Friday, August 29, 2008
Cullasaja River Drive-Highlands to Franklin NC
The 12 mile drive between Franklin and Highlands, NC on US Hwy 64 is sometimes a little treacherous, occasionally a little crowded, but always worth the time. This stretch of Hwy 64 runs alongside the beautiful Cullasaja River for most of the trip, allowing nice views of the tumbling waters and waterfalls along the way. Since I am usually coming from Georgia, I like to travel up Hwy 441 from Clayton to Franklin...take Hwy 64 east to Highlands, then work my way back down to Clayton on Hwy 106 over Scaly Mountain and through Sky Valley. The entire loop takes about two hours driving time, but there are a few stops you are likely to make.
Leaving Franklin, Hwy 64 soon enters the Cullasaja Gorge and, if you can find a parking spot on the narrow shoulder, offers a great views of Cullasaja Falls to the south. Heading further east there are a few pull offs and picnic areas offering access to the river. The next big waterfall is Dry Falls which has it's own parking area-but on a recent trip that area was closed with a lot of construction going on. It looks like the entire park area around the falls is undergoing renovation. I suspect they are aiming to have it open by fall leaf season if not sooner. This is a serious mountain road with a lot of twists and narrow shoulders that can be a little hairy if a 50' RV meets you on a curve, so keep that in mind. As you start leaving the gorge the road opens up a bit and you soon come to Bridal Veil Falls(pictured above), which is a landmark I remember from mountain trips as a child. There is ample parking here and you can even drive under/through the low volume falls.
After leaving Bridal Veil Falls you are on the outskirts of Highlands. If you can time it so that you arrive hungry there are numerous restaurants in Highlands, from small coffee shops to fine dining. The bustling downtown area is a specialty shopping mecca in this area and it's worth getting out and having a look around. There is a lot to see and do in this area of North Carolina and it's only a stone's throw from the north Georgia mountains. We hope to do a lot more on specific places and actvities in western North Carolina on future Borders pages. If you have suggestions about or reports from the area, please share them with us!