Western North Carolina is a land of waterfalls. Countless cascades punctuate the waterways braiding the vast expanses of forest and lofty Appalachian peaks dominating the western corner of the state, lending the landscape an undeniably enchanting quality. Some of the falls are accessible only after delving into wild pockets of backcountry, while others are just steps from the state’s tree-lined byways. With the abundance of waterfalls, narrowing down a short list is a formidable of challenge, but these are among the most stunning cascades adorning the western part of the state.

Whitewater Falls

The towering Whitewater Falls.
The towering Whitewater Falls.

Photo Courtesy of JCTDA

Located just outside the town of Cashiers, in the Nantahala National Forest, Whitewater Falls is one of the most awe-inspiring cascades in waterfall-laden western North Carolina—and it has the notable distinction of being the loftiest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. The mighty cascade announces itself in rushing roar audible from the trailhead for the half-mile path to the overlook for the 411-foot waterfall. A second, lower view platform, accessible after a descending a steep set of stairs, provides another perspective of the falls, highlighting the sheer scope of the towering flume.

Schoolhouse Falls

Schoolhouse Falls are accessible via a 1.4-mile hike.
Schoolhouse Falls are accessible via a 1.4-mile hike.

Nick Breedlove

Schoolhouse Falls is located in a stunningly wild corner of the Nantahala National Forest known as Panthertown Valley. Even though the hike is fairly brief, stumbling upon Schoolhouse Falls feels like a foray deep into the backcountry. The 25-foot waterfall spills in a broad flume, pouring into a tannin-tainted plunge pool turned swimming hole during spring and summer. The falls are accessible along the Panthertown Valley Trail via a 1.4-mile hike from either the Cold Mountain trailhead, on the eastern side of Panthertown Valley, or a 2.4-mile hike from the Salt Rock Gap trailhead, on the western edge. Be sure to be prepared for the rugged hiking in the area with a reliable map.

Silver Run Falls

Silver Run Falls is near the town of Cashiers.
Silver Run Falls is near the town of Cashiers.

Jared

South of the town of Cashiers, in the Nantahala National Forest, Silver Run Falls is a popular summer retreat. Compared to some of western North Carolina’s lofty cascades, the 25-foot drop of Silver Run Falls may sound uninspiring. But the broadly spread wall of water spills into an idyllic swimming hole that’s bordered by sizeable stepping stones, providing a unique access to view the falls. The trek to Silver Run is equally restorative—the falls are accessible courtesy of a quarter-mile trail beginning along North Carolina Highway 107.

Mingo Falls

Mingo Falls descends 120 feet in a narrow cascade.
Mingo Falls descends 120 feet in a narrow cascade.

Doug Kerr

Just outside the boundary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park within the confines of the Qualla Boundary (and not far from the town of Cherokee), Mingo Falls is a thin but lofty flume. The nearly 120-foot cascade consists of a series of slender strands of water, all of which funnel together just before tumbling into a pint-sized pool in Mingo Creek. The falls are accessible courtesy of a brief but stair-filled climb of about a half a mile to a footbridge at the base of the cascade, accessible from a trailhead located on Big Cove Road.

Glen Falls

A tiered trio of cascades, Glen Falls tumbles over a broad, rocky section of the east fork of aptly named Overflow Creek, which is located in the Nantahala National Forest just outside the town of Highlands. A scenic but strenuous round-trip hike of about 2 miles on the Glen Falls Trail leads to the collection of cascades, with views of Blue Valley early in the trip. The top tier of the falls, which tumbles nearly 70-feet, is visible from an observation area just half a mile down the trail, and the second significant portion of a falls, a wide, 60-foot flume, appears another quarter mile down the trail.

