some, however one thing can not be disputed. This waterfall is an amazing site. This can be accessed just off of NC 281, 9 miles south of US 64 in Sapphire NC, and just a mile or so from being in South Carolina. This is a fee area, requiring $2, but the money is well worth seeing the falls and the facilities there are decent. At the upper end of the parking lot, the paved trail begins. In 1/4 of a mile you will reach the top viewing area which is handicap accessible. The view here is good, but….drop down about 155 steps to the lower viewing area and it is as good as it gets. The view is sensational. Be ready to share the deck with other photographers.
This is a pretty long drive for most people, so planning ahead is important here. This waterfall can easily be paired with some others in the area for a super waterfall day. Just down the road in SC is Lower Whitewater Falls. You can drive down into SC to view this one or keep hiking down the steps from Upper Falls and hike down the Foothills trail. I have yet to do this one but maybe this fall.
Some other options include the Thompson River which you pass on NC 281 on the way to Whitewater Falls. This opens up another 4-6 waterfalls including the amazing Big Falls. I also have yet to do this but reading other blogs, it is a good 5-6 mile round trip.
An option that I have done is drive into Gorges State Park and hike to the super waterfalls along the Horsepasture River, including Rainbow Falls, Turtleback Falls, Drift Falls, and Stairstep Falls. This is accessed also on NC 281, about a mile south of US 64.
If none of those options look good, I have also visited Upper Whitewater Falls and then stopped at DuPont Forest on my way back east to visit Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, High Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls.
Last but not least , Panthertown Valley is also right in the area. It has 10 or named waterfalls and is a fascinating place to hike. The main point of all of this is that Upper Whitewater Falls is a sensational waterfall to visit, but the hike is minimal, so something else should be planned to make the trip worth it.