It is the “fall” season, after all

Highlands Travel Blog

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Bridal Veil Falls

Started the adventure by heading to Buck’s Café, reviewed below, for breakfast. Scored free local tourist literature and read up on the area while I dined and slurped joe in preparation for a fun day of hiking waterfalls. I was psyched to launch the exploration, and after a brief return to my room to pack up, hit 64W out of town.  Three waterfalls I wanted to visit were out this way and my plan was to savor these before getting back to Highlands for a scheduled 3PM viewing of the Museum of American Cut & Engraved Glass.

Just two miles out of town I was greeted by the eye catching Bridal Veil Falls, complete with an easy pull off.  Things were looking good and a celebration of the “fall” season was off to a stellar start.

Cullasaja Gorge - for all I know this is the "official" falls, but it wasn't enormous, just one of many splendid tumblers along this stretch...
  Not to be secretive, but I’ve posted observations of each falls in reviews for easy reference, so please check below for details.

Pressing on along twisty mountain roads, I espied Dry Falls not long after Bridal Veil, but figured I would catch that on the return (it was on the left side of the road).  Confess there is an inviting observation deck visible from the road which almost spurred me to swerve sharply into the entrance, but patience is a virtue.  My next planned conquest was Cullasaja Falls.  Research for this one was a bit foreboding.

The description for gaining access to Cullasaja Falls was a very tight turnoff (only able to hold two or three cars) on a sharp curve that should only be accessed by driving East on 64.

You can walk behind Dry Falls - a fabulous stop!
  I’m sure the vast majority of Cullasaja visitors approach West from Highlands, so a turnaround is necessary. Suggested turnaround is in the entrance to a gated community about a half mile beyond (Highland Gates, appropriately enough!).

I missed it, largely due to a lack of signposting – 64 runs along the scenic Cullasaja Gorge for several miles and there are quite a few turnouts, but none are labeled.  Although I was aware of Highland Gates, I didn’t really know when to begin looking and zipped right by.  Part of the conundrum was two signs at the front gate, with the one reading “Highland Gates” up in the woods (and away from the gate), so I didn’t spot the harbinger before it was too late.

Fortunately there is a small village not more than two miles beyond, affording a lengthy straight-away and plenty of room to pull a U-turn.

Dry Falls selfie - don't often take these, but needed to document my Piggly Wiggly hat...look for this if we are meeting up!
  Shortly I was returning on the same side as the turnouts.  Please note the plural here.  I passed five or six turnouts and stopped at three, but don’t think I was successful in selecting the one where Cullasaja Falls was (thus you are spared a review, dear reader).  Except for one they were incredibly tight, affording room for no more than three vehicles to squeeze in.  Similarities extended beyond parking, with every one offering reasonable views (of the beautiful waterway, but no sizable falls) which could be enhanced by scrambling down short, very steep trails to the river.  My descents proved a bit precarious due to numerous icy spots that were difficult to see.

Though cold enough for ice, the brilliant sunshine invigorated brief investigations and I enjoyed each stop.

The power of Dry Falls, outside Highlands, NC
  Eventually the turnouts evaporated and I rebounded to Dry Falls.  This was a really decent waterfall, reviewed below.  Then back to town for lunch before my museum appointment.  My noontime meal was at the Creekside restaurant, unspectacular but reviewed below to benefit future visitors.

With time to kill before 3PM, I enjoyed strolling through Highlands.  The village was packed with stores (most slightly upscale), and even more tourists.  I decided my hideaway wasn’t such a secret after all, believing Atlanta to be the source of the masses.  Clues consisted of a huge population center within an easy drive and the bazillion Georgia license plates.  The town has tons of parking spaces, but they were all occupied by early afternoon, only to be abandoned again by nightfall (chatted with a couple early that evening – and sure enough, they were on a daytrip from Atlanta, informing me it was about a 2-1/2 hour drive either way).

A lovely stretch of Cullasaja Gorge that I hiked down to from one of the cramped turnouts.
  It was easy shifting into a festive spirit as everyone was happy, many walking dogs and over half clutching steaming coffee cups.  My kind of town!

Arrived at the museum right at 3P, but nobody was about so I sat at a bench on the front porch and read my book.  At 3:15P I called the curator, but no answer.  So I left a message letting him know I would hang until 3:30P and continued reading in the sunny, crisp weather.  George never showed, so I returned to town and picked up some Christmas cards.  I like to hand-write a personal catch-up message to each of my friends and this requires a chunk of time, but I had definitely caught the Christmas spirit.

The hotel had a delightful terrace so I sat outside and began penning cards.  At 5:30 the curator called and profusely apologized --- “I’ve been running this museum since 1996 and you are the first appointment I ever missed”.

Highlands at Christmas.....
 This venture was a potential snooze fest and here was an opportunity to bail, but I truthfully communicated I was around tomorrow and we re-scheduled for Saturday morning.  I am truly a sucker for oddball attractions.

Eventually I headed back into town and had dinner at the Ugly Dog Pub, also reviewed below.  An excellent hang out, I had a couple IPA’s after eating and enjoyed conversation with folks sitting beside me at the bar.  Soon it was back to the hotel (after a brief stop at the fire pit on the terrace) and some more Christmas cards.  A lovely day.

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Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls
Cullasaja Gorge - for all I know t…
Cullasaja Gorge - for all I know …
You can walk behind Dry Falls - a …
You can walk behind Dry Falls - a…
Dry Falls selfie - dont often tak…
Dry Falls selfie - don't often ta…
The power of Dry Falls, outside …
A lovely stretch of Cullasaja Gorg…
A lovely stretch of Cullasaja Gor…
Highlands at Christmas.....
Highlands at Christmas.....
.....a charming village to stroll …
.....a charming village to stroll…
Santa was here during the day.
Santa was here during the day.
Yard full of ghastly sculptures fo…
Yard full of ghastly sculptures f…
Dry Falls, from behind.
Cullasaja Gorge
Cullasaja Gorge
A branch of the Cullasaja River?
A branch of the Cullasaja River?
A shame you miss the sounds of rus…
A shame you miss the sounds of ru…
Lovely series of spillways all alo…
Lovely series of spillways all al…
Highlands Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
The pot isn’t full
I was a wee bit disappointed with Buck’s, a local coffee joint in Highlands with good reviews. It was okay, but would have been better had the bar … read entire review
Highlands Sights & Attractions review
A Splendid Spillway
A terrific falls in so many ways. After battling to squeeze into perilous parking places in pursuit of Cullasaja Falls, it was a treat to be greeted … read entire review
Highlands Sights & Attractions review
I espouse this falls
A petite falls, but a real eye catcher as you steer west from Highlands, NC. The falls sits just off of 64W about two miles outside of town and ther… read entire review
Highlands Nightlife & Entertainment review
Come. Sit. Stay.
The motto on their tee-shirts says it all --- “come, sit, stay”. A perfect slogan to evoke the relaxed, friendly atmosphere of this pub and eater… read entire review
photo by: vances