Today turned out to be a much busier day than I had planned in Highlands North Carolina. First stop was Glen Falls which though it is only 28 miles away took nearly an hour to get to because of the mountain roads
It’s a pretty well locally known place and has poor signage and no maps though I did have some directions from my waterfall book. Those directions said the trail was in the woods and all downhill. Ugg. That means all up hill on the way back. So with no signs in the parking lot, I took the trail going down through the woods. It was beautiful but when it crossed a creek and started up, I knew I was on the wrong trail. I came back later in my stay to hike that trail and….well that’s a story for another day.
I retraced my steps and took the only other trail. I won’t do trail scenes. I stopped at 2 view points along the way which they have it pretty well blocked off so you cannot get a straight on picture without climbing the fence. The second viewpoint is the picture above.
Glen Falls is lovely.
I made it to the bottom which is a single cascade with a pool you could walk or swim in.
At this point you can get right up close to the falls. Rhododendron everywhere. My pictures do not do it justice.
Coming back I somehow took a wrong turn and hiked a half hour going who knows where before turning back. This was possibly due to my paying attention to what was at my feet like these Indian Pipe and this great fungi.
On my way back I did find the 3rd overlook not visible or marked from the trail. My information had mentioned it but I thought I’d missed it. It was at or near the top of the falls.
I will admit to sneaking off the platform to get these pictures from the top. I’m small enough to slip through the gap there on the far left by what looks a bit like a ladder. Don’t tell anyone.
Great views from the top and the rock top was dry on the sides and water just lightly flowing over at this point.
You can hardly see the water from in the picture and as you can see, but still the rocks are slick. I was no where near the edge.
I’d started out early for the long drive but with my false start and wrong turn, it was now 11:30am and I had several other things I wanted to see before going into Highlands itself.
One was the only covered bridge anywhere around.
And then of course, more falls.
There is a motorcyclist’s dream of a road going between Highlands and Franklin and then beyond. It is NC Rt 64 known as Mountain Waters Scenic Byway. On the stretch near Highlands are 4 falls I read that were close to the road. So while I’m here, I’m going to play tourist not hiker for the early afternoon. Or so I think.
Bridal Veil falls was famous for generations as the only falls you could drive behind. But now they have blocked it off and you can walk behind it, It’s 60 feet tall and doesn’t have a large volume of water unless it’s right after a rain.
It was hard to get a picture of the water from behind except where it hit the ground. Though I did get some against the blue sky. Since I’d already been to the wonderful School House Falls and walked behind it, this was much less exciting here by the road.
Still, standing behind a waterfall can’t help but be fun.
Real excitement was up next when I came to Dry Falls. What a misnomer. This is one of the fullest waterfalls I’ve seen in NC. It’s called Dry Falls because as it falls over a protruding cliff, you can stand behind it and stay dry.
There is a very large parking lot that leads to a LOT of stairs going down. The picture below was taken from the stairs as you turn the corner and get your first look at this beauty. It’s tremendous!
Of course it was afternoon now and the place was packed. Had I known what I was in store for I might well have gotten up in the dark and come here first in order to be in such a beautiful place with no one else around – hopefully.
Look closely below and you’ll see the people behind the falls. They are tiny. This falls is BIG!
The volume of water was amazing and LOUD.
The water slammed into the rocks and then fell into the Cullasaja River which immediately became placid as you can see. Amazing! The river flows through the Nantahala National Forest
Quite a difference from standing behind Bridal Veil.
The walkway goes under the falls and this is the view from the other side. I’m sorry that the falls are no longer in their natural state and have such man made structures around but with the number of people who would stop to see them as they are right along the road, any natural trails would be eroded and negatively impact the river. It’s a choice we apparently have to make.
From every direction these are fantastic falls. |
For those who love videos of falls I have three of this favorite of mine.
All together they are not a minute long.
I could have stayed all day. It took nearly that long to cull through the pictures and the videos to put this post together.
Next on my list and on down the road was Quarry Falls also known as Bust Your Butt Falls. Parking for it is along the road and getting to it is a bit of a scramble.
