Take a backroads trip to see waterfalls in North Carolina!
As we had lunch at one of the many outdoor restaurants in Asheville, North Carolina, we were surrounded by lush green mountains and cool summer breezes. Asheville is so hard to leave! But we had agreed to head further west and south to see some of North Carolina’s many waterfalls.
We set off to drive Highway 64 in western North Carolina to find out why it is sometimes called the Waterfalls Byway. Highway 64 covers 604 miles from the Tennessee state line to the Outer Banks. This route has been used since the Model T era and snakes through the North Carolina mountains. Travelers pass waterfalls, drive through gorges and mountain towns you will not forget.
We traveled the 150-mile stretch of Highway 64 near Asheville, North Carolina. This winding 2-lane backroad is now one of our favorites in America!
This route took us a couple of days to drive since we stopped in several charming towns and took hundreds of photos. If you don’t make any stops, the route could be traveled in a few hours.
WATERFALLS: (a short list)
We recommend the following waterfalls on or near Highway 64:
See a listing of 60 waterfalls and descriptions of the hikes to reach them at: www.romanticasheville.com. See “Waterfalls Near Asheville: 60 Favorites.“
TOWNS ALONG THE ROUTE
The towns along the route are picturesque and memorable! We suggest planning stops in many of the towns along the way including:
Mining for rubies and sapphires began in Macon County in 1870. Franklin is called the “Gem Capital of the World.” Stop at one of the many gem mining sites and mine for rubies and sapphires (I found some!) Most mines will sell gem dirt in a bucket or bag (some allow digging).
Use the screen you will be provided to wash your dirt to see if gems are left behind. The rushing water of the flume will cool you off and is great fun. Bring a picnic lunch. Franklin is also home to the Scottish Tartans Museum, the Gem and Mineral Museum and shops, galleries and restaurants.
Highlands is one of the highest towns east of the Mississippi, with an elevation of 4,1118 feet. This is an upscale town with galleries, and restaurants. See multi-million dollar homes and small lake cottages. It is charming!
Highlands is surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest and has countless hiking trails. You can walk behind Dry Falls, drive under Bridal Veil Falls or visit Whitewater Falls-the tallest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains at 411 feet.
Brevard hosts an annual Brevard Music Center Summer Festival and has restaurants and shops you will love. Brevard is in Transylvania County which is known as the “land of waterfalls.” Look closely in Brevard and you will see white squirrels! Don’t miss Rocky’s Grill and Soda Shop (50 South Broad Street) and have an old-fashioned soda or milkshake at the 1941 lunch counter!
Brevard is located among the Pisgah National Forest, DuPont State Forest and Gorges State Park. It is a perfect “home base” for outdoor activities and visiting waterfalls.
This town is larger than Brevard and is home to the NC Apple Festival each year. There are gourmet restaurants and shops galore. Hendersonville is surrounded by the DuPont Recreational Forest where there are stunning waterfalls.
Visit Hendersonville’s apple orchards, vineyards and the Pisgah Forest Gem Mine and Gift Shop.
Rutherfordton was founded in 1787 and is one of the oldest towns in western North Carolina. Located just 16 miles from Lake Lure, Rutherfordton has antebellum homes that line the historic Main Street downtown. The Bechtler House was a private mint that produced $2 million in gold coins in the early 1800s and the first gold coin in America.
We learned there are hundreds of waterfalls and dozens of waterfall drives to thrill you in western North Carolina!
Do not miss one of America’s most beautiful road trips on Highway 64 in North Carolina!