If you want to do some hiking and see some pretty epic waterfalls, then you should think about a day trip to Dupont State Forest. I’ve been to Dupont several times, but one of my favorite hikes is what I call the 3 waterfall hike. It’ll take you to 3 of the largest waterfalls in the forest: Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls.
The hike itself is impressive (I mean, hello, three waterfalls), but I also love that I can bring Ellie (my dog) with me. You’ll need to keep your own pooch on a leash, but Dupont State Forest is dog friendly. And, perhaps the best part of this trail, most of the climbs are either gradual or relatively short.
If you do the full loop, you’ll definitely get a workout in, but you won’t feel exhausted and spent.
Distance: ~4.4 miles
Dog Friendly: Yes
Trailhead: Located at the Hooker Falls Access Area
Elevation Change: ~650ft
Time: 2.5-3 hours
Three Waterfall Hike in Dupont State Forest
Dupont State Forest recently updated the trail to Hooker Falls. It used to start along the river near the footbridge towards Triple Falls. But if you fall the signs, you can now locate it near Hooker Ridge Road (aka on the other side of the parking lot). It is basically impossible to access the old trail from the parking lot.
The new trail is gravel and is an easy ~1/2 mile hike down to the waterfall. As a note, lots of the trails along this route have been transitioned to gravel. I’m not sure when this update happened, but it definitely made some parts of the hike easier.
When I visited in June, there were people everywhere. I remember making my way through a sea of kids, towels, coolers, dogs, and chairs to try to find a spot to sit by the water. No mean feat.
Finally, I managed to score a spot along the shore to watch the waterfall. And it was beautiful. The smallest of the three waterfalls, Hooker Falls tumbles off a ledge just a mere 11 feet from the river below.
Even during the summer, the water was extremely cold. All I could do was take off my boots and tiptoe out into it (while trying to avoid the swimming children).
However it was a very different story when I visited in March after a heavy rainstorm. The whole shoreline was flooded and you couldn’t even see the waterfall from where the trail ended.
After you’ve gotten your fill, it’s time to head back the same way you come in. You’ll cross the parking lot and head over the footbridge towards Triple Falls.
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Perhaps one of the best things about this hike is that it doesn’t take too long. After crossing the bridge at the Hooker Falls parking lot, follow the trail along the river for about another ½ mile or so.
The only bad thing about this section though? There is one hell of a steep hill between the bridge and the overlook. Be prepared to join the hordes huffing and puffing to the top of the hill.
Triple Falls is made up of (yep you guessed it) three separate waterfalls. Together, they drop about 120 feet. From the overlook you can see all three waterfalls as one, but we soon discovered that this spot wasn’t even the best part.
Continue past the overlook and you’ll find a smaller trail shooting off to the left. Head down a ton of steps and you’ll find yourself in a clearing between the middle and bottom waterfall.
This was one of my favorite parts of the hike. Two waterfalls above me and one below.
(Also if you are a Hunger Games fan, you may recognize Triple Falls – the scene where Katniss finds Peeta when he’s hurt was filmed here!)
Now one thing to note here, some people were swimming in the small pool at the base of the middle waterfall (during the summer). I would not advise doing this since, you know, if you got swept away you’d find yourself going over another waterfall in a matter of moments. In fact, we saw one man seriously struggle to free himself from the current in the pool.
So, you’ve been warned. Do not swim here.
After getting your fill, it’s time for the granddaddy of the hike: High Falls.
At the top of the steps, take the High Falls trail to your left. It’s only maybe .75 miles or so to the base of High Falls.
If you’ve been to Dupont State Forest before be aware that there is a new trail to the base of High Falls. Before you’d follow a side trail along the river about a .5 miles after Triple Falls. But now you’ll stay on the main High Falls Trail up the hill until you reach a new intersection (pictured below).
I’ve also included a map near the bottom of this article that shows the route I took after this update.
Now if you’ve never seen High Falls, then prepare to have your mind blown.
I remember the first time I saw it. I had no idea that a waterfall of this size was just like an hour away from where I lived. It was to be my introduction to just how amazing my new home was.
High Falls tumbles 150 feet down a single cascade.
To get a closer view, you can scramble along a very narrow trail towards the base of the falls. During the summer, you’ll find plenty of people enjoying the view and the water. We often had to step aside to let others pass.
During that first visit, I remember scrambling to the base of the waterfall and up and onto the boulder near its base. Tiny droplets sprang out towards me, hitting my face and clothes.
I could feel the waterfall.
