• Eric H

5 Fall Scenic Spots For Leaf Lovers

US 64 East from Franklin to Highlands Scenic Drive

With the arrival of fall coming so late this year, we've put together this short list of Franklin & Nantahala area spots for those folks on the hunt for the annual fall color show. Whether you're looking for a scenic drive or a hike through the mountains, we've got you covered!

Wayah Road cuts through the Nantahala National Forest also known as Mountain Waters Scenic Byway

1. Wayah Bald. The most popular spot in the area by far, the wide open views take your breath away. At nearly one mile high, eastern views stretch to the Blue Ridge Mountains, with views also to the north & south. Easy paved path to the look out tower and plenty of parking allow many visitors the opportunity to enjoy the fall colors.

Forest Service Road 67 winds along the Nantahala River

2. Forest Service Road 67 (Standing Indian Campground). This road starts paved and winds through the Nantahala National Forest passing numerous trails, Standing Indian Campground, Big Laurel Falls Trail, Mooney Falls, and more. Continue on FS 67 down to Coweeta Lab and US 441 North back to Franklin, or head back to US 64. Don't forget to stop at Winding Stairs Overlook (pictured below) for this view east towards Franklin.

Winding Stairs Overlook - US 64 west of Franklin.

3. The Nantahala River. Tucked away on the far western end of Wayah Road, the Nantahala River converges with White Oak Creek to carry on into the Nantahala Gorge. This stretch of Wayah Road is an incredible drive that brings you up close to the magical colors of fall. World Class fishing, plenty of pull offs, and beauty around every turn will captivate you.

The Nantahala River tucks in and around Wayah Road in Nantahala.

4. Wesser Bald Tower. If you're seeking a view with a little bit of adventure attached to it, Wesser Bald Tower on the Appalachian Trail is the perfect short hike with incredible 360 views. Heading out of Franklin on US 28, you'll make your way to Tellico Gap via Tellico Road. From Nantahala, you take Otter Creek Road up to Tellico Gap. Park in the slots available at the gap, then head up the north side of the Appalachian Trail.

One view from Wesser Tower

The wide cut in road is shorter, but steeper on your ascent. Take the trail to the left for a more gradual climb. Out and back is just over 2 miles. The tower is a wide open platform with views of Fontana Lake, the Great Smoky Mountains, the Nantahala Mountains, and Blue Ridge Mountains.

5. The Waterfall Highway. US 64 East from Franklin to Highlands is one of the most scenic and most popular roads in all of western North Carolina. As you wind your way up the the gorge road, you're first met with the small pull off for Cullasaja Falls. Roadside viewing is safest, though the full scale of the falls can be seen with a little walk up onto the rocks above the parking area.

Aerial view of the 250' Cullasaja Falls

The road continues on a 7.5 mile journey passing Bust Your Butt Falls, Dry Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls just before you arrive in Highlands.

Bust Your Butt Falls is a roadside falls on 64 East

Dry Falls is the main attraction on 64 East

As you get further into the drive up through the gorge, watch for the signs for Dry Falls. By far the most popular spot on this section of US 64, it is worth the wait if you have to circle back. Walk the paved pathway down into the heart of the 65' waterfall and experience the flow of the Cullasaja River passing over you as you walk underneath the falls. Dry Falls gets it's name from the ability to stay (relatively) dry as you walk the path to the other side of the falls, in normal flow.

View back towards the path down to Dry Falls and upper parking level observation deck.

There are so many other opportunities to get out enjoy the fall weather, the sights, and the colors of fall in the Franklin & Nantahala area, this list is to just get you started! For more detailed information, please visit our main websites & and start exploring Western North Carolina today!

About Franklin & Nantahala

Nestled in NC’s southern mountains, in the foothills of the Great Smokies. The Franklin & Nantahala NC areas offer a never-ending supply of things to do, for adults AND kids of all ages! Whether you're looking to get away to the pristine waters of Nantahala Lake, or you're looking for a small town adventure with world class entertainment, you're sure to find something for the whole family.


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