Ranger Falls Interpretive Trail

If you’re looking to learn more about the natural environment of the Highlands area and also want an opportunity to stretch your legs, the Ranger Falls Interpretive Trail is the hike for you! 

The mile-long trail to the falls begins as a wide, well-kept path that, after a brief uphill beginning, slopes down through the woods toward the water.  All along the trail are informational signs about vegetation such as Fraser Magnolias, Carolina Silverbell, and Eastern Hemlock, as well as explanations of different habitats and local geology, making this trail a great hands-on learning experience for youngsters and oldsters alike.  

There are several side trails off the main trail, and when presented with a fork, you’ll want to keep left to continue straight to the falls (except where a sign directs you to the right).  The trail narrows as it enters thick mountain laurel and rhododendron, making for a colorful and shady stroll.  Be soothed by the tranquilizing green shades of a variety of mosses and lichens along the way. 

When you come to the crossing of Skitty Creek, stop and listen to the burble of the water over the rocks, and enjoy the dance of the water striders playfully prancing across the surface of the stream.  If you’re still and quiet enough, you might even spot an elusive salamander hiding among the stones.  On a windy day you can listen to a chorus of trees clinking gently together, adding their woodwind harmony to the otherwise quietude of the woods. 

Come around a bend in the trail and greet Ranger Falls, where Skitty Creek tumbles down a rock wall in a visual contrast of white water and dark gneiss.  Sit awhile and soak up those mood-enhancing negative ions that surround water molecules crashing together!  If you want to extend your hike, you can carefully hop over rocks in the creek and continue to the Cliffside Lake Recreation area, a little over a mile away.  Yes - Cliffside Lake!  It would almost take you as long to drive there from Highlands as it would to hike from Ranger Falls!

To get to the Ranger Falls Interpretive Trail from downtown Highlands, drive 2.3 miles on Highway 64 toward Cashiers.  Take a left onto Flat Mountain Road and drive another two miles to the paved parking area on the left.  The sign for the trailhead is rather small, and if you miss it the first time, you can turn around at the old ranger station that is just down the road on the left.