Rufus Morgan Falls

The 60-foot Rufus Morgan Falls is located just outside the town of Franklin.
    Alan Cressler
The 60-foot Rufus Morgan Falls is located just outside the town of Franklin.
Alan Cressler

Tucked away in a wooded cove in the Nantahala National Forest just a few miles outside the town of Franklin, Rufus Morgan Falls seems much farther removed from any traces of civilization. The 60-foot partially rhododendron-shrouded flume falls flatly over a craggy cliff face and seems to tumble almost unexpectedly out of the thickly grown forest. Despite the isolated feel, the falls are easily accessible after a leisurely, half-mile hike on the Rufus Morgan Trail.

Tom’s Branch, Indian Creek Falls, and Juney Whank Falls

These three waterfalls are In a southern corner of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, not far from the Deep Creek entrance. Tom’s Branch and Indian Creek Falls are easily linked on a brief out-and-back hike. Tom’s Branch, the loftier of two flumes, falls 60-feet, stair stepping a weathered rock face. It will emerge after only about a half a mile hike on the Deep Creek Trail, one of the first pathways in the national park constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s. Barely a quarter of a mile later, after the junction the Indian Creek Trail, the second cascade appears—the 25-foot Indian Creek Falls.

After taking in the first two falls, tack on a trip of Juney Whank Falls. The trailhead for the Juney Whank Trail is also located in the Deep Creek area of the park, adjacent to the starting point for the Deep Creek Trail. Juney Whank Falls, a slender shimmering ribboning falling for nearly 90-feet in two distinct sections, appears after just half a mile on the Juney Whank Falls Trail.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls is outside of Highlands, N.C.
Bridal Veil Falls is outside of Highlands, N.C.

William McKeehan

Just a couple miles outside Highlands, Bridal Veil Falls is one of the few waterfalls in western North Carolina visitors can drive to—and even behind. The cascade is accessible directly from U.S. Highway 64 along a stretch North Carolina’s 98-mile Waterfall Byway. Created by a drop in the Cullasaja River, the falls thin out while spilling over a prominent rock ledge, which juts out far enough people—and even vehicles—to perch behind the plunging flume and admire the tumbling water from underneath.

A note on safety: Heed posted warning signs indicating danger and stay on established trails. Never climb on or around waterfalls and never play in the water above a waterfall. Rocks can be slippery and it's easy to lose your balance especially with bare feet. Currents near waterfalls can be extremely swift even in areas further upstream.

Never jump off waterfalls or dive into plunge pools at the base of waterfalls. Rocks and logs can be hidden beneath the surface of the water. Often waterfall pools have swirling water or currents that can drag and keep you underwater. Even if you have seen other people enjoy playing around waterfalls, be aware they have been lucky to escape unharmed.

Waterfalls are constantly changing with varying water flows and erosion of the rocks around them. The current from one place to the next may be faster than you anticipate and the arrangement of rocks or other debris such as logs in the plunge pool is ever-changing.

Written by Malee Baker Oot for RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Alan Cressler

Conserving Carolina protected another 1,070 acres in 2018, bringing the total acreage that the land trust has helped protect to more than 45,000 acres. These protected lands are located in Henderson County, Polk County, Rutherford County, and Transylvania County, and in neighboring parts of adjoining counties in North and South Carolina.

The land trust has just released a new map of protected lands in this region. Lands that Conserving Carolina has helped protect include many of region’s most popular areas for recreation, such as DuPont State Recreational Forest, Chimney Rock State Park, Headwaters State Forest, parts of the Green River Game Lands, Bearwallow Mountain, a growing trail network in the Hickory Nut Gorge, and local greenways. In all, Conserving Carolina has helped protect 26 places that are currently open to the public, with more trails and recreation projects in the works.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conserving Carolina has also protected tens of thousands of acres of privately owned land through conservation easements, including working farms and forests, summer camps, and educational nature preserves.

“Conserving Carolina is excited about the important land and water resources we have been able to protect, both for the health of our natural resources and the well-being of our communities,” says executive director Kieran Roe.  “We feel that our conservation and community engagement programs are helping foster a love of the land in our region and bringing positive changes to people’s lives.

