Overview; 

  • 2.2 mile round trail
  • Approx 30 mins each way
  • Moderate incline
  • Need appropriate footwear
  • Muddy in places
  • Rough wooded trail
  • Shaded/Cool
  • Not wheelchair/pushchair accessible
  • Parts may be harder for young children

* all photos my own unless otherwise indicated

Ranger Falls

Ranger Falls, Highlands, NC

From the town of Highlands drive approx. 4.6 miles west on US Hwy 64 and turn right into Cliffside Recreation Area.

If coming in from Franklin, the intersection of U.S. Hwy 64 East and US 23/441 North in Franklin, NC take U.S. Hwy 64 East/NC Hwy-28 South towards Highlands, NC for approx. 12.3 miles. Cliffside Recreation Area’s entrance will be on your LEFT, with the brown National Forest sign on the right.

Just after the pay area, turn left in to the picnic parking area. The parking area was relatively small but had clean and well maintained rest rooms and a water fountain.

Ranger Falls, Highlands, NC
Ranger Falls, Highlands, NC

From the back of the parking area, the trail is sign posted. It starts with a moderately steep incline of approx. .3 miles. You will see a marker for Ranger Falls and head off to the left to follow the trail.

The trail then descends towards Ranger Creek – initially I was going to call this a moderate incline but on the return walk, I decided to change that to steep! Gradually inclining uphill at a gentle/moderate climb, some areas were pretty muddy and I imagine would be quite boggy in rainy seasons.

Ranger Falls, Highlands, NC
The path is a wooded trail somewhat rough in areas. Tripping hazards in the form of raised roots and small tree stumps would make this more difficult for smaller children to navigate. It is a shaded path and was not too hot to walk. We just missed rhododendron season and the flowers were falling but I imagine it must have looked beautiful when the blooms were out in full!
Coming across the Falls as you round a bend you will cross the creek below them over a well constructed wooden bridge. The falls cascade steeply over rough cliff to moss covered rocks.
Ranger Falls, Highlands, NC
Ranger Falls, Highlands, NC
Ranger Falls, Highlands, NC

The area is cleared enough for a picnic or reflective stop.
The Ranger Loop Trail continues above and beyond the Falls, eventually looping back to the parking area – we did not do this. We just followed the trail back the way we came!
Along the way, the path is marked with info plaques about the various flora/fauna you’re seeing. It is hard to take a wrong turn if you follow the clear path.

This is a quieter, lesser known trail. We visited in mid July and passed only one other person.

After enjoying this trail take the short drive back into Highlands and enjoy coffee and a snack at our favorite cafe, Bucks Coffee Cafe, always fresh and tasty food and the best coffee in the area 😉

Take a look at this post to discover the other scenic waterfall stops along this lovely, twisting and winding route; Cullasaja Falls,  Bridal Veil Falls, Dry Falls, Lake Sequoyah Dam Falls & Glenn Falls.

Ranger Falls, Highlands, NC

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