Adventures in Highlands
Horse Cove Road
This drive begins at the end of East Main Street in Highlands. After winding down 37 curves, you enter beautiful Horse Cove. On the right is Rich Gap Road.
Approximately 67 yards up Rich Gap Road is the Bob Padgett Tulip Poplar, the second largest tree in North Carolina. Padgett was a local naturalist who waged a tireless battle to preserve Highlands’ natural heritage, including this tremendous tree.
After viewing the poplar, head down Horse Cove Road to the fork where the gravel road begins. Here you have two choices. If you take the right fork, Bull Pen Road, it will lead you to the Chattooga River, one of the South’s great wild rivers. The Chattooga was the unforgettable setting for the movie “Deliverance”. Bull Pen is a narrow, curving gravel road that is well worth the time. At the Iron Bridge the scenery is great. The Chattooga has worn basins in the rocks, which range in size from a dime to basins large enough to comfortably seat two couples. Continue on through the forest land until you reach Route 107. Take a left on 107 and you will come to the crossroads in Cashiers where you take a left on Hwy 64 West back to Highlands.
If you were to take the left fork, Whiteside Cove Rd instead of Bull Pen you will follow the granite face mountain range over to Cashiers. A magnificent view of Whiteside Mountain can be found in the Cove. Located on the right is Grimshaws, the world’s smallest post office.
Although no longer in operation, the tiny building has managed to hang on to its considerable charm. Whiteside Cove Road will bring you out to NC 107, south of Cashiers. Turning left onto 107 will take you into Cashiers. At the traffic light, turn left once again onto US 64 West. This will bring you back to Highlands by the Whiteside Mountain Overlook.
From Highlands this scenic drive boasts some of the most spectacular vistas in the U.S. The road, U.S. 64, passes by the entrances to some of the areas most exclusive country clubs. Entrance to Whiteside Mountain hiking trail is past Wild Cat Cliffs Entrance on Whiteside Mountain Road. Look for the sign that says “Wildlife Viewing Area”. Directly after you pass this road be prepared to stop to view the breathtaking panorama from the overlook. Beyond the overlook you will enter Jackson County. The entrance to Highlands Cove Golf Club is on the left. Beyond that you will find the entrance to Norton Community. Turn left into Norton Community and stay on the main road about five miles to the first stop sign, turn right and you will be at Trillium Links. Further on you will see Lake Glenville and you will be minutes from Cashiers.
Cullasaja Gorge Road
This not-to-be-missed drive begins on Main Street in Highlands (US 64) headed west toward Franklin. On your left you will pass tranquil Lake Sequoyah and the gentle cascade of water over the crest of Lake Sequoyah Dam. Further
down the road, you’ll be able to see Bridle Veil Falls on your right. The gentle cascade is reminiscent of a delicate veil of the finest white lace, but there is another romantic notion that gives Bridal Veil its name. According to Cherokee legend, young women passing behind the waterfall in the spring would be married by the first snowfall.
As you continue, look for the Dry Falls parking lot on your left. Despite the name this 80 ft. waterfall is a visual and auditory stunner. You can walk behind Dry Falls, but there’s a good possibility that you will not stay dry. The mist of the falls supports a community of rare plants along the sides of the falls. A study found that this spray zone is responsible for a 40-degree temperature difference between the open air and the area directly around the falls. This differential is essential to the survival of this delicate ecosystem. Visitors are to remain on the path to protect this fragile garden.
Beyond Dry Falls, US 64 gets very curvy. So drive with caution as sightseers may be on your side of the road.
A little over a mile beyond Dry Falls on the right is a large unpaved parking area flanked by sheer granite cliffs. Park here and cross the road to find Bust Your Butt Falls. If it’s a sunny day, you’re almost certain to find folks clambering on the rocks and splashing in the pool at the base of the falls. It’s an irresistible sight, and you may find yourself joining in.
The granite cliffs fronting the parking area are ideal for rappellers and it’s not uncommon to see them bounding down the rock face on a sunny day.
Just beyond Bust Your Butt is Goldmine Road, where pioneers once panned for gold nuggets. These day, it still possible to find a few flakes of gold in the stream, but the communities main attraction are its apple orchards. The yellow and red apples harvested here are the quintessential taste of fall in the mountains.
On the right side of the road you will see the entrance to Cliffside National Park. A wonderful mile plus walk around the scenic lake is a refreshing and invigorating way to experience nature. The walk is child and dog friendly. There is a sand beach, picnic tables and hiking trails in the park.
Five-and-a half miles beyond Dry Falls is Cullasaja Falls on your left. You will not be able to see this waterfall as you’re heading toward Franklin. Your best bet is to drive beyond the pull-off area, find a safe spot to turn around, and head back. Be careful-this is by far the most dangerous stretch of highway, bound on one side by rock cliffs and sheer drop-offs on the other. If you park and walk to the cliff areas that offer the best views be alert to the cars whizzing by inches from you. You’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of this 250ft waterfall that seems to go on forever with its cascades interrupted by a series of terraces. It’s an unforgettable sight.