Dry Falls: Waterfall hiking near Highlands, NC
Hike a short, kid-friendly, quarter-mile trail to Dry Falls, a gorgeous walk-behind waterfall on the Cullasaja River near Highlands. It's one of North Carolina's most beautiful and easy-access waterfalls.
Distance aside, this waterfall is exceptionally beautiful, all the same. Dry Falls is a towering, 65’ waterfall that plunges from an overhanging rock outcrop, creating beautiful white flowing water tendrils that dive into a rocky river bed below.
There’s a viewing platform at the trailhead that’s wheelchair and stroller accessible, offering great views of the falls. There’s also a short, relatively easy paved trail that arcs down to the falls and dives behind the tumbling waterfall, exploring a small cave and catching some breezy mist from the falls. It’s a fun, kid-friendly hike – and on hot summer days, you’ll likely catch some cool spray to help tame the summertime heat.
Dry Falls is one in a series of falls on the Cullasaja River in the Nantahala National Forest. It’s an easy-access waterfall located just off US Highway 64 between Franklin and Highlands, North Carolina. The drive to the waterfall is a scenic one, twisting and arcing through the Cullasaja Gorge. And while it’s not long, the hike is definitely worthwhile, with a trek through a scenic, rocky forest, plentiful views of a spectacular waterfall, and the awesome experience of hiking behind Dry Falls.
Dry Falls near Highlands, NC: the hike
The hike departs the signed trailhead at the Dry Falls parking area just off US 64 north of Highlands (view maps and driving directions). The paved trail descends stairs, dropping elevation towards the waterfall and trailing to the north. A tall, chiseled rock outcrop covered in vibrant green moss and gray, crusty lichen borders the right side of the trail.
The hike makes a sharp turn, veering south and following the Cullasaja River upstream. The Dry Falls waterfall is in full view, dead ahead: the river dives over an extended rock outcrop in multiple streams of wispy white. The trail arcs behind the falls, catching spray from the waterfall (and likely a few drips) – and a unique view from a shallow cave behind the waterfall.
The trail arcs to the river’s western bank, reaching the trail’s end. It’s a great place to take in the waterfall’s beauty, or enjoy a quick snack, before doubling back to the trailhead.
The hike returns to the trailhead, making another walk behind the waterfall and a short but steady climb. The trail reaches the parking area at just under .25 miles, completing the quick – but definitely rewarding – hike to Dry Falls.
Note: slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Please don’t climb, stand on, swim near, or jump from any waterfall.
More waterfall hiking adventures near Highlands and Cashiers
In the area, and up for some more waterfall chasing? Hike to the gorgeous cascades at Upper Whitewater Falls, a multi-drop waterfall that tumbles more than 400 feet from a rocky, towering cliff. And don’t miss the ultra-popular 4-mile hike to Rainbow Falls, a stunning single-drop waterfall surrounded by rolling fields of wildflowers at Gorges State Park. And check out the full list of our favorite Highlands and Cashiers hiking trails for even more adventures.