This is a sampling of some of our favorite local falls. Make sure you bring your camera and, the rule for exploring Highlands-Cashiers, wear comfy shoes!
Most photos and descriptions courtesy of Waterfalls of Western NC.
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Big Shoals Falls is a powerful sixty foot waterfall in the Pisgah National Forest south of Highlands, NC. The deep plunge pool makes a great swimming hole, just don't expect to have this one to yourself!
Bridal Veil Falls is the first of many beautiful waterfalls in the Cullasaja Gorge near Highlands, North Carolina. There are many large waterfalls you can walk behind, but Bridal Veil Falls is one of the few you can actually drive your car behind! A short loop of pavement runs off the highway and behind the falls, allowing you to enjoy the waterfall without blocking traffic.
Bridal Veil Falls is a gentle cascade that, more than anything, resembles a delicate sheet of lace. But this little charmer’s name has a further allusion – according to Cherokee lore, a young woman passing behind its gentle shower in the spring would be married before the first snowfall of winter.
Bridal Veil Falls is located on US 64 west just 2.45 miles from downtown Highlands. You can park and stroll behind the gentle cascade (even if you’re not a young Cherokee woman) for an experience that’s transcendent and deeply romantic.
A mile past Bridal Veil is the strangely named Dry Falls. Don’t let the name fool you – there’s nothing even remotely arid about this roaring 75-foot deluge. It gets its name from the fact that you can walk behind its thundering cataract and remain dry (although “dry” is a relative term, you’ll almost certainly get damp from the unceasing spray). You may be able to see a rainbow if you and the sun are in the right position.
Dry Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls in the state, and offers an accessible walkway with a spectacular view. You can also venture down the steps to get a closer look at the waterfall and even walk behind it!
If you miss the first turn into the parking area, you can take the next one on the left. The steps down to the falls are at the west end of the parking area at the entrance to the wheelchair accessible area. The steps down to the falls are at the west end of the parking area at the entrance to the wheelchair accessible area. The walkway needs help, so watch your step.
If you proceed two miles further down US 64 west, you’ll come to Bust Your Butt Falls. This is a rushing terrace of falls that empties into a deep pool that’s as close to the proverbial Ol’ Swimming Hole as we’re likely to see in 21st Century America. This popular swimming spot offers a deep plunge pool on the Cullasaja River near Highlands. Just be cautious or you will discover how the falls earned its name!
If you travel even further down US 64 west, three miles past Bust Your Butt Falls you’ll come to breathtaking Cullasaja Falls. Cullasaja Falls is another spectacular waterfall on the powerful Cullasaja River, which winds through its gorge followed by the Mountain Scenic Byway near Highlands NC.This meandering stream, so languid for much of its twisting course, marshals its power for its namesake falls – a majestic cascade lined by ancient cliffs.
It’s easy to catch a glimpse of the falls as you drive by; however, getting a better view is not easy. The falls are located beside of a series of blind curves on US 64 with sheer rock cliffs above and below the road. There is only one small pull-off near the falls, but walking on the road puts visitors in danger of being hit by a passing vehicle.
Glen Falls is located off a dirt road three miles south of Highlands off NC 106 south. The turn-off is marked by a U.S. Forest Service sign. Glen Falls is composed of three large falls dropping approximately 640 feet on the east fork of Overflow Creek in Blue Valley. The one-mile foot trail down to the falls is steep (and feels a lot steeper going back up).
Glen Falls trail offers panoramic views of the Blue Valley as well as spectacular views of a series of waterfalls known collectively as Glen Falls. The trail zigzags down a series of switchbacks, losing about seven hundred vertical feet in 1 mile as it follows the creek down the mountain's side.
Drive 1.7 miles on NC 106 to the sign for the falls. Turn left, then immediately right onto a dirt road. Proceed 1.1 miles to where the road dead-ends at a parking area.
This is probably the most beautiful waterfall setting in the Highlands area - and one of the least visited since it's not on the main highway and it requires a 1.5-mile roundtrip hike.
Catch Picklesimer Rockhouse Falls after (or during) a good rain and you will be treated to a beautiful display as the water cascades over the sixty foot cliff and disappears into the rhododendron in the creek below. A rock house is an open cave with a high roof, which allows you to walk behind the veil of this waterfall easily.
After you’ve passed both Bridal Veil Falls and Dry Falls on US 64 west, look for signs on the right for Cliffside Recreation Area. Turn into Cliffside and drive 1.4 miles to a short paved picnic loop on the left. The loop is one-way, so turn into the 2nd paved drive and park. Now here's the downside: There's a $4 per car fee for using this area in season. There's also a lake for fishing and swimming, so a family could spend the day here and the $4 would be a deal. If you’re coming just for the waterfall, well, pack your vehicle full of people, tie a couple more on the roof rack, one in the trunk, and everybody chip in 50 cents.