Close this search box.

Whaleback Falls

View of waterfall, rock in the middle looks like a whale back.

Whaleback Falls is best known as a secluded swimming hole a few miles from the entrance of Pisgah National Forest.  A short walk from Cove Creek and Caney Bottom Parking, Whaleback falls has much more to offer. Let’s see what this magical place has to offer.

Is there a swimming hole at Whaleback Falls?

Yes. Easy access to the road, makes this an extremely popular swimming hole among locals and tourists alike. Even in peak tourist season, it is possible to get this swimming hole to yourself.

The swimming hole itself is a decent size, plenty of room for a small group. And the rock in the middle of the hole is a great feature. You can swim right up to the bottom of the waterfall or move to the river’s far side for calmer waters. Thanks to the pool size, the only place with a really strong current would be directly under the falls.

And if you are up for an adventure, another smaller waterfalls just a bit downstream with another smaller swimming hole. When the main swimming hole is crowded, we head downstream to this spot. This spot is great; there is plenty of babbling stream to explore.

Lower whaleback falls

Is there a rope swing at Whaleback Falls?

As of writing, there is indeed a rope swing at Whaleback Falls. You can see it on the right-hand side of the photos of the falls.

Do people jump off the Whaleback waterfalls?

Yes, it is a short easy jump is what people normally say before they wake up in the hospital or worse. Please don’t jump off the waterfalls.

Top of whalback falls

Is Whaleback Falls an excellent spot to snorkel?

You bet if you want to know what lurks beneath or just want to see what the Davidson River’s aquatic ecosystem looks like, and the water is crystal clear. You can expect to see all sorts of fish, crayfish, and if you are lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a Hellbender.

Is Whaleback Waterfalls a good place for photography?

Photography opportunities are numerous at and around Whaleback Falls. There are several cascades and waterfalls along this stretch of the Davidson River. I recommend bringing some waders to get the shot you want and access all areas of the river. But if you have no interest in getting in the water, there are still numerous unique shots.

Pro-tip, drive past the Cove Creek parking, and park about a quarter-mile upstream in one of the camping spots. Walkthrough the camping spot, they are closed so no one should be camping. This is an excellent place to start shooting and work your way downstream. The stream is generally calm, and the river banks are covered in moss with beautiful leading lines. There are also a variety of small falls in this area.

View of the river above whaleback falls

Are dogs allowed at Whaleback Falls, and is it dog friendly?

Dogs are allowed at Whaleback Falls. If you have a well-behaved dog or full control of your dog on a leash, good times are in store. My only concern would be a water-loving dog going over the top. The falls are not that high, but it could be dangerous. If your dog loves swimming, skip the top of the falls and head straight to the bottom swimming hole, which is an incredibly safe deep swimming hole.

How tall is Whaleback Falls?

According to USGS, Whaleback Falls is 8 feet tall.

View of a campsite
One of the creekside campsites

Is camping allowed at Whaleback Falls?

Maybe, you will need to call the ranger station to see if they have opened this area to camping, as of 2020 it is closed. This is unfortunate as these are some of the best camping spots on the Davidson River. The sites are flat and shaded. They are also right beside the river and within a 100 yards of Whaleback Falls and the swimming hole. If you are looking for roadside camping nearby we suggest checking out Big Bearpen

Can you fish at Whaleback Falls?

You can fish at Whaleback Falls, and you will be on the upper end of the Davidson River and very close to the fish hatchery. You will also have the option of heading up Cove Creek to Caney Bottom Creek, which offers privacy and seclusion. These are small streams, and the fishing can be fickle, but it is worth it if you are just aiming to get away from it all and have some time of the water. Brown Trout, Brook Trout, and Rainbow Trout are all common along this stretch of the river. In my experience Rainbow trout are the most common with Brook trout being the hardest to catch. Here is current fishing report.

When is Whaleback Falls open?

Whaleback Falls is open year-round, there are no entrance fees or gates to enter this part of Pisgah.

One of the smaller falls downstream from Whaleback falls

Is there a hiking trail at Whaleback Falls?

No, there is a short trail that follows the Davidson River. It is used for access to the river and does not make a good hike. Directly across the street is an excellent trek to Cove Creek Falls. If you want a hike with views, just down the road are John Rock and Looking Glass, which offer long-range views.

Can you visit Whaleback Falls in the Winters?

Yes, it is a great place to sit around and enjoy nature or take some winter photos. However, be aware that this is a waterfall and the rocks are slick even in the summer, so watch out for ice.


Directions from Asheville: Take I-26 to Exit 40. Turn right off of the highway and follow Highway 280 for 16 miles. Turn right onto 276/Forest Heritage Scenic Byway. After 5.3 miles, you will see a fork in the road with a sign for the fish Hatchery. Turn left onto FR-475 toward the hatchery. Follow this road for 3 miles until you see the Cove Creek and Caney Bottom Hike Parking.

From the parking lot, there will be a trail to the falls.

Dirt trail surround by nettle plant
Trail leading to Whaleback Falls

Looking for a flat hike through a pristine mountain bog? Check out our guide for Pink Beds 


If Whaleback is crowded and you want privacy try this Secret Swimming Hole right down the road.