Where Land is Protected

Conserving Carolina was formed in 2017 by the merger of two local lands trusts—Pacolet Area Conservancy, founded in 1989, and Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, founded in 1994. Over this time, these local conservation efforts have helped to protect approximately:

  • 15,000 acres in Henderson County
  • 14,500 acres in Transylvania County
  • 10,000 acres in Polk County
  • 4,500 acres In Rutherford County
  • 1,000 acres in Buncombe County

These conservation successes were made possible through the joint efforts of many partners, including landowners who protected their property; Conserving Carolina members and donors; federal, state, and local governments; and other conservation nonprofits.

In addition to the 45,000+ acres that Conserving Carolina has helped to protect, tens of thousands more acres in this region have been protected as public lands or have been protected by other conservation nonprofits.

2018 Conservation Highlights

In 2018, Conserving Carolina protected 1,070 acres, including 5.5 miles of streams. The land trust also celebrated the opening of several protected places to the public. Highlights from last year include:

New Land for DuPont State ForestConserving Carolina recently added a 402-acre tract to DuPont State Recreational Forest, linking the forest with a corridor of public lands spanning over 100,000 acres. This tract creates the potential to eventually link trails in DuPont to the 77-mile Foothills Trail.

Headwaters State Forest: This new state forest opened to the public in September 2018, offering 6,730-acres full of beautiful waterfalls, pristine trout streams, and rare mountain bogs. It’s 50+ miles of crystal-clear streams flow into the French Broad River.

Little White Oak Mountain: In 2018, Conserving Carolina transferred 600 acres at Little White Oak Mountain—a cherished scenic landmark—to expand the Green River Gamelands and another 300 acres for a local park behind Polk County Middle School.

Weed Patch Mountain TrailSince opening in May 2018, this 8.6-mile trail through the Town of Lake Lure’s 1,527-acre Buffalo Creek Park has been a huge hit with hikers, mountain bikers, and rock climbers. In 2018, Conserving Carolina also protected another 442 acres adjoining the park.

New Greenways: Conserving Carolina secured funding to expand greenways in Brevard. It is also spearheading efforts to create the Mills River Valley Trail, which will create a safe route for walking and biking, connecting the heart of Mills River to the French Broad River.

Carolina Memorial Sanctuary: The first conservation burial ground in North Carolina was protected in 2018. This sanctuary in Mills River offers people a place to return their loved ones to the earth, in a forever-protected natural environment.

Mountain Bog in Flat Rock: Conserving Carolina purchased part of a mountain bog in Flat Rock, with the goal of adding it to the Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge. The land trust is now helping to protect this bog on three connected properties—a haven for unique plants and animals.

Conserving Carolina is a local land trust dedicated to protecting land and water, promoting good stewardship, and creating opportunities for people to enjoy nature. Learn more and become a member at conservingcarolina.org.

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Food tastes better in the outdoors… we’re pretty sure it’s science. But no matter how delicious your favorite freeze-dried meal is, or how much you swear by tortillas and peanut butter, trying something new never hurts.

It’s easy to enhance backcountry meals without much extra effort. Whether you’re car camping, out for a backcountry weekend, or in it for the long haul, here are a few ways to elevate your food game during your next trip.

1. Car Camping

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chow time

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The sky’s the limit regarding weight/packability when car camping. Get a good cooler, bring a spare fuel canister, and stash a few extra garbage bags to pack out waste.

Prep each meal as much as possible

Prepping meals at home helps eliminate food waste to pack out, keeps the campsite organized, and saves time you’re better off enjoying in the great outdoors. Prepping can include pre-scrambling eggs in a tupperware instead of packing the whole carton, slicing and portioning veggies, and throwing seasoning on your food while you have your whole spice rack in front of you.

Adding protein saves even the most boring meal

Add protein to everything, and cook it ahead of time if you can. Not only does pre-cooking save the ickiness of packing around raw chicken, but it lets you portion and plan better for meals. Adding packaged meat, like tuna or chicken packets, works wonders for generic carb-heavy dinners. Bacon bits on your wrap is a surprisingly delightful addition for lunchtime fuel, and those bacon bits fit in nicely with your morning scramble as well.

