Mountains, waterfalls, and serene views were calling our names for 4th of July this year. You may recall that we had an annual 4th of July mountain trip tradition going for a while (2010 2011 2012 2013), but we have done other things like pheasant hunting and river rafting the last few years.
We got up early Saturday morning, hit D Square donuts on our way out of town for a little sugar, and then got on the road.
Our first planned stop was Tallulah Gorge, but we saw signs for great views at the Tallulah Point Overlook, which is basically a tourist trap. They point you to the great views which are conveniently on a patio area that you get to by walking through their store. Honestly, the view isn’t that great…nothing different than many views you see as your driving.
We didn’t stay long at the overlook because we were anxious to see the gorge up close and personal. Since it was the Saturday before 4th of July the main parking lot for Tallulah Gorge was full, so we got directed to the overflow parking. The hike down to the gorge is not for the faint of heart. There are many warning signs at the beginning to make you aware that once you get down there, you will have make it back UP all those stairs. If you ever plan to go to Tallulah Gorge, bring water! You will need it regardless of how great of shape you are in.
Next stop was Goats on the Roof, which is tourist trap you’ll come across on US-441 near Tiger, GA. This at least a clever way to get people to stop and shop by having cute goats that meander in a gated area. You can buy goat food and feed them through the fence or use the bicycle to move food up to the goats that are patiently waiting on the roof.
After leaving the goats, we stopped at Chick-fil-A and then were bound for our humble abode for the next few days. A friend of ours was gracious enough to let us stay at her cottage in Highland, NC. It is lovely little cottage in a quiet neighborhood with a decent size pond in the back.
After dropping our stuff off and then going to Ingles for groceries, Rob stuck with tradition and made Jambalaya Quiche. The kids took that time to get out on the canoe.
After dinner the boys went over to the tennis courts in the neighborhood where we were staying to play tennis and badminton. On the way back they saw a bear crossing the road. They were so excited that the ran in and got us. This was the only evidence we saw that there was a bear…Bear prints
Since we were dying to see some waterfalls, we got up early and hit the road. Bridal Veil Falls was first up, which are falls that you can drive under. However, every time we drove by they had it blocked, I think to allow people to walk underneath instead. This is typically not a large water fall, so this is a great one to start with. It’s located on US Highway 64 about 2.5 miles west of Highlands in the Cullasaja River Gorge.
Next stop was Dry Falls, which has a substantial amount of water. Take a short hike down to the falls from the parking lot. Dry Falls has a walk way underneath that will cool you off with the cool mist that blows up as the water falls in front of you.
Next was Quarry Falls, aka Bust Your Butt Falls. There is not a parking lot for this one, just a pull off on the side of the road.
Rob and I have always wanted to go to Lake Junaluska and since we weren’t too far from it we decided to check it out. Beautiful lake and grounds. It was Sunday so none of the museums were open which was a bummer. We were able to go inside the chapel and the visitor center.
We stopped in the cute little town of Waynesville, NC and walked around. We enjoyed looking at the vintage items at Antique Antics. As we were driving around we saw these turkeys, which I initially didn’t see so we turned around so I could see and take pictures of them.
Jack the Dipper was a place that Alex had been to a couple weeks before when he was in that area rafting and ziplining during Boy Scout summer camp. When he told us about the homemade waffle cones that they serve warm, we knew we needed to stop there.
That evening we decided to eat out before going to see fireworks that being shot off not too far from where we were staying at Lake Glenville. We ended up eating at Whiteside Brewing Company, which was not crowded and it’s a walk up and order type restaurant. The food was alright, nothing to write home about.
Monday morning we slept in a bit and tried to go to Panthertown Valley Trail. However, the GPS took us on a goose chase and we bailed on that idea and went to Gorges State Park instead. Once we checked out the hiking maps there, we realized that this area has a few short trails, but is really better for suited long, more strenuous hikes. We hiked the Upper Bearwallow Falls Trail.
For lunch we decided to go to the picnic area at Whitewater Falls. When we’re on these trips, we always pack a cooler with drinks and sandwich stuff for this exact reason. We don’t to have to stop the fun to go and eat somewhere. After we ate we took a hike down to the falls.
Then we drove to a bathroom so the kids could put their swimsuits on for some adventures at Sliding Rock at Cashiers.
They slid around for about an hour and then we went back to the cottage so they could change into dry clothes. Since were staying in Highlands, we knew we wanted to check out the downtown area. We got a scoop of ice cream at Kilwins. They make their cones fresh, but they are allowed to harden before serving. Not nearly as good as Jack the Dipper.
The next day we had to get up fairly early and make our way to Bryson City to the train depot since we had reservations to board the Great Smoky Mountain train.
We had a one way ticket on the open air car, Wildwater. This allowed for nice cross breeze and better photographs.
The tickets we had were for the one-way train ride that takes you past the Nantahala Outdoor Center stops and then you go back the way you came until you get back to the NOC where everyone gets off. We got off and met with our a guide who brought us over to the picnic tables so we could eat. We had filled out our menu choices before getting on the train. We had tacos with beans and rice, which was pretty good. Then we changed into our swimsuits for our rafting trips. They go through the safety briefing, take you by bus to the entrance point, and off we went. Our guide was Kim and she was super nice and she kept us safe which is the main thing.
We always enjoy our time in the mountains and this trip did not disappoint. Can’t wait to get back!