Ledbetter Canyon Falls

Ledbetter Canyon Falls

This is the lower portion of the falls. The upper two sections are not visible from this point. Nikon D800, f/16, 1.3 seconds, ISO 200, polarizing filter.

Beauty Rating:
Trail and creek scramble
Ledbetter Creek
River Basin:
Little Tennessee
2,560 feet
Type and Height:
Long series of slides and cascades; the overall height is about 120 feet
Nantahala National Forest, Cheoah Ranger District
Hike Distance:
About 0.4 mile
Hike Difficulty:
Photo Rating:
Waterfall GPS:
Trailhead GPS:
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Driving Directions

The trailhead is the same as for Bartram Falls, Inside Passage Falls, Notch Falls, and Handpole Branch Falls.

Nantahala Outdoor Center is located on US 19/74, southwest of Bryson City. From NOC, drive about 6.65 miles southwest along Nantahala River (heading upstream) on US 19/74 and turn right on a paved drive leading a short distance to a picnic area. If you’re heading northeast on US 19/74, the picnic area is on the left, 0.85 mile from Wayah Road (SR 1310).

Hike Description

Climb the steps from the parking area and follow the path beyond the picnic tables up to the railroad tracks. Cross the tracks to the obvious path and follow it 100 yards to a junction. The yellow-blazed Bartram Trail goes right and left, while another path goes straight ahead and follows Ledbetter Creek upstream. A left turn on Bartram Trail is the route to Bartram Falls and Handpole Branch Falls. For Ledbetter Canyon Falls, Inside Passage Falls, and Notch Falls, take the path straight ahead.

The path follows the creek upstream a short distance before petering out. From this point, the creek is the trail. You might see a faint route that climbs up the slope on river left to bypass some cascades early on, but you’ll soon have to drop back down to the creek and stay with it from that point on. When you reach the point where you can’t go any farther by staying in the creek bed, you’ve arrived at Inside Passage Falls.

To continue upstream, you must climb through the narrow passageway on the river-left side of the falls. You’ll come out at the base of the upper portion of the Inside Passage Falls. Continue heading upstream to reach Ledbetter Canyon Falls. You’ll have to negotiate one section which might be a little dicey, but experienced creek walkers should make it okay. It’s a little more than 0.1 mile from Inside Passage Falls to the base of Ledbetter Canyon Falls, but it will seem like a lot more.


From the base of Ledbetter Canyon Falls, you can see only the lower section. If you want to see more, you’ll have to climb the slope on river left and descend back down to the creek. You’ll come out at the base of the middle portion. Experienced scramblers can make it to this point okay, but this is as far as most people will want to go. There is also an upper section of the falls, completely hidden from the base. But it’s just not worth the effort required to see it.

In my North Carolina Waterfalls book, I described Ledbetter Canyon Falls as including all of the falling water from the head of the canyon to the base of the falls. When I wrote the book, I had not yet explored all of the canyon from creek level and I made an educated assumption that the falling water is continuous enough to warrant the collective name. I’ve now explored the canyon thoroughly and have revised the description slightly.

The three main sections of Ledbetter Canyon Falls are so close together that they do, indeed warrant the collective name. But there is a short section of cascades between the falls and the waterfall at the head of the canyon. Therefore, I’m recognizing Ledbetter Canyon Falls as a separate waterfall. The waterfall at the start of the canyon is called Notch Falls.

If you want to hike to Notch Falls, don’t attempt it until you read the Hike Description and Overview section for the falls.