Cliffside Lake Recreation Area

Categories: Play, Picnic Areas, Hiking & Backpacking, Kid-Friendly, Fishing, Picnic Areas, Hikes to waterfalls, Dog Friendly Hiking Trails, Outdoor Fun, Parks & Recreation Areas, Fishing for Hatchery Supported Trout, Swimming Holes, Kid Friendly Spots, Easy Access/Roadside Picnics, Our Favorites

Highlights

  •  Cliffside Lake - a fantastic 'kid-friendly' recreation area near Highlands & Franklin, NC
  •  Beach area with swimming dock 
  •  Cliffside loop trail (flat, easy) 
  •  2 parking lots w/ a $4 "daily use fee", bathhouse w/showers, restrooms and changing rooms 
  •  Lake offers trout fishing & is stocked with Brook, Brown & Rainbow Trout (NC license required) 
  •  Covered Pavilion w/ 4 large tables (reservation recommended in the Summer months
  •  Numerous Picnic tables & BBQ pit 
  •  Connecting hiking trail from Cliffside's pavilion to beach area/restrooms 
  •  Multiple fishing spots  located along the shore and accessed by the Cliffside Loop Trail 
  •  Nearby "Vanhook Glade Campground" via hiking trail
  •  Multiple nearby hiking trails including "Ranger Falls Trail

The Local Scoop

Cliffside Lake near Highlands, NC is a great place to take your family for a day full of swimming, hiking trails, trout fishing and nearby waterfalls and camping. Kids can run around and play in the water or the woods. The area is great for kids learning how to fish due to the ample room around Cliffside Lake for you to spread out. The swimming area is roped off by netting and has plenty of wading room. Note:  We should mention that floatation devices are prohibited here.
The bathhouses are pretty old, but the showers were funcional when we were there last.  Even though they're older, we would still recommend using them if need be.  
Cliffside Lake is regularly stocked with Brook, Brown and Rainbow trout and your chances of catching your limit of 7 are pretty good. Come on the first Saturday in April for fishing "Opening Day" in the lake, but get there early to claim one of the best fishing spots! Fishing begins at sun rise.  
Cliffside Lake Trout Fishing Recommendation:
For opening day trout fishing, we recommend driving all the way into the picnic area which is found by bearing to the left past the parking area for swimming.  Go all the way back to were the drive dead-ends and loops. Park there.  You will notice a set of wooden stairs leading down to a trail.  This is the Cliffside Loop Trail which circles the entire lake and will eventually bring you around to the swimming area, just past the fishing pier next to the dam.  Along the way you will notice secluded little fishing spots or openings in the brush, down to your right on the lake's bank.  This is where I used to come fishing on opening day with my grandpa and brother.  I can remember dragging one fish in after the other.  We recommend this location due to the ease of use, family friendly atmosphere and it's convenient location off of US 64 between Highlands, NC and Franklin, NC.
Also, take advantage of the numerous outdoor activities along US 64 and part of the Cullasaja River Gorge.  A few nearby points of interest:  Cullasaja Falls & Trail, Bust Your Butt Falls, Cullasaja Gorge (Hwy 64) Picnic Areas #1Cullasaja Gorge (Hwy 64) Picnic Areas #2, Cullasaja River, Vanhook Glade CampgroundDry Falls, Bridal Veil Falls & Lake Sequoyah Dam Falls (Kalakaleskies)

The Local Directions

Directions to Cliffside Lake from Highlands, NC
If coming from Highlands, NC take U.S. Hwy-64 West/NC Hwy-28 North (Franklin Road) for 4.2 miles to the entrance on your RIGHT (w/Brown "Cliffside Recreation Area" National Forest sign on your left).  Follow this paved road for approx. 1 mile until you reach the gate (closed in wiinter months) and the pay station. There is a $4 fee to park and picnic/fish/swim/hike/etc. Take the first Right through the gate to access the first parking area for swimming, bathhouse and lake access. Continue on around the lake 1.5 miles (through the gate and straight/left) to additional parking for the main picnic area, nearby hiking trails and lake access. 

Directions to Cliffside Lake from Franklin, NC
From the intersection of U.S. Hwy 64 East and US 23/441 North in Franklin, NC take U.S. Hwy 64 East/NC Hwy-28 South towards Highlands, NC for approx. 12.3 miles. Cliffside Recreation Area's entrance will be on your LEFT, with the brown National Forest sign on the right. Follow this paved road for approx. 1 mile until you reach the gate (closed in wiinter months) and the pay station. There is a $4 fee to park and picnic/fish/swim/hike/etc. Take the first Right through the gate to access the first parking area for swimming, bathhouse and lake access. Continue on around the lake 1.5 miles (through the gate and straight/left) to additional parking for the main picnic area, nearby hiking trails and lake access.


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Difficulty Levels

  • Fishing1/3What's this?
  • Hike1-5 (multiple)What's this?
Coordinates
35.0815, -83.2368
Access
Easy via US Hwy-64/
NC Hwy-28 
County
Macon County
Hike Distance
Ranger Falls Trail, 2 miles (loop)
Nearest City
Highlands
Distance From
Vanhook Glade Campground, 0.1 mile
Dry Falls
, 1.1 miles
Highlands
, 4.2 miles 
Franklin, 12.6 miles