It is billed as a water slide but no one was sliding while I was here.. But they were enjoying the beautiful day on the rocks and some were in the pool.
Look closely and see if you would be willing to bust your butt sliding down here.
Not I thank you. Here’s a video so you can see clearly whether you agree.
My last falls of the day was Cullasaja Falls billed as the biggest and most beautiful. It was definitely the most sketchy. I read that you can see the falls from the roadside of the very narrow curvy road the runs through Cullasaja Gorge.
Maybe the falls is visible from the road in the winter but no way in the summer. There are only 2 or 3 parking spots along this narrow road and they can only be accessed coming FROM Franklin going to Highlands. So I drove past the falls, found a place to turn around, came back and parked.
I got out and no falls were visible. Not even a sound of this 250 foot waterfall.
I’d read that there was a small trail that leads down on the other side of the roadside barrier.
The car parked in front of me with 3 people were starting down. I followed them.
In less than 20 feet on a trail that looks like the picture below, the woman sat down on a rock and said no thanks. Those are her legs behind me. She was within sight of the road. This “trail” is made of boulders and is straight down.
We hadn’t gone very far when they veared off to my right. I stayed on what I hoped was the path and suddenly I saw the father slip, fall and roll over a couple of times down the hill. I don’t know how he didn’t break something but he got up and they decided to come back to where I was. I stood still. Again they went ahead.
Do you see a trail here?
AT this point I’m still standing and they tell me there is no way further down from where they are. They are coming back. You can see them coming back up in the picture below. I think that’s a good idea especially when I see the scrapes and blood on the older man’s arms and leg. But then they see this rope and amazingly they try to walk, using this rope, through the boulder field again to the other side.
So, one after the other they walk across these wet slick rocks slipping and using the rope to steady themselves. This rope looks none too sturdy to me.
But they make it across and disappear into the undergrowth. I climb back out and tell the woman waiting that they are going on down. I wonder what will happen to them. I find out later in the day.
This falls is apparently the biggest and most beautiful on the river. Later I look it up and it really is magnificent but not worth the very real possibility of an accident.
At this point I’m starving so I go into Highlands, park on the main street and walk over to 465 Woodfire Bistro recommended by my friends Laurel and Eric in their fantastic blog.
They had a shown a picture of their dinner which was a Mountain Fungi pizza. As you know, I am a mushroom LOVER so there was no problem with what I was going to have.
Since I no longer have David’s wonderful cooking to set my hours of eating, I normally eat a light breakfast about 11 am or snacks if I’m hiking and my main meal between 3 and 5:00. I’ve learned few other people do this so I often have a restaurant largely to myself.
Today’s dinner companion was The Plague Letters by V.L. Valentine one of the selections sent to me by The Traveling Reader Book Club which I’ve talked about in previous posts.
Wild mushrooms, arugula, leeks, garlic, mozzarella and blue cheese. Yum!
After dinner I walked around town on my way to dessert. It’s a lovely little town but I wasn’t in the mood after such a long day to walk and see it. That will be for a return visit hopefully.
I had parked in the perfect place on the main street, just across from a little alcove of shops which had a Kilwin’s Ice Cream shop on the corner.
There are shops all along the sides, a restaurant in the rear and tables in the plaza. Very nicely designed for a beautiful July day outside in the North Carolina mountains.
Kilwin’s very sweetly will give you a “half scoop” of two flavors and charge you $6.39 for one scoop in a dish or non waffle cone.
Here’s the view from my seat as I ate my 1/2 scoops of coconut and Traverse City Cherry. And here’s where I ran into the Trio I had seen earlier in the day. The father and son had made it all the way down and all the way back up. They said it was a beautiful falls. But I’m still not sorry I didn’t follow them. I’ll bet he is stiff and sore in the morning. But ice cream will help.
To finish off this post here’s the horrible selfie I took of me and my ice cream which doesn’t look nearly as delicious in this picture as it tasted.
I am just so terrible at selfies.
And I had 1/2 a pizza to take home. But no ice cream.