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The Cullasaja River tumbles thru the sometimes narrow passages and tough granite rock of the gorge providing some interesting driving ("Watch the road, hon, I'll tell you how beautiful it is.") and real mountain flavor. There are views of at least 3 waterfalls, places galore to marvel at nature from behind your windshield and even step out and play.


I recommend driving up route 28/64 from Franklin towards Highlands because you really feel like you're picking your way into this beautiful gorge. Besides, the majority of the pull-offs are on the right if you go this route, and Highlands is a wonderful destination. For information on camping and other non-drive activities, try the Macon County homepage, also on MAIN.


From Franklin, the drive starts out leisurely and pastoral, past farms and grazing land. Soon enough though, it begins to wind up.

First is Cullasaja Falls, which doesn't have an official overlook or pulloff, though many try. There's room for about 3 cars, if that, and Cullasaja Falls is worth the strain and stumble of a short steep hike down, if you're in physical shape. If parking on a precipice, twisting your ankle and worrying about how you're gonna get back up isn't in your future, drive on to the next falls which has an asphalt walkway and is just as beautiful.

Dry Falls

Next is Dry Falls. There is a pull-off and official parking lot on your right. Have your kid put a dollar in the donation box and gain an appreciation of helping to keep parks like this maintained. Walk down the asphalt pathway with native stone railing beside seeping rock painted with mosses and ferns. It does have a few steps, so it's not completely handicapped-accessible. Once you turn the switchback, you'll see that Dry Falls is anything but dry. A thunderous amount of water shoots over a ledge and... what's this? You get to stroll under the falls itself! Unless it's unseasonably dry, you will get misted. The other side is another of many great places to take a photo of the family in front of the falls. Remember to use your flash for fill, otherwise you'll have to guess Uncle Phill's silhouette from his cowlick.

After winding a bit more next to the Cullasaja river, you'll see Jackson Hole Mine. Chuck and Jane own this beautiful shop and have become great friends of mine. You can mine for minerals in a heated/cooled area, peruse the beautiful gems and jewelry work that Chuck does, or just enjoy a cup of refreshing local apple-raspberry juice. If this sounds like a shameless plug, it is. I have spent many hours digging thru my finds of topaz, garnet, emerald, amethyst, tourmaline, rubies, aventurine, smokey quartz... practically everything but diamonds and gold. And its all local! Half the fun is learning how to tell a ruby from just a rock. They, or their beautiful daughter Holly, will check on you regularly to make sure you aren't missing something. I'll confess to have kept some rocks just because they call out to me, but i have over 30 lbs. of really decent rock. Some i've had cut, and it's gah-jeous, dahlinks! (The Jackson Hole Mine, 9770 Highlands Road, Highlands, NC 29741. (828) 524-5850)

Bridal Falls... Look closely and you can see Ed walking behind them.

Farther up the hill is Bridal Falls. While not an immense amount of water tumbles down, it falls quite a distance and.. get this... you not only can get behind the falls, but you don't get out of your car to do it! Yup. Free car wash.


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