Top 10 Photogenic Waterfalls on the East Coast

Sheena Koontz by Sheena Koontz on

The East Coast of the United States is home to some of the most photogenic waterfalls. It’s hard to narrow down the list to only 10, when there are so many awesome falls to choose from.

This is a list made for the nature loving photographers. These may not be the biggest waterfalls on the east coast, but they are definitely the most photogenic ones. Each waterfall includes a few photography tips to keep in mind when visiting each site.

This list is based on three qualities:

  • How easy it is to access the waterfall
  • Ability to set up photography gear
  • Photogenic quality

Without further ado, here are my top 10 waterfalls on the East Coast!

1. Cumberland Falls

Cumberland Falls
Location: Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, 7351 Highway 90 Corbin, KY

This trail is a .5 mile hike, a total descent of 200 ft., and ends at the waterfall’s parking lot. This waterfall has a unique horseshoe shape similar to the Niagara Falls. In addition to its unique shape this waterfall also produces amazing rainbows and “moonbows”. That’s right this waterfall comes with night rainbows. How cool is that?

How does one go about photographing a waterfall at night?

A tripod and shutter release are an absolute necessity for this shot. Switch to Manual mode so you can choose the appropriate narrow aperture and shutter speed. If there is not enough light, the aperture can’t get big enough and let in enough light, without having to use a longer shutter speed. Begin by setting the aperture around f/16 and adjust the shutter speed until the exposure mark is in the center of the exposure level indicator. From this point it’s a matter of trial and error. Take a few shots and adjust as needed.

2. French Broad, Shoal Creek & Cathedral Falls

French Broad, Shoal Creek & Cathedral Falls
Location: NC Highway 215 near Rosman / Brevard, about 7.5 miles north of Highway 64 – image by Frank Kovalchek

This is actually a series of several waterfalls on a very short hike. It’s bit of a drive from Brevard, NC, but well worth the trip. The French Broad Falls is a set of three falls with a mill just to the right of the stream. The photography potential for this spot is amazing.

A short hike down the trail will then take you to the Shoal Creek and Cathedral Falls. The Shoal Creek Falls is much harder to photograph. The slope and angle of the waterfall make it very tricky to find a location where equipment can be set up. The best spot in my opinion for this particular fall is from the rocky steps leading down to the falls.

The Cathedral Falls is a breath taking waterfall with plenty of places to set up a tripod. This hike is so easy you will still have plenty of energy to set up equipment and take several shots from different locations. Note that these falls are on a private property. The owners allow visitors on this trail without permission, but please be respectful so everyone may continue to enjoy this trail.

3. Bushkill Falls

Bushkill Falls
Location: Bushkill Falls Rd, Bushkill, PA 18324

Bushkill Falls is a gorgeous 100ft waterfall that is very easy to access. There are eight waterfalls on this trail with several trails to pick from depending upon the amount of time you want to spend hiking. The shortest trail takes only 15 minutes and passes by all the main waterfalls. This area has been designed to attract tourists, so the trails are well maintained and easily traveled.

4. Fall Creek Falls

Fall Creek Falls
Location: Fall Creek Falls State Park, Van Buren, Tennessee – image by AmeriGirlUK

This is a 256-foot waterfall that is well worth the .8 mile round trip hike. This park also has several other waterfalls that make the trip well worth it for anyone planning to visit the area. This waterfall is best photographed from an elevated height.

It’s possible to hike down to the bottom of this fall, but it becomes difficult to photograph the closer you get. The trees block much of the view and once you are at the bottom the mist becomes a problem.

5. Little Stony Falls

Little Stony Falls
Location: Jefferson National Forest in Coeburn, VA – image by DM

This is an easy 2.5 mile walking trail that is very rewarding. You can choose to walk the full trail with all the wonderful scenery or you can park at the Little Stony parking area and just walk a little over a mile round trip to the first three falls and back. This trail has three waterfalls along the trail and a fourth waterfall on a side creek just past the second bridge.

The first waterfall is a horrible angle for midday shots. This waterfall is best photographed in early morning or late afternoon. The fourth waterfall on the side stream is the most photogenic of the set since it has a large boulder to the side. That boulder is great place to set up a tripod for some close-up shots or to take nice nap with the waterfall roaring in the background.

6. Soco Falls

Soco Falls
Location: Between the towns of Maggie Valley and Cherokee in North Carolina

Soco Falls is a 120-foot waterfall that is less than a 5 minute hike. You can get a closer look at this falls by continuing down a steep trail with the use of ropes. This is a great fall to visit during the fall and winter months since the lack of leaves give a better view of the smaller falls to the left.

7. Mingo Falls

Mingo Falls
Location: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

This is another short .4 mile round trip hike to an amazing waterfall. Mingo Falls is a 120-foot waterfall that is a must see after the leaves have changed. This waterfall is best captured in the early morning light before the sun has climbed up over the rocks.

8. Blackwater Falls

Blackwater Falls
Location: Blackwater Falls State Park near the town of Davis, West Virginia

Blackwater falls is a 50-foot waterfall that is normally divided down the middle expect during heavy rains. There is a trail and boardwalk that you can take down to the falls on the west side. The overlook located on the other side of the gorge is also a great location to view this waterfall.

9. Margarette Falls

Margarette Falls
Location: Greenville, Tennessee – image by Adam Caudill

This trail is roughly a 3.5 mile hike with some rocky patches along the way. Out of all the falls on this list, this hike is the most strenuous, but the scenery along the path is well worth the trip. This is a heavenly hike for the nature photographer looking for a trail with plenty of photo opportunities.

Margarette Falls is stunning to view anytime of the day, but photographs best close to sun down. There are additional waterfalls just above Margarette Falls for anyone that still has the energy to hike a little more.

10. Elakala Falls

Elakala Falls
Location: Blackwater Falls State Park near the town of Davis, West Virginia

There are two ways to go about viewing this fall. The first is to visit Pendleton Point where you can view all four waterfalls at once. The view from Pendleton Point looks best after a good rain. The second options is to take the trail from the lodge to view the first waterfall. This is a beautiful site with a bridge over the top for a very photogenic capture. The other waterfalls take a bit more work to access since there is no designated trail.

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