Nantahala National Forest: Upper Middle Creek Falls and Middle Creek Falls, Highlands, North Carolina
Highway 106 crosses Middle Creek just over a mile north of the Georgia State Line on its way to Highlands, but few people would guess that one of the area's most amazing waterfalls lies a half-mile downstream. First, Middle Creek goes over the 40-foot Upper Middle Creek Falls for a warm-up before plunging into a steep gorge as it drops off the escarpment. That's where Middle Creek Falls lies - a jaw-dropping high-volume waterfall that crashes 75 feet down a steeply slanted rock face with more falling water above and below. During wet periods, you're going to get drenched by the waterfall's spray without even getting close! Whereas the upper falls is very easy to reach, a confusing and faint path must be successfully navigated to reach Middle Creek Falls. This hike occurred on Saturday, November 18th, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back to Upper Middle Creek Falls and Middle Creek Falls.
Nantahala National Forest: Upper Chattooga River Slot Canyon via Chattooga River Trail from Bullpen Bridge, Highlands, North Carolina
The definition of the term slot canyon is "a narrow canyon formed by the wear of water rushing through rock". These unique canyons are fairly common in the Desert Southwest sector (such as in Utah or Arizona) of the United States. What if I told you that there is a slot canyon, or several, in southwest North Carolina? Are you baffled yet? It is actually the truth, as there are a few isolated and very rare slot canyons on some of the mountain rivers and creeks in southwest North Carolina and adjacent portions of extreme northeast Georgia. At the Upper Chattooga River Slot Canyon, the mighty river gets squeezed into an unusually deep and very picturesque alleyway that is no more than a few feet wide. Two small but photogenic waterfalls act as bonuses to this already excellent hike. There might still be more slot canyons out there in the Blue Ridge Mountains, waiting for their turns to be discovered and introduced to the public. This hike occurred on Saturday, February 25th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Chattooga River Trail out and back from Bullpen Bridge to a goat path that would take me to the Chattooga River, from where I'd walk upstream to Whoa Nellie! Sieve and the Upper Chattooga River Slot Canyon. After the hike, I would make the scramble to Potholes Falls at Bullpen Bridge.
The Cowee Mountains is the highest mountain range in the Highlands-Cashiers area, with many mountains approaching 5000 feet. This hike leads to the highest point in the Cowee Mountains as well as the highest point in the entire Highlands-Cashiers area, Yellow Mountain. Yellow Mountain rises to 5127 feet, and has a historic, renovated fire lookout. You'll also pass over several other mountains with great winter views and some viewpoints as well. Chances are you will be tired by the time you make it back to the trailhead at Cole Gap, and although the fact that the route back is almost as hard as the way in is pretty major, the rewards will sill be worth it, especially on a clear day. This hike occurred on Thursday, November 27th, 2014. My plan was to hike the Yellow Mountain Trail from Cole Gap to Yellow Mountain, and then return the same way.
The Fishawk Mountains west of Highlands are a small ridgeline and part of the Bartram Trail's route. In this area, the mountains house massive rock faces and fantastic panoramas of the Little Tennessee River Valley and Nantahala Mountains. This is easily one of the best hikes in the Highlands area. This hike occurred on Saturday, August 16th, 2014. My plan was to start my hike at the Jones Gap Trailhead and hike on the Bartram Trail to Wolf Rock. I would return the same way. Also, I would check out Jones Knob and Whiterock Mountain along the way. I would skip the Fishawk Mountain spur, though.
The mountains of Southwestern NC are one of the most beautiful areas outside of the Smokies. In fact, a lot of these mountains have huge cliff faces, one of the biggest in the entire Eastern US. One of the more well-know mountains is Scaly Mountain, and the nearby Cullasja River Gorge, has an incredibly scenic road, and several beautiful waterfalls, including Dry Falls. I did this hike on Saturday, March 1st, 2014. My plans were to start at the Osage Overlook Trailhead for the Bartram Trail on NC Route 106, and take the Bartram Trail northward to the summit of Scaly Mountain, but my plans did not quite materialize.
Year 1: 540.0 Miles
Year 2: 552.3 Miles
Year 3: 518.4 Miles
Year 4: 468.7 Miles