Make This: Pesto Pasta with Chicken

At Home:

Season and cook two chicken breasts, cut into chunks, and tuck into your cooler where it’ll stay chilled. Pack a box of pasta, one package sundried tomatoes, and one package dried mushrooms

At Camp:

Bring water to a boil, add pasta, sundried tomatoes, and mushrooms. Cook it. Stir in chicken and pesto. Eat the heck out of it.

2. Overnight / Weekend Trips

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setting up camp

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An overnight trip isn’t long enough to worry too much about food weight, but you still aren’t packing cans of refried beans. Trail recipes are fun to experiment with, and you can plan ahead and bring extra ingredients to have something to look forward to at camp.

Season the heck out of generic meals

Mixing up another Alfredo Pasta Side? Spice it up. Tic-tac boxes make terrific portable spice containers—bring a few staples (garlic powder, paprika, cumin) or create your own blends at home and pack your favorites. Adding a cajun or italian spice blend to couscous or pasta brings it up a few flavor notches while hardly adding any weight to your food bag. Packets of soy sauce, mini bottle of Tabasco, and even a travel-size salt/pepper shaker make a huge difference when you’re craving flavor.

Drink your breakfast

You need fuel for the morning miles, but sometimes the desire for another crumbling PopTart or gummy oatmeal packet isn’t there. Enter Carnation Instant Breakfast. Two packets shaken in a liter of water = quick and easy calories. Feeling fancy? Toss an instant coffee packet in the bottle as well. This is a dirtbag mocha and it tastes better than it sounds.

Make This: Overly Indulgent Breakfast Bag

At Home:

In a Ziplock: Mix one cup of your favorite granola with a handful of freeze-dried fruit, slivered almonds, and dried cranberries. Add ½ cup powdered milk (or protein powder for an extra boost) and zip ‘er up tight.

On Trail:

Wake up, take in the view, add enough water to rehydrate the milk, shake it up, and enjoy a surprisingly fancy breakfast-bowl-in-a-bag.

3. Long-Distance Hiking

This is all about the weight-to-calorie ratio. When you’re packing food for up to a week, or planning resupply boxes for a thru-hike, you want to keep your food weight down while your calories sufficient to fuel long miles with a heavy pack. We don’t differentiate as much between extended trips (1-2 weeks) and thru-hikes (3-6 months) because most hikers won’t be out much longer than a 7-9 days without resupplying.

Stoveless? Try cold-soaking couscous

Many long-distance hikers swear by their cold food. It saves the weight of a cookset and fuel, and the effort of washing dishes and gathering extra water. Couscous can be cold-soaked in a Ziplock bag (allow 30 minutes to fully soften) and devoured right on the spot.

Add olive oil… to everything

A thru-hiker can burn up to 10,000 calories a day, so sneaking calories without extra bulk is important to keep energy high and chewing effort low. Olive oil is a fast, easy, and relatively tasteless way to add extra calories to your meals. Choosing the higher-calorie items, like tuna packed in oil instead of water will also add similar calories without having to eat more.

Resupplying during your hike? Pack out heavy food and eat it the first day

In the battle between weight and calories, fresh foods come out on the losing end, which means you’ll be eating a lot of processed foods during an extended hike. But on resupply days, allow yourself to pack out the heavy things, and eat them on the first day. Thru-hikers often pack out fresh fruit, a pack of deli meat, and sometimes an entire pizza, then eat it during the first day back on trail.

Make This: Low-Cash Lo Mein

Dig a Ramen packet, a handful of beef jerky, and a soy sauce packet out of your dilapidated food bag.

Mix it. Cook it. Enjoy it. The whole thing weighs several ounces at most and is an easy way to make your sad instant noodles more palatable.

Written by RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Ry Glover