We visited three exceptional waterfalls while we were in the Franklin/Highlands vicinity. Two of them were in the Standing Indian Basin and are located near roads and are very easy to hike to. The other one was closer to Highlands and is adjacent to Highway 64. Many thousands of people see it every year, but few are able to get down to the bottom of the gorge to see this feature up close.
It takes more than just high country to produce good waterfalls. You also have to have a good water table with plentiful rainfall, and erosion-resistant rock which forces the water to flow over the stone instead of carving through it where it is far less likely to produce impressive waterfall features. The Franklin/Highlands area is packed with tough granite that resists such erosion, and the entire vicinity went through a relatively recent mountain-building period during which said rock was uplifted about three thousand feet, creating the conditions for the wealth of waterfalls one finds there.
|Cullasaja Falls from the bottom of the gorge.|
|Cullasaja Falls from above, which is how most people see it from NC 64.|
|Big Laurel Falls.|
|Hanging from a tree to get the self-portrait.|
|Mooney Falls. Very easy to access from the Forest Service Road near the Standing Indian Campground. Just a short (but steep) hike of about 1/10 of a mile.|
|Upper section of Mooney Falls.|