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Dry Falls sits just a few miles outside of Highlands and is a spectacular 65-foot roadside waterfall inside Nantahala National Forest. Its waters gush over a cliff that juts out to create a perfect overflow for people to walk underneath.
And as the name suggests, you can remain dry as you walk behind this gorgeous waterfall. From there, you can enjoy a unique reverse view of a waterfall and the river beyond it.
That’s just a part of why we think Dry Falls is unlike any other in North Carolina. If you don’t get there early enough, you’ll see that lots of people agree this spot is worthy of everyone’s NC Bucket List!
One of the biggest draws for Dry Falls is that it is so easy to reach. It’s 4 miles (10 minutes) from Highlands off of US Highway 64 and sits between the Macon County town and its neighbor Franklin.
The Waterfall Byway
This portion of US 64 is known as the Waterfall Byway and the section that weaves along the Cullasaja River is nationally designated as the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway.
There are many pullovers along this stretch between Highlands and Franklin for beautiful views and waterfalls.
We featured the Waterfall Byway along with other awesome scenic routes in North Carolina!
Driving Directions (from Asheville, Brevard, and Hendersonville)
If you are coming from Highlands, you will pass Bridal Veil Falls going west on US 64 and the forest service sign will be on your left.
The trip to Dry Falls is a short 1.5-hour drive from Asheville. Heading west towards Waynesville, pick up U.S. 64 East towards Highlands. The sign for Dry Falls will be on your right after approximately 16.5 miles.
From Brevard (40 miles, 1 hour) or Hendersonville (61 miles, 1 hour 35 minutes), you’ll take US 64 West the whole way.
Note: There is a $3/vehicle charge for parking at Dry Falls.
Hiking to Dry Falls
From the parking lot, you’ll follow a short path through green flora and rocky forest. The walk down is perfect for younger children, though you might want to hold their hands while walking around the noisy water.
You’ll eventually walk underneath the cascading water. Thanks to the wonderful paths created by North Carolina State Parks, there are amazing vantage points all along the path to and around the falls.
The trail, while wonderfully maintained, does have steps so it is not stroller- or wheelchair-accessible. However, there is an accessible viewing platform from the trailhead that does offer beautiful views.
When to Visit
There really is never a bad time to visit Dry Falls. The place livens up in spring with all sorts of greens sprouting up around the falls. Summer visitors will enjoy Dry Falls as a respite from the heat.
Safety Tips and Additional Info
Please stick to the path provided. The water moves quickly and the rocks below the falls can be slippery and dangerous. It is never a good idea to climb, swim, or jump from any waterfall.
Outhouse style restrooms are available from the parking area at Dry Falls, but be prepared with your own hand sanitizer as there is no running water.
More Waterfalls Nearby
There are plenty more waterfalls nearby because Dry Falls is part of a series of waterfalls that flow from the powerful Cullasaja River. As we mentioned, the stretch of road that runs by Dry Falls is known as the Waterfall Byway.
Here are some more waterfalls on that byway and beyond, which you can visit to make it a true day trip full of waterfalls.
US 64 and NC 28 (and Nearby)
Bridal Veil Falls is only a mile away from Dry Falls and viewable from the road. If you are looking short hike options nearby, then Glen Falls (6 miles, 14 minutes) and Secret Falls (10 miles, 25 minutes) would also be perfect. Great swimming holes nearby include Bust Your Butt Falls (3 miles, 6 minutes) or Cullasaja Falls (6 miles, 12 minutes).
More Waterfalls Further East
Since it doesn’t take very long to reach Dry Falls, we think you might be up for a bit of a drive to reach even more waterfalls.
The epic Upper Whitewater Falls (25 miles, 42 minutes) is a multi-drop waterfall that cascades more than 400 feet. And if you are looking for a longer hike to some water, the 4-mile trek to Rainbow Falls (24 miles, 40 minutes) is within 7 miles (10 minutes) of Whitewater Falls and well worth the extra effort!
Other Nearby Spots
We mentioned Dry Falls being close to Highlands and think you should definitely spend some time in this awesome small town if you’re not staying there. You’ll pass through the beautiful Lake Sequoyah on your way into town, with the latter packed with amazing restaurants and shopping.
Another interesting place to visit in Highlands is the Museum of American Cut and Engraved Glass, which shows off pieces from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Franklin is the Macon County seat and partially known holding the title of “Gem Capital of the World.” The town’s Scottish Tartans Museum is the only extension of Scottish original that you’ll find in the United States. NC Beer fans will enjoy a pint or flight at Lazy Hiker Brewing (designated driver recommended).
If you’re visiting Whitewater Falls and Rainbow Falls, you’ll pass through Cashiers to reach them. We enjoyed walking around the Village Green, which is perfect for stretching your legs before or after drives on curvy roads around here. Its paths will take you through wetlands, gardens, and more pretty scenery.
All of these spots are featured in our guide to day trips from Asheville, in case you’re visiting or happen to live in that awesome city!
Ready to Visit Dry Falls?
Dry Falls is the perfect family- and kid-friendly hike near Highlands. It’s short, easy, paved, and offers incredible hard-to-top views. And if you’ve been before, we’d love to know what you thought about this awesome waterfall.
Do you have any additional spots nearby that we and our friends should check out? Let us know about them in the comments section!
Dry Falls Quick Guide (Including Map)
Address: Dry Falls, Highlands, NC 28741
- Arrive early.
- Stay on the path.
- NEVER climb, swim, or jump.
- Outhouse-style restrooms, but no running water for handwashing.