So are there a ton of crowds? Yes. But sometimes the crowds are there for a reason. Sometimes it’s because everyone wants to see and feel waterfalls in their own backyard. And Dupont State Forest definitely delivers on that front.
After you’ve had your fill of the base of High Falls, head back up towards the main High Falls trail and head to your left (up the hill). You’ll shortly reach the main High Falls overlook.
Here you’ll be able to see just how HUGE High Falls is. In case you weren’t convinced before.
Okay so you’ve visited all 3 waterfalls, what’s next? Well if you’d like to lengthen your hike, I have a few options listed in the section below. But there are two ways back to the parking lot. The first is to turn around and head back the way you came.
But the second is to continue up the hill and stay on the High Falls Trail until it connects up with the Triple Falls Trail. You’ll then make a right here and it’ll take you all the way back to the Hooker Falls Access Parking Lot. (Check out the maps below for guidance here.)
How to you extend your hike?
Okay so you’re at the High Falls overlook and you want more? Well my main recommendation would be to continue up the hill to the covered bridge and then onto Grassy Creek Falls if you want to go even further.
To do these, you’ll continue up the hill from the High Falls Overlook to the first intersection, here you’ll make a left onto the Covered Bridge trail. The Covered Bridge is just .2 miles away and Grassy Creek Falls is only about a 1 mile. Though remember you’ll need to hike back the way you came.
And if you really want a longer hike, Bridal Veil Fall is 1.8 miles away. This would add like almost 4 miles to your hike though so make sure you’re up for it.
When is the best time to visit Dupont State Forest?
Okay the big question – when should you hike this?
I first hiked this trail shortly after we moved to Greenville and it was busy then. The crowds at Hooker Falls were larger than I expected. And we had to park 100 yards away from the parking lot along the side of the road.
Fast forward to 2021 and all of Dupont State Forest has exploded in popularity. The forest seems to be the most busy in the summer and fall (in my opinion). The first for the cooling waters of the Little River (yes people do wade/swim below the waterfalls in many places – though be super careful, people have died doing so). The second for the beautiful fall colors.
In my opinion, Dupont State Forest is best in the spring and the fall. I mean, panting up a mountain in 85+ degree heat with my shirt plastered to my back with sweat no longer seems like the best time. Plus Ellie (my 4-legged companion) can’t take the heat. But if you want to get your swim on, then summer is your best bet.
If you’re here for the hiking I would aim to avoid July & August and go either on a weekday or super early on a weekend. The photos from this post are from my hikes in June and March.
What is Dupont State Forest like in March?
Most of the photos and my experience outlined here is from my first visit to Dupont State Forest (summer). Mostly because that was one of my first hikes when I moved here and I was still awestruck at seeing all 3 of these waterfalls.
I’ve been back to Dupont State Forest numerous times since, but I recently re-hiked this trail in March. I planned to go on a Friday and get there around 11 or so. It was also a warm day (around 70 degrees). Which meant it was busier than expected.
I was able to score a spot in the parking lot but there were plenty of people out and about on the trails.
But the main consideration was the weather in the days leading up to the hike. The day before a rainstorm had blown through North Carolina, dumping a ton of water. The waterfalls were flooded during my hike. It was still beautiful, but this was no up close and personal experience.
I put together a video of the waterfalls that day to try to show exactly what these waterfalls are like when they’re flooded. They are HUGE in case you weren’t sure.
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The Dupont State Forest map is a bit intense to try to read. Though they do have a small waterfall access map that’s much more user friendly. Though if you are hiking in the forest away from these popular areas, I’d recommend purchasing a copy of the official map.
Below I’ve included a recording of my hike from March 2021. You can see the new trails to Hooker Falls and the base of High Falls. I also continued to the Covered Bridge, so you’ll see that as well.
Click the image or the buttons to view the map in more detail.
4 thoughts on “Hiking Dupont State Forest: 3 Waterfalls in One Day [Trail Guide]”
Hi there! I just recently did the three waterfall hike on a whim, and was amazed by how amazing the falls are and how close to town. We went on a rainy winter morning hoping to have a good time and only passed twenty people on the trail. I was doing some research to see how packed the water would be in the summer. Thanks for the info and showing busy it is.
Hey there! Yep the falls are pretty packed in the summer. Hooker Falls is definitely the most popular. There are people everywhere. And it took awhile to get used to it. If you want to explore them in the summer time (and maybe do a spot of swimming), definitely go on a weekday or very early in the morning on a weekend.
How long is this 3 waterfall route?
Roundtrip you’re probably looking at around 3.5 miles. Hope that helps!