The area around Franklin North Carolina & Highlands, North Carolina is rich in an abundance of scenic beauty. Located in Macon County and surrounded by mountains, rivers and waterfalls this area has a special appeal to anyone who loves the great outdoors. Macon County is also renowned for its numerous gem mines, whitewater rafting, fly fishing and trout fishing.
The Nantahala Forest and river are two of the major attractions. From its headwaters near Franklin the Nantahala River flows northeast through the Nantahala Gorge (Nantahala is a Cherokee word meaning “Land of the Noon Day Sun). The gorge famous for its world-class whitewater is home to The Nantahala Outdoor Center along with numerous whitewater outfitters.
Gem mining is another favorite activity in the area. Just north of Franklin North Carolina is Cowee Valley, home to almost a dozen public gem mines. You can find rubies and sapphires native to this area. Difficulty levels of the mining are varied, you can buy buckets of dirt the mines fill for you or take a shovel and pail and go dig your own. While some mines “salt” or enrich the soil with foreign stones we prefer the mines that specialize in providing only local material. There are several area lapidaries that will cut and polish your treasures for you. It is not uncommon to find stones weighing several carats.
Waterfalls abound in this area. The Mountain Waters Scenic Byway passes through Macon County on its way to Brevard, NC. There are hundreds if not thousands of falls on the countless creeks and rivers. The most popular area is undoubtedly the Cullasaja Gorge. Running for several miles between Franklin North Carolina and Highlands North Carolina the gorge is easily accessible from your car as you follow the river upstream.
Several waterfalls are seen right out your vehicle’s window. Some of the more popular ones you can visit are Dry Falls, Cullasaja Falls, Bust Your Butt Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. The largest at over 200 feet, is Cullasaja Falls. A small parking area allows you to view this magnificent sight. A mile or so away is Bust Your Butt Falls a popular swimming hole in the summer.
As you continue up the gorge you soon come to Dry Falls. One of the most photographed falls in North Carolina. It is called Dry falls because a short trail from the parking area takes you behind the falls without you getting wet. This may be somewhat of a misnomer in high water however as the spray behind the falls can soak you in short order. Almost anyone can take this paved trail down and behind this majestic spot. The roar of the water as it pours out of the chasm and over your head is something that must be experienced. Wintertime and cold temperatures brings this place to an icy wonderland.
Your next stop is Bridal Veil Falls. Pouring from a tributary to the river this fall cascades right over a spur to the highway. One of the only falls that we know of you can drive right under. It dries up a lot in the summer so this particular spot is best viewed after a good rain. Shortly after passing this spot you enter the quaint mountain town of Highlands. Home to several upscale hotels and spas this area has been a tourist destination for over 100 years. Hope you have enjoyed our brief tour of the mountains and come visit soon.
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This article was written and submitted by The Wayward Traveler
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