Whether hiking down a lonely trail or driving through a wooded corridor, the autumn color is astounding. The colors are now cascading over the hills and gathering in the valleys. This time of year is truly the “high water mark” of beauty in the Southern Appalachians, a mark that will drop over the next two to three weeks. As you come to enjoy both the water and the leaves, we have a few driving suggestions to make – drives that we consider “a level above” in experience. These drives link together our most popular fall foliage locations, the Chattooga and the Nantahala.
From our Chattooga location in Long Creek, South Carolina, take Hwy 28 N in Mountain Rest to Hwy 107. Highway 107 has multiple overlooks that look to the right upon the South Carolina foothills. These overlooks show the true beauty of the Mountain Lakes region of South Carolina. (If you would like to shorten the drive, stay on Hwy 28 N to Highlands instead of taking a right on Hwy 107; this road follows several old farming valleys on its way to Highlands).
In Cashiers, North Carolina, make a left on Hwy. 64 towards Highlands, NC. On this stretch of Highway, the views to the left show the spectacular Whiteside Mountain, the headwaters of the Chattooga River.
Follow Hwy 64/28 N along the Cullasaja River Gorge towards Franklin, NC. This stretch of road includes three beautiful waterfalls, Bridal Veil Falls, Dry Falls, and Cullasaja Falls. Definitely make sure to glance over your shoulder as the mountain drops away on the left; otherwise, it is possible to miss the most spectacular of these waterfalls, Cullasaja Falls. The only overlook to view this waterfall is on the other side of the road. To get to the overlook, you must continue along the road and turn around at the next convenient spot.
In Franklin, follow Hwy 28 N as it winds along the Little Tennessee River valley. Eventually, after crossing the Little Tennessee River on Hwy 28, take Tellico Road to the left. This road will cross over the Little Tennessee and wind up the mountain to the top of Tellico Gap – at this point the road has turned into a gravel road maintained by the Forest Service. Follow Tellico Road down the other side of Tellico Gap and take a right on Wayah Road. From there, take a right on Hwy 74 to go to Wildwater Nantahala and Bryson City, NC by way of the Nantahala River.
If venturing all the way over Tellico Gap seems like too much, take a right onto Needmore Road off of Tellico Road. This gravel road winds along the Little Tennessee River and eventually intersects with Hwy 74 outside of Bryson City, NC. Take a left to arrive at Wildwater Nantahala or take a right to go into Bryson City, a beautiful mountain town in which to have lunch or even stay the night!