The Land of Waterfalls – Cullasaja

After enjoying the views at Lake Jocassee we crossed the state line into North Carolina, driving to Cashiers.

Located at over 3,500 feet, Cashiers is cradled by soaring mountains and is rooted in its rich history and local culture.  Cashiers is home to local eateries, markets and coffee shops…it is a popular resort town and summer hideaway.

Stopping for gas, we reviewed our map and plotted out the rest of the day.  We decided to drive the Waterfall Highway towards historic Franklin NC, byway of Highlands.

The drive from Cashiers is ten miles through winding passes with incredible views of Whiteside Mountain and the Blue Ridge…IMG_1439

IMG_1436Highlands the apex of mountain living; at 4,118 feet, it is one of the highest towns east of the Mississippi River.  Highlands, like Cashiers, has long been a mountain respite for summer tourists longing to flee the hot humid heat of the deeper south.  

Highlands is steeped in historic charm and modern elegance.  The picture perfect postcard downtown is home to local shops, high end boutiques, cool coffee shops and B&Bs.  I cannot think of a more tranquil place to get away from it all.  To explore Highlands, I recommend parking downtown and strolling through the sidewalks.

After passing through Highlands, we continued west on Highway 64 through one of the most beautiful scenic byways in NC – the Cullasaja River Gorge – also known as a ‘Waterfall Byway.’ Cullasaja is a Cherokee word that means ‘honey locust place.’ 

The narrow byway, snakes along the swift moving Cullasaja River Gorge for 7.5 miles.  The road offers spectacular views of the mountains and forest.  The Cullasaja River tumbles dramatically down three major waterfalls alongside Highway 64: Bridal Veil, Dry Falls and Cullasaja Falls.

The byway straddles the Eastern Continental Divide, the dividing line where waters run eastward to the Atlantic or westward to the Gulf of Mexico.  Water in the Cullasaja River is bound for the Gulf.

It started raining as we entered the canyon, which makes sense – as this area is part of a rain forest…roadside we were dazzled by the gracious Bridal Veil Falls.  This is only waterfall you can drive behind (although this was not allowed due to heavy rain).  Bridal Veil Falls is is a veil of 120 feet cascading water.


One of my favorite waterfalls is Dry Falls, a breathtaking 75 foot roaring water fall tucked just off the highway.  Dry Falls is unique as you can safelyIMG_3746IMG_3766 walk behind the waterfall and stay dry (hence the name) as you enjoy the view.  

The tallest falls are the Cullasaja Falls, which drop 250 feet.  We unfortunately could not see Cullasaja Falls given the rain.

The Cullasaja River Gorge ends in the historic town of Franklin, North Carolina.

Stay tuned as we continue to Franklin, Cullowhee, the Judculla Rock and more…

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