Waterfalls near Highlands

Trip Start Aug 19, 2012
Trip End Dec 30, 2013

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Where I stayed
Kuykendall Group Camp
What I did
Bridal Veil Falls Highlands
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Dry Falls Highlands
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Secret Falls
Cullasaja Falls
Quarry Falls
Cullasaja River Gorge

Flag of United States  , North Carolina
Friday, July 26, 2013

This past weekend was our annual Big Brevard trip for waterfalls, waterfalls, and more waterfalls!  Sandy had gotten a new car, a 2013 RAV4, and so we were eager to try out the new car on a trip.  We set out on Friday morning and drove out to the Brevard area and made our way to Kuykendall Group Camp in Pisgah National Forest.  On the way, we stopped at the rest area in Davie County and saw a large number of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies and hummingbird moths on the butterfly bushes growing outside the rest area.  We arrived at camp a little bit after lunchtime and set up our tents.  Once we were ready, we headed out to the Highlands area to see some waterfalls.  On the way, we stopped at a Subway in Cashiers for a quick lunch and then continued onto Highlands.  By the time we reached Highlands, the weather had made a turn for the worse and was starting to rain, but that wasn't going to stop us.  From downtown, we turned onto Horse Cove Road and drove down this windy road, making a right onto Walking Stick Road.  We followed this gravel road for a couple of miles to a fork onto a forest road and stopped at the gate for Big Shoals Trail.  By now, it was raining pretty hard, but we were determined to continue on and see our first waterfall of the trip, Secret Falls on Big Creek.  We hiked about a half-mile or so on the Big Shoals Trail to the falls.  It was rainy and the trail was very muddy.  Since we had planned on swimming at this waterfall, we hiked in our bathing suits and water shoes, so we weren't too bothered by the rain.  By the time we got to the falls, the rain had mostly subsided.  But the water was cold, at least too cold for me to swim.  Only Casey was brave enough to take a swim below the falls.  I did wade out into shallow basin for some shots of the falls and we also walked up on the ledge just to the left of the falls to see it from the side.  There is even a nice sandy beach area right next to the falls.  After a bit, we headed back to the cars, but when we got there, we realized we had dropped the new car key!  Sandy and I ran back to the falls and luckily found the key right at the edge of the pool and grabbed it before it washed into the creek.  So back to the cars and headed off for a few more waterfalls in the Cullasaja River Gorge. 

By this time, the rain had totally tapered off and the evening sun was poking through the clouds.  Taking US-64 west from Highlands, the highway leads through the gorge with four roadside waterfalls within a stretch of ten miles or so.  Our first stop was Bridal Veil Falls.  This waterfall is notable because you can actually drive behind the waterfall.  Normally, it's barely a trickle, but due to the heavy rains this summer, it was much more powerful than normal.  And of course we had to take the new car under the waterfall to officially christen it!  Our next stop was Dry Falls, less than a mile up the road.  This one is a much bigger waterfall that you can walk behind.  We parked in the Forest Service parking area and made the short hike down to the falls.  The waterfall is named Dry Falls, because normally you can walk behind it and stay dry.  Not so much today with all the recent rain.  We walked around the falls taking pictures from different angles and then headed back up to the parking lot and continued on.  Our next stop was Cullasaja Falls at the end of the gorge.  This one is a little treacherous.  There is only a small pulloff on the side of the road, right in the middle of a narrow curve in the highway.  If a driver coming from the other direction is distracted and veers a little off the road, there could be a serious accident.  But we took our chances and stopped briefly to get a couple of pictures.  There is a very steep trail leading to the base of the falls, but we decided it would be very unsafe given how wet everything was.  From here, we turned around and headed back for the last  waterfall, Quarry Falls, which is between Dry Falls and Cullasaja Falls.  This is a smaller cascade named for a quarry that used to be here.  This is a popular swim hole and people slide down the falls into the pool below.  But it was getting late and we didn't have time to stay long.  By the time we had taken a few pictures and got back on the road, it was starting to get dark.  So we made our way back to camp, stopping on the way again in Cashiers for a bite to eat and to get some beer and ice at the grocery store.  Driving back to camp, it began to rain heavily.  By the time we reached the camp, it had lightened, although the creek crossing to get into the camp was higher than it was earlier in the day.  But it continued raining all night, heavy for a while and then light for a while.  When it was heavy, it actually woke me a up a few times in the night with the heavy beating on the tent's rainfly.
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