Mountain Waters Scenic Byway
This 61.3-mile drive winds through two river gorges, and the countryside of Highlands and Wayah Ranger Districts. The byway's first 7.5 miles start at Highlands and travel through Cullasaja Gorge. Then it goes from Franklin to Almond via U.S. 64, SR 1310 (Wayah Road), and U.S. 19. The byway ends at the north end of the Nantahala Gorge. Along the byway are several waterfalls, five picnic areas, a campground, and many trails.
The first 7.5 miles of the byway travels through the Cullasaja Gorge. The winding road parallels the Cullasaja River and offers spectacular views of the river, which boasts several waterfalls and many fishing opportunities.
Big falls at 250 ft. and considered to be one of the most picturesque falls in Western North Carolina. This fall is first seen from U.S. 64/28. The falls are spectacular yes, and this strip, wavy strip of U.S. 64/28 is a pave marvel of a highway. A real hang on to your hat kind of road but well worth the drive
Directions: Located on U.S. 64-28 between Highlands and Franklin.
Lower Cullasaja Falls
The lower portion of Cullasaja Falls is a cascade of water which flows about 250 feet down. It is located on the Cullasaja River at the lower part of the Cullasaja Gorge. It is part of the Mountain Water Scenic Byway. Cullasaja Falls is only visible from your car; there is no adequate pull-off spot from the road.
Directions: Cullasaja is located off U.S. 64, 11 miles east of Franklin, 9 miles west of Highlands in the Cullasaja Gorge.
This often-photographed site is 1.2 miles west of Highlands on U.S. 64.
You can drive by the "veil" of water falling from 120 feet. Parking is nearby. Take the short, paved trail to the historic Wayah Bald Fire Tower. The tower offers a great view of the Appalachian Mountains in Georgia, Tennessee and both Carolinas.
Bridal Veil Falls is unique because you can drive your car right underneath it! The water falls 120 feet from above, right over U.S. 64. It is a good place to stop on your way to Dry Falls and Cullasaja Falls.
Directions: Bridal Veil is easy to find. Just look for the sign on U.S. 64, 2.5 miles east of Highlands in the Cullasaja Gorge.
You'll find this 75-foot beauty 2.1 miles west of Highlands on U.S. 64. From the parking lot, a trail with steps leads you right behind the waterfall two long-distance trails, the Appalachian and Bartram Trails, which cross the bald at the tower.
A lot of water pours over this wide waterfall. There's a well maintained path that leads a short distance down from the parking area. The path doesn't end at the falls but travels under the falls. Its a breath taking experience to stand under the falls and watch millions of gallons of clear mountain water pour over your head and before your eyes at a height of seventy five feet.
Directions: On U.S. 64-28 four miles from Highlands, North Carolina.
Cliffside Lake and Van Hook Glade
This recreation area is 4.4 miles west of Highlands and then 1.5 miles off U.S. 64. The area offers a picturesque lake that is popular for swimming and fishing, a historic bathhouse with cold showers, and many shady picnic spots. Offering 20 campsites, Van Hook Glade Campground is nearby. Hikers can stretch their legs on one of seven short trails. Choose the easy 0.75-mile loop that circles the lake or enjoy the view along the moderate 1.5-mile Clifftop Vista Trail. At the top is a gazebo built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Wayah Creek and Picnic Areas
West of Franklin, the byway turns right on Old Murphy Road, then left on SR 1310. SR 1310 (Wayah Road) parallels much of Wayah Creek. This six-mile creek is a good fishing stream, but most of the stream side is private land and is posted "no trespassing." Along Wayah Creek is the Arrowood Glade Picnic Area, which offers seven tables and a picnic shelter.
Rufus Morgan Trail
This one-mile loop trail winds through mature hardwood forest to a waterfall. From SR 1310 (6.6 miles west of U.S. 64) turn left on FR 388 (Boardtree Road) and drive 2.2 miles to the trail head.
A side trip to Wayah Bald is well worth the effort. From Wayah Gap, journey 1.3 miles up gravel Forest Road 69 and see the Wilson Lick Ranger Station. Built about 1913, Wilson Lick is the first ranger station in the Nantahala National Forest. Continue another 3.2 miles up FR 69 to Wayah Bald. Take the short, paved trail to the historic Wayah Bald Fire Tower.
The tower offers a great view of the Appalachian Mountains in Georgia, Tennessee and both Carolinas. Picnic nearby at the Wayah Bald Picnic Area or hike two long-distance trails, the Appalachian and Bartram Trails, which cross the bald at the tower.
Note: The top of the tower was burned in the 2016 forest fires, it is under reconstruction and hopefully will be back intact in 2018. Sadly, the Wilson Lick Ranger Station was burned beyond repair.
Located about six miles west of Wayah Gap, this lake has 29 miles of shoreline and offers fishing, and boating. Boat ramps are available.
Nantahala River Fishing
This mountain river offers great trout fishing in its up per and lower reaches. The stretch of river above the powerhouse has great catch-and-release fishing from spring until early summer.
Every year the Nantahala River draws more than 250,000 boaters who enjoy whitewater rafting, canoeing and kayaking. Many begin their trip from the river's launch site at the start of the 8.5-mile whitewater run, where changing rooms and flush toilets are available. About 2.75 miles down river is the Ferebee Memorial Picnic Area, which offers another launch and take-out area. At the Nantahala River's lower end, two commercial-only take-outs and a public take-out are provided. Outfitters plan trips to fit all skill levels and rent equipment for every whitewater adventure.
Van Hook Glade Campground: Open April to October, 20 sites. Off U.S. 64 in Cullasaja Gorge, 4.3 miles west of Highlands. To make reservations, call 877-444-6777.
Appletree Group Campground: Open April to October, four group sites. Hiking and fishing opportunities. Three nearby trails: Appletree, Bartram and London Bald trails. Located 2.5 miles off SR 1310 on SR 1401. By reservation only; call the Nantahala District Office at 828-524-6441.
Standing Indian Campground: Open April to October. Offers 84 campsites. Take U.S. 64W, turn left on old U.S. 64W and follow signs. To make reservations, call 877-444-6777.
From Asheville: Take I-26E to exit 40 (Asheville Airport). Turn right on NC 280W. NC 280W becomes U.S. 64W in Pisgah Forest. Stay on U.S. 64W to Highlands. Follow "From Highlands" directions below.
From Bryson City: Take U.S. 19S/74W, and follow U.S. 74W for about 20 miles through Nantahala Gorge. Turn left on SR 1310E (Wayah Rd.), and go 28 miles. SR 1310E passes Nantahala Lake an Wayah Gap. Near Franklin, turn right onto SR 1442 (Old Murphy Rd.), and go .2 mile. Turn left on U.S. 64E, and follow for 24 miles to Highlands.
From Highlands: Take U.S. 64W/NC 28N to Franklin (18 miles). Turn left on U.S. 64W. Follow U.S. 64W for about six miles. Turn right on SR 1442 (Old Murphy Rd.), and go .2 mile. Turn left on SR 1310W (Wayah Rd.). For 28 miles, stay on SR 1310W, which passes Nantahala Lake. In Beechertown, turn right on U.S. 19N/74E. Follow U.S. 19N/74E through Nantahala Gorge to Almond.
Forest Management At Work
The byway mainly travels through the Nantahala National Forest. National forests are managed for many uses: recreation, timber, wildlife, water and more. At overlooks, you may see signs of forest management.
Drive With Caution
Parts of the byway are narrow and curvy. Please stay in your lane and drive cautiously. During the winter, occasional snow and ice may require the use of tire chains or four-wheel-drive vehicles.
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