Bubbling Spring Branch Cascades is a waterfall right off of Highway 215 in Pisgah National Forest. It’s about a mile and a half north of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, close to Bubbling Spring Branch Falls and Wildcat Falls. There’s a gravel pull-off on the eastern side of the street. Park there and duck under the guard rail. There’s no trail or anything—just a very steep descent to the forest floor. It’s harder going down than going back up. Once you get to the bottom, the area is awesome for swimming on a hot day.
The falls break in tiers. You can swim in the pool at the bottom or use a trail to the right of the falls to access the next level. The rocks are pretty slick in the actual falls, but people walk straight up the falls as well. At the second level, there’s a pool the size of a large hot tub. If you keep walking up the cascades, you’ll get to the third tier that features a larger, deeper pool with a rope swing.
This place is absolutely gorgeous early in the morning when the pools are still. It can get crowded in the summer, so plan to arrive early to claim a parking space. Otherwise, you might find yourself parking a long way off and walking up the narrow, twisting road. This is a place where you can bring some folding chairs and a picnic lunch and let the kids run wild all day. That said, getting chairs from the street level to the ground level will pose a challenge.
I learned about this site from North Carolina Waterfalls: A Hiking and Photography Guide.