Cullasaja Falls

Highlands Road,

Hwy 64, SR28, NC.

* all photos my own unless otherwise indicated
At 604 miles long, Hwy 64 is the longest numbered route in North Carolina and snakes through the NC mountains, by waterfalls, through gorges and some cool small towns. Beginning in Franklin, NC., the first 40 miles is part of the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway. This post covers the 18 mile stretch between Franklin and Highlands, an exhilerhatingly twisty ride that is both scenic and thrilling ~ if you can ride it in low traffic season!

There is a small, privately owned RV park near the beginning of this route, Cullasaja River Rv Park. Here you can park up, unload the toys and ride away to your hearts content, coming ‘home’ to enjoy a relaxing site, right on the river.

Zipping up the twisting, turning, two lane highway, the first scenic stop off you will come across is the Cullasaja Falls. You will come across them quite unexpectedly as you sweep round a left hand bend. You’ll likely miss it the first time and will have to come back, but that’s no big deal, such is the fun of this road, you really won’t care riding it over! We have been up and down this road many times and in many weather conditions. Some sites will describe it as ‘dangerous’. I believe it is only ‘dangerous’ if you are dangerous. The road is wide enough to accomodate two lanes of traffic comfortably and large trucks/trailers are not allowed. The turns and bends are more gentle, not switchbacks and you can enjoy a decent speed and smooth ride ~ when no-one is pootling along in front of you! There is a small pull over to the side of the road, easily visible if travelling east, where you can pull over, hop off and take some great pics ~ just as scenic in all seasons.

Bust Your Butt Falls ~ not my picture

Jumping back on the bike to continue your ride, a little further up the road, your next fun view will be “Bust Your Butt Falls”! Easily identified by all the kids jumping off the rock face in to the chilly waters of the swimming hole. Can’t say that this is something we’ve stopped and done; if it wasn’t for all the bike gear we’re wearing, we’d be in like a shot….NOT!!!

Hwy 64 Highlands, NC

The next stop off point is also easily missed. A small sign on the right side of the road will direct you to the Cliffside Recreational Area. Turning left here you will follow a narrow, windy road up to a parking area where you can park up and access the Ranger Falls Trail, a moderate 2.2 mile round trip to a pretty little waterfall. Follow this link for more details on this hike. The parking area has toilet facilties, that have been exceptionally clean each time we have visited and a water fountain; but I recommend bringing a water bottle if you are planning this hike.

Back down on the main highway and a few more twists and bends further on upwards, you will come across Bridle Veil Falls, on the left hand side. For many years this was the only waterfall in NC that you could drive/ride behind. We were able to do that the first couple of times we stopped on by but we’ve been twice this year and it has been blocked up both times; you can still walk behind the Falls, but automobiles are no longer allowed ~ apparently this makes it safer and more “enjoyable”, hmpf!

Further on up this awesome route, you will come across a small parking area to the left with a walk way that leads you down an easy pathway with a few stairs, to the strangely named, “Dry Falls”. They are far from dry and if you follow all the way along the path to walk behind the Falls, you will be far from dry too! The river is fast flowing and the waters cascade over an overhanging cliff edge, allowing room to walk behind the powerful flow. If you happen along here in icy weather, which I don’t recommend for riding in, the path behind the Falls are likely to be closed for safety.

After re-enacting  the waterfall scene from The Last of the Mohicans, jump back on the bike and head on back up that wonderfully windy road towards the last waterfall and scenic stop on this stretch before you stop for lunch. Lake Sequoyah Dam Falls may not really count as “falls’ per se as they flow over a man made dam but they are stunning and I wouldn’t want you to miss them. Watch out for the road sign announcing the town of Highlands. It will be on your right hand side and you will be able to pull off the road and park safely. A little scramble down the bank and you will be able to get in some good photo shots. If the water is low enough, you can scramble down further and watch over the top of a series of smaller falls.

At this point you must be hungry or at the least, thirsty! I highly (forgive the pun) recommend stopping off in the lovely little town of Highlands. There are many places to step in and refresh yourself and some cute stores line each side of the towns central street if you wanted to take your time to browse. As a starting point, I can recommend Bucks Coffee Cafe, if you’re looking for just a coffee and a light snack, or if you are starting out early with breakfast in mind. Great coffee! If you’re looking for more of a lunch or dinner, then we always enjoy the food, atmosphere and service at the Main Street Inn, on a warm day it’s lovely to sit out on the patio and watch the world go by as you linger over a deliscious meal. We’ve never been disappointed yet!

Once your hunger is sated and your thirst quenched, if you’re ready for another fairly easy liitle hike for some spectacular views, head back on out of town the way you came in but turn left at the cross roads to follow the NC106 west towards Scaly Mountain/Sky Valley. After approx 1.7 miles you will see a sign on the right side of the road for “Glenn Falls Scenic Area”. The turn will be on the left followed by an immediate right turn on to a gravel road. Follow this road for approx 1 mile and you will reach the trail head.
When you’re done exploring and ready to head on your way, following on along the NC106 will give you another exhilerating ride of sweeping curves and twists with more gorgeous views on each side. This road will bring you out on to the Hwy 441N, near the town of Dillard. If you have chosen to stay at the Cullasaja RV park, or in Franklin, you will take a right turn here and head on back bringing the trip to an end in a nice loop. Taking a left will lead you through Dillard and to the larger town of Clayton where you will find many bars, cafes, restaraunts to sit down and enjoy your night rememebering the awesomeness of this ride! We can definitely recommend the Universal Joint, we head here every time we’re in town. Great atmosphere, good food, nice selection of beers and just a generally cool place to be; you’re welcome!
Hwy 64, Highlands, NC
Hwy 64, Highlands, NC
Hwy 64, Highlands, NC

However, if you’re adventurous streak isn’t over yet, and you want some more great roads, a little hiking and a few more waterfalls, you’ll need to head back through Highlands and follow Hwy 64 back in the Ashville direction.
I will be writing more about this route and it’s scenic stops, including this fun place, Sliding Rock, soon.

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