Cullasaja Gorge

The Cullasaja Gorge is a 7.5-mile Mountain Scenic Byway located on highway US-64 between the towns of Franklin to the west and Highlands to the east.  The road parallels the scenic Cullasaja River and there are several beautiful waterfalls visible right from the road.

Waterfalls:

Bridal Veil Falls:

Bridal Veil Falls is the first waterfall you'll come across driving west through the gorge from Highlands towards Franklin, about 2.5 miles west of Highlands.  There is a pulloff on the right side of the road and it's not easy to miss.  This is a somewhat unique waterfall in that you can drive right under it.  In fact, when US-64 was initially built, the highway did in fact go under the waterfall.  However, ice and water build up from the falls caused a lot of damage to the highway and eventually engineers re-routed the highway in front of the falls, while maintaining the path underneath for tourists and other waterfall-lovers to enjoy.  In drier times, this waterfall is barely a trickle and hardly worth stopping for, but after a good rain, it's really a cool waterfall to stop at.

Driving Under Bridal Veil Falls

Cullasaja Falls:

Cullasaja Falls is the last falls in the gorge if heading west on US-64 from Highlands towards Franklin.  It is about 9 miles west of Highlands and about 11 miles east of Franklin.  It is a beautiful 250-foot cascading waterfall; unfortunately there is no good way to view the falls.  There is a very small and dangerous pulloff on the road where you might be able to stop for a couple minutes to snap a picture or two, but don't linger, as this is right in a sharp curve in the highway and you could easily be hit by a passing vehicle while stopped.  If coming from the east, go past the pulloff, make a U-turn, and then pull off the road as the pulloff will be on the right side of the road.  There is also a very steep trail down to the base of the falls from here, but you can't see the upper part of the falls from the base and the trail is extremely steep and treacherous.

Cullasaja Falls

Dry Falls:

Dry Falls is just a short distance past Bridal Veil Falls on US-64 west.  This is probably the most popular waterfall in the gorge and has the most amenities.  There is a parking lot, vault toilets, picnic tables, and trash receptacles, as well as a half-mile trail leading from the parking area to a natural grotto behind the falls.  The name of the waterfall comes from the fact that visitors can walk behind the falls and stay dry.  Well, most of the time.  After heavy rains, the waterfall can become such a torrent that you will not necessarily stay dry.  Regardless of water conditions, the path around and behind the waterfall allows visitors a great opportunity to see and photograph the falls from every possible angle.

Dry Falls

Quarry Falls:

Quarry Falls is probably the least impressive waterfall in the gorge, located between Dry Falls and Cullasaja Falls.  It's a 20-foot cascade named for a quarry that used to be located in the area.  Although the waterfall itself is not that scenic, in the warmer months, this is a popular swim hole and swimmers frequently slide down the waterfall.

Quarry Falls

External Links:

US Forest Service website for Cullasaja Gorge:  http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/nfsnc/recreation/scenicdrivinginfo/recarea/?recid=48678

US Forest Service website for Bridal Veil Falls:  http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/specialplaces/?cid=stelprdb5188444

US Forest Service website for Dry Falls:  http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/specialplaces/?cid=stelprdb5188442

US Forest Service website for Cullasaja Falls: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/specialplaces/?cid=stelprdb5188443

Photos:

Cullasaja Gorge


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