Our first stop was at Great Smoky Mountains National Park Sugarlands Visitor Center. Our questions about waterfalls for today could not be answered by national park staff as we want to go to falls in North Carolina that are outside the park.
Second plan, find a Visitor Center in Franklin, NC close to the Cullasaja Gorge Scenic Drive and waterfall area. Visitor center closed on the weekend; however, they did have a nice brochure display with a large, color glossy magazine of the area. Inside the brochure was a two-page spread on waterfalls called, "Enjoy the Beauty...Come Hear the Original Rock Music." (Clever.) This was supplemented by a Franklin, Highlands and Nantahala National Forest Recreation Map.
We learned that North Carolina is not like Oregon. (In Oregon, big, gorgeous waterfalls are marked by signs and parking lots with trail maps.) We missed the first 250 ft waterfall (Cullasaja Falls) even though we were actively looking for it. The description in our magazine says, "Visible from U.S. 64, in Cullasaja Gorge, 11 mi. east from Franklin, 9 mi. west from Highlands." I was sitting on the passenger side of the car overlooking the gorge. Looking straight down as we drove by (no sign, just a small turnout), I saw what looked like the top of a large waterfall. I told Bob that might have been it. We kept driving thinking there would be a sign for such a big waterfall...wrong!
We did find the next waterfall, Dry Falls, which was about 5-1/2 miles farther down the road. There was a parking area, viewing platform and trail at this location. Dry Falls reminded us of Silver Creek Falls in Oregon in that the trail goes behind the falls. The trail down to the falls was chained off with a sign saying the trail was closed due to ice. We ducked under the chain and went down anyway, along with the family ahead of us. No ice on the trail until...I was enjoying the scenery, thinking about how I was going to compose a photo, when boom, down I went, as did the little boy ahead of me. Luckily I landed on my tush and no harm was done. The little boy was okay too. There was a patch of ice on the right side of the trail near the fence. I didn't see it because I was looking at the falls. Oh well. Live and learn.
|Glen Falls -- one portion|
We traveled farther south, very close to the South Carolina border to hike to Glen Falls on a steep, rough trail laced with roots, rocks and slippery leaves. This was a two-mile round-trip trail to see three large falls, each dropping approximately 60 ft. Hard hike, but worth it.
Here's where we wish North Carolina marked its falls better. We looked for Rainbow Falls. Guide said Rainbow Falls accessible off "Whitewater Rd." As we drove down U.S. 64 we looked for "Whitewater Rd." but could only find "Upper Whitewater Rd."
Upper Whitewater Rd took us up and over a mountain on a part-paved, part-gravel, part-dirt road. Eventually we ended up back at N.C. 281. That's when we saw the small print on the bottom of a road sign: N.C. 281 Waterfall Rd. We never did find Rainbow Falls.
Onward to Toxaway Falls between Cashiers and Rosman, N.C. Again, no signs pointing to the falls. Our tour magazine said we could see the falls from our car as we crossed the Toxaway River. Nope, wrong again. To see the falls we had to pull into a restaurant parking lot to try to look into the canyon. Unfortunately, some condominiums had been built blocking the view of the falls. We went down a private drive to see the tall falls from around and between the buildings. Anywhere in Oregon those falls would have been their own attraction with pullout, signs and perhaps trails.
|Looking Glass Waterfall|
Our next stop was a quick look at Sliding Rock, a natural waterslide. Park was closed for the season, but it looked like a blast. In the summer, people jump in the water at the top of the "falls" and slide down the rock face to the bottom. Per the guide, 11,000 gallons of 50-60 degree water rush down the rock every minute.
Waterfall viewing done for the day. Time for dinner. Trout sounded good.
About 1-1/2 hours later, we were driving back to our resort and saw a restaurant that had steak and trout on their sign. I did a U-turn on the highway and we had wonderful trout dinners.
This was a long day, but we saw lots of beautiful territory.
Travel Bug out.