Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2018 - 39
The Blue Ridge may look like a mild-mannered mountain range, smoothed and
rounded over the years into gentle
peaks, rolling farmland and forest.
But no! Hidden beneath-and in
some cases far above-the mild peaks
and sloping land there's a world of
wonder that shows just how alive the
earth really is.
From the craggy 5,945-foot pinnacle of Grandfather Mountain to
the cavernous depths of underground
Ruby Falls, from Virginia to Georgia,
these jewels of the landscape have
been carved into fantastic shapes by
water and wind, earthquake and volcano. And by humans too.
Gradually, over eons, these old
mountains we know so well rose from
an ancient seabed and have been worn
down to just the right size for exploration, fun, and geologic discovery.
Luckily for us, the entire Blue Ridge
region is a gorgeous patchwork quilt
of public and private lands lovingly
tended by many hands. National parks
and forest preserves, state and local
parks, plus private attractions and a
few public-private partnerships give us
an endless array of destinations.
Come join us in visiting 50 of our
favorites. You may be able to add to
Cullasaja Gorge Scenic Byway,
Dry Falls, between Franklin and
So much water, so little room. The
Cullasaja River pounds through a narrow gorge where two-lane U.S. 64 also
threads its way along the rocks. Be sure
to view this series of major cascades beginning at Franklin and heading south
toward Highlands; northbound vistas
are limited. Dry Falls makes an unforgettable stop, where a footpath leads to
a large chamber just behind the falls.
Dry Falls has newly expanded parking.
Grandfather Mountain State
North Carolina's state park system
now maintains 12 miles of rugged
back-country trails over nearly 2,500
acres of the most amazing peaks in the
East, while the Grandfather Mountain
Stewardship Foundation operates the
iconic mile-high suspension bridge
that spans a windswept chasm. The
foundation's naturalist programs are
superb, and the facilities remain open
year-round. Online trail reservations
are suggested for busy times.
877-722-6762 (state park back
country camping reservations)
828-733-4337(Grandfather Mountain attraction entrance gate)
Hot Springs Resort and Spa,
Taking various forms over centuries-Indian stopping place, Gilded
Age hideaway, rustic spa-the mineral
hot springs bubbling from deep underground provide timeless relaxation.
Today the funky resort consists of private hot tubs in woodland shelters. The
geological bones of the French Broad
River lie close to the surface here and
are best viewed from the hiking trail to
Lovers' Leap. Add a side trip to ancient
petroglyphs at Paint Rock nearby.
Whiteside Mountain National
Recreation Trail, Highlands
Thrill to the clifftop views from this
sheer wall of rock at the boundary between North Carolina and South Carolina. An easy footpath leads from the
trailhead near Highlands to the very
edge of the Blue Ridge escarpment.
January/February 2018 39