Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls
Travel the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway from Highlands to Almond in Western North Carolina and make your choice. Enjoy a peacefully scenic drive through the Nantahala Forest and pass the byway’s namesake waters. Or, stop along the way for whitewater rafting, hiking, camping and more outdoor adventure.
Mountain waters play an important part on this journey. Almost all forest campgrounds are near a river, lake or stream. One part of the drive actually goes under a 120-foot waterfall. And one stop along the byway, Nantahala River Gorge, draws almost a quarter-million boaters each year for canoeing, rafting and kayaking.
The 61-mile byway begins with 7.5 miles of beauty as it travels through the Cullasaja Gorge and parallels the Cullasaja River and its waterfalls. Next, see mountain waters up close as you drive behind a thin veil of water falling from 120 feet above at Bridal Veil Falls, 1.2 miles west of Highlands on U.S. 64. Leave your car and feel the waterfall spray on your face at the misnamed Dry Falls, 2.1 miles west of Highlands on U.S. 64, where a short paved trail from the parking area leads you behind the waterfall.
Cliffside Lake Recreation Area, 4.4 miles west of Highlands and then 1.4 miles off U.S. 64, offers swimming, fishing and picknicking. Camp at nearby Van Hook Glade (20 family campsites, 704/524-6441). See the forest up close on Cliffside Lake trails, a short trail near Cullasaja Gorge, which offers an easy .75-mile loop around the lake or try the moderate 1.5-mile Clifftop Vista Trail.
If camping isn’t your style, spend the night at Wayah Creek Cottages & Gardens at Franklin, where secluded fireplace cottages follow Wayah Creek (828/524-2034, Visit Website). Back on the byway west of Franklin, turn right on old U.S. 64, left on SR 1310-Wayah Road, which parallels most of Wayah Creek. Most of the six-mile stream is on private land but there are spots that are open for fishing. Try picknicking at Arrowood Glade Picnic Area along the creek or Wayah Crest Picnic Area at Wayah Gap. A side trip to 5,342-foot Wayah Bald, 3.2 miles up FR 69, provides a view of a fire tower built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps where you can enjoy a four-state tower view of the Appalachian Mountains. Both the Appalachian Trail and Bartram Trail cross the mountain at the tower. Stretch your legs on Rufus Morgan Trail, a one-mile loop through mature hardwood trees to a waterfall (from SR 1310, 6.6 miles west of U.S. 64, turn left on FR 388-Boardtree Road, drive 2.2 miles to trailhead).
Six miles west of Wayah Gap, visit Nantahala Lake to enjoy fishing and boating along the 29-mile shoreline. Nantahala River nearby offers trout fishing on its upper and lower reaches. Plan to spend some time at Nantahala River Gorge even if you’re not into whitewater rafting. Rafters usually begin at the Nantahala River Launch on this world-class whitewater river, which is the beginning of the 8.5-mile run. Another launch and takeout area is located 2.75 miles downriver at the Ferebee Memorial Picnic Area. The lower end of the river has a commercial takeout and private boater area. Non-rafters can view the final series of whitewater rapids including Nantahala Falls from a wooden walkway. The byway ends at Fontana Lake, where water-skiing and kneeboarding are popular.
>>FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Wayah Ranger District (828/524-6441)
Nantahala National Forest (828/257-4200), Visit Website. Byway route: From Highlands, follow U.S. 64, Old U.S. 64, SR 1310 (Wayah Road) and U.S. 19. Watch for scenic byway signs.
Highlands Ranger District (828/526-3765)
(from 2004 Almanac)