A Day Away by Mike Steely
A little more than two hours from Knoxville is a huge number of waterfalls, especially near Franklin, North Carolina. My wife and I went in search of some of the falls recently.
Near Highlands, N.C., east of Franklin, there’s a waterfall right beside Highway 64. At one time, not too many years ago, the highway actually passed behind and beneath Bridal Veil Falls. We had driven that way years ago and didn’t know the road has since been rerouted and the falls’ drive blocked off.
From Knoxville, we took I-40 toward Asheville, turned at Clyde, N.C., and headed south on Highway 23 to Franklin, which was named for Jesse Franklin, one of the two state commissioners who surveyed and organized the town in 1820 as the county seat for what would become Macon County. Franklin served North Carolina as a senator and as its 20th governor.
We camped just northwest of the town, at Rose Creek Campground, and launched our excursions from there. Franklin has just about any restaurant you could want and, although we were there in the middle of the week, the town was busy and alive with traffic.
The next morning we awoke to heavy fog and waited it out before we drove down through Franklin and on east in search of the fabled falls. From Franklin we took Highway 64 after we saw on the map there were several waterfalls toward and beyond Highland.
Driving a large pickup through the mountains was stressful and scary. On some hills with curves there are no guardrails and I wouldn’t recommend it if you are pulling a large camper. We had left our camper at the campground but the drive, although it had beautiful views of the mountain’s changing leaves, was stressful.
Just before Bridal Veil Falls we found Dry Falls with a busy but sizeable parking lot, a great overlook, and stairs and a walkway down to the roaring falls far below. We walked about halfway down to a viewing platform and watched people walking to and beneath the falls.
We then drove on to Highland, hoping to find another way back to Franklin without the twisting way we came, but turned back to find a sit-down restaurant and then returned to camp.
Western North Carolina is beautiful and seems like it has more mountains than East Tennessee. The folks were friendly and the scenery was beautiful. Some of the overlooks were great but we found the traffic on the mountain roads to be heavy.
If we did it again I think I’d pick a more full-service campground near Highway 23 rather than one about 20 miles outside the city. Twice we made a wrong turn coming out of the campground, the last time while pulling our camper. We had to turn around by backing into a driveway, stopping traffic as we did, but we managed to turn without banging into something.
Franklin boasts of a Scottish Tartan Museum, several gem and mineral panning sites, a mineral museum, a historical museum, a school arts and heritage center, and a toy museum. Nearby activities are camping, tubing, rafting, kayaking and hiking. We found the area much like the Gatlinburg area would have been 40 years or so ago.
You can get more information about the Franklin area at VisitFranklinNC.com or call 800-336-7829.