Cullasaja Falls & Trail

Categories: Hiking & Backpacking, Waterfalls, Hikes to waterfalls, Senior Friendly Waterfalls, Adventure Waterfalls


  •  One of the area's most popular falls 
  •  Cascade and Falls combine for a height of 250 feet 
  •  Roadside view of falls and gorge below 
  •  Suitable for all ages (Roadside)
  •  Narrow Parking pull-off on busy highway 
  •  Hiking trail to gorge floor (steep & more like a scramble than hike) not recommended for senior citizens or children


The Local Scoop

Cullasaja Falls are some of the more beautiful falls in our area and some of the easiest to see. The easiest access would be traveling to Highlands from Franklin. This puts you in a better position to access the very narrow pull-off parking area (only room for about 2-3 medium-sized cars). However, if you are coming from Highlands, it would be better for you to go past the gorge and turn around at the first Right at "Highland's Gate" private community and come back up the gorge to access the Right hand side parking area. Otherwise you would have to dart across a very busy hwy in a blind curve.
If you are physically fit, in good health and want a different perspective/view of the falls, then take the VERY steep trail down to the gorge floor. To access the trail, go to the lower end of the parking area and look over the guard rail to pick up the trail. Again, this trail is very steep and you'll need to make sure you have on proper apparel to attempt it. Use your best judgement here. Our recommendation would be to make sure the water level isn't too high before going to the bottom, because if it's too high your exploration options will be limited once you get down to the river and gorge floor, making your effort wasted. The way to check the water level is to view the falls from the roadside, and if you can see "breaks" in the flow over the bottom half of the falls, then you're OK. If the flow over the falls is one solid wall of water, then the water is too high.  You'll want to avoid the upper scramble trail, this one will be covered with vegetation in the summer months (poison ivy, etc.).  I have not attempted the upper trail, but have successfully made it down the lower trail to the gorge floor.  You'll have an awesome view back up at the falls and rock cliffs above.  We strongly recommend taking a hiking buddy along with you or at least let someone know where you are and when you'll be back.

The Local Directions

From the intersection of U.S. Hwy-64 East and U.S. Hwy-23/441 North in Franklin take Hwy-64 East towards Highlands, NC for approx.. 8 miles until you see signs for the Cullasaja Gorge. The road will narrow and on one the Left side will be a rock wall and on the Right will be the gorge below. Continue for another 0.3 of a mile to a narrow pull-off on the Right hand side. This is the viewing area of the falls. To get to the bottom, follow the guard rail downhill to where the parking pull-out ends and meets the white line of the highway. Here, look over the rail and you should see a predominant but steep trail. If coming from Highlands, take U.S. 64 West from red light @ intersection of U.S. 64/N.C. 28 in Highlands for 8.8 miles and the falls on your Left.

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Difficulty Levels

  • Hike11What's this?
  • Waterfalls8What's this?
35.116398, -83.269524
Hike Distance
Roadside view or
Strenuous 0.2 mi. scramble trail
Difficult via small roadside pull-off along US Hwy-64/28
Nearest City
Macon County
Distance From
Franklin, 8 miles 
Highlands, 8.8 miles