Sunday, February 24, 2013

After a trip through the Cullasaja River Gorge, our next stop was the Glen Falls scenic area just off highway 64 in Highlands. Glen Falls cascades down over 200ft in three separate drops. The trail begins at the top of the mountain and descends along the falls with a well maintained trail including wooden steps. There are several areas that you can access the falls and go out onto viewing decks for closer inspection, many people can't resist the urge to get even closer as evident in the worn path around the railings. Several people have been seriously injured falling in the water and being swept over the falls here, so watch your step if you want that really good picture across the creek!
Glen Falls
Upper drop of Glen Falls 70ft
middle drop of Glen Falls 90ft
Kip next to the middle drop gives an idea of the size of the falls
 Secret Falls made the list at the last minute and turned out to be the highlight of the day for me. The trail head is on the opposite side of town from where we were and just off Walking Stick Road. Main street in Highlands turns into Horse Cove Road just outside of town and begins a wicked descent along a sheer rock cliff, I enjoyed the road and was jealous of all the people who had houses with such incredible views. Walking Stick Rd was gravel and in really rough shape, but featured several half a million dollar homes including one built just above Walking Stick Falls. The road descends gradually and eventually fords a creek just before the road forks and you arrive at the trail head. We followed a gated forest road before taking the Big Shoals Trail off to our left. The trail winds across a ridge line with no sound or sight of water, we joked as to why the falls got it's name. Eventually the trails winds around the ridge and descends to a small branch. The water was low so I thought we were in for disappointment, in a few yard we crossed yet another stream this one with a larger flow and huge log bridge crossing it. The trail climbs away from the creeks before taking a sharp downhill turn and the sound of roaring water in the distance could be heard. As we closed in on the falls I was surprised at how loud it was! I rushed ahead of Kip and Steve and was the first to see Secret Falls, it's absolutely wonderful. Located in a small cove with a sandy beach along the creek,  a deep green pool below the main drop, and a four foot creek wide drop just downstream, I was in love with this waterfall. My excitement almost got the better of me as I got tangled in some laurel and almost baptized myself head first in the stream.
Secret Falls 50ft
Downstream from Secret Falls
above the water shelf looking downstream
As daylight faded, we had time for one last stop and maybe we saved the best for last. Whitewater falls is located in Jackson County just across the Transylvania County line is one of the most visited waterfalls in North Carolina, and with good reason, it towers over most other waterfalls at 411ft. I have been several times to Whitewater and I never get tired of going back. The falls is located across a massive gorge but can be easily viewed from the platform the park service has constructed along the gorge wall. One day I will hike to the base and visit the equally impressive Laurel Falls at over 400 ft high! Steve moaned and groaned at the over 100 steps that took us to the viewing platform but it was worth the pain once he got there. As dusk was settling in, the falls were lit perfectly for photos and I took advantage, Enjoy the pictures and until next time...happy trails!
Whitewater Falls
Lake Jocasse in the distance
riding around Whiteside Mountain
frozen double waterfalls on Whiteside Mountain

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