Nantahala National Forest: Scaly Mountain & Dry Falls, Highlands, North Carolina
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.
R/T Length of Trail: Rough estimate - 1.5 Miles
Duration of Hike: 2:00
Type of Hike: Out and back
Difficulty Rating: None due to this being not a typical hike and not a route most people would use
Beginning Point: Osage Overlook on NC State Route 106
Directions: From Highlands, NC: Follow NC State Route 106 West for 5.7 Miles to the parking area on the left.
Even though I have been hiking for a few years now in Georgia and the Carolinas, I somehow have not made it yet to the Cullasaja River Gorge, and never checked out the many hiking opportunities between Franklin and Highlands. It was forecasted a beautiful, unusually warm weekend, so why not give it a try? I researched the trails in the area, and found several interesting locations on the Bartram Trail. Okay, this is getting me somewhere. One of the locations I liked most was "Scaly Mountain " (not to be confused with the town of Scaly Mountain). The Bartram Trail ascended 2 miles from NC Route 106 to the mountaintop vista on Scaly Mountain.
When I arrived at the trailhead, I was alone on the parking lot. There was a large information board, with a detailed map of the Bartram Trail, using which you could actually see where you are going from the parking lot. After a brief look at it, I crossed the road and immediately began the ascent, by going up a couple sets of steps. Shortly afterwards, I rock-hopped a stream bed which had a trickle in it, and came to the spot where the climb became extremely steep.. or did it? The Bartram Trail does not seem to be very popular, and it was covered in lots of leaves, so some sharp switchback might not have been noticed, especially if there is another trail going forward. And I fell for the trick. When I came back, I noticed the Bartram Trail took a sharp left, while a smaller trail went steeply up the mountain. There were a couple trees across the steep path what I thought was the trail. I would have double-checked if this really was the trail, but I did not find the need to do it, when I saw signs of a smaller branch being cut-off a while ago so as not to block the trail. Who did that, and why did they do it? To make me lose the trail?
I made it across the downed trees, and started going up the steep mountain-side path. I do not have a GPS Tracker yet, but I would say I kept going like this for a few tenths of a mile, until I reached a stream and lots of mud. Okay, now what? There was an area of steep bare rocks to my right, but there was no trail along the base of the rocks. By now, I was wondering, if I actually was on the right trail. I decided to go up anyway,and I scrambled up the rock face, and it appeared like there was a continuation of the trail here. I turned left once at the top of the rock face, and passed by a tricky spot where you have to climb up the hill, and there was a tree trunk which was very smooth, which told me that people used it here to climb up. That means that at least people walk this path, whether its the trail or not. It just seemed too steep to be the actual trail. I continued up the steep path, and this was now turning into a minor bushwhack. Finally, I reached anther rock face, with a decent overlook to the South. I could see a few mountains, including Rabun Bald. Trees were blocking a good view, but it still looked good.
What's next? Well, I was highly confident I was not on the trail, and this confidence was supported, when I progressed a bit more up the trail, and it became completely overgrown. There was still a lot more land to cover before the peak, and there was absolutely no point in continuing, as it was already pretty late in the day. I made it back down in a shorter amount of time, and when I reached the area of fallen trees, I Realized how stupid I was! The trail made a switchback, and when I saw it going in the other direction, I walked a bit and saw it being a wide path, with blazes. Some day I will come back, and do the correct trail all the way up to the summit.
I decided that ti was too late to go up to the summit on the main trail now, so I abandoned the plan. However, I quickly changed my plan to a sort of a compromise, by deciding to drive on US Route 64, through the Cullasaja River Gorge, and visit Dry Falls. From the Dry Falls Recreation Area, a paved 0.1 mile trail led down to the falls. There was a massive amount of water rushing over the cliff, so it was aa very impressive waterfall. I am glad I came.
In the picture gallery below, I put pictures from the unofficial trail on Scaly Mountain and of Dry Falls. I hope you like the pictures, and I hope the information in this description helped you out!
Hike the Bartram Trail to Scaly Mountain and back (that's actually what I would suggest you to do!) - 4 Miles
Bridal Veil Falls is a spectacular waterfall with adequate rainfall. It is located on the side of US Route 64 between Highlands and Dry Falls.
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