A trip to the mountains in western NC would be incomplete without a trip to Dry Falls. Located just five minutes outside of Highlands, NC, Dry Falls is a marvelous work of nature that is also interactive- meaning you can literally walk behind the powerful waterfall as it rushes down just a few feet in front of you.
Here are our recommendations for a day trip to Highlands to see Dry Falls. Sleep in and start off with a good home-cooked breakfast in the morning at the cottage- Once Upon a Stream. Leave about 10:00 a.m. and start your drive up the mountain to the quaint town of Highlands, NC which will take you between 25 and 30 minutes (depending on how adventurous you are on the mountain roads). About halfway up the mountain there is a spectacular long-range lookout. On a clear day, you can see for miles! This is a definite must for a family selfie! That is unless your wife is too scared to get out of the car like mine is...
Highlands sits at elevation over 4,000 feet. Once we reach the top of the mountain, we like to head straight over to Dry Falls and spend a good hour or so there taking in all of the majestic beauty. There is level parking lot with plenty of spaces, unless you hit it at peak tourist times of the year. There are also bathrooms available (at least they call them bathrooms). The hike down to the falls is safe and is mostly stairs (there are a lot of stairs).
The kids will have fun playing in the caves and climbing on the rocks- be sure to bring your camera for this part! It's a great opportunity for family photos. The path will continue around behind the falls which is an absolutely spectacular experience. Take your time and just absorb nature's fury at its best!
After you finish here, there are other waterfalls within a short driving distance if you are up for it. We like to head back in to Highlands and have lunch at one of two places.
The first is Mountain Fresh www.mfgro.com- which is probably the coolest market/deli you'll find with amazing sandwiches and pizza. Seating is limited so you'll have to catch it at the right time.
The other favorite is a Highlands classic- The Ugly Dog Public House www.TheUglyDogPub.com . Believe it or not, it is family -friendly during the day and turns into a hoppin' pub at night. The Ugly Dog is located just up the street from the world-renowned Old Edwards Inn. There is a second location in Cashiers, NC which is only about 10 minutes from the cottage.
After lunch- take a stroll up and down Main Street in Highlands and explore all of the cute shops and boutiques. One of our favorite stops is The Highland Hiker www.highlandhiker.com. where you'll find lots of really cool hiking and mountain attire- hats and t-shirts.
Last and certainly not least, you simply MUST stop for ice cream at what I claim is the BEST ice cream in the world. Okay, that's a pretty dramatic statement- but it is REALLY good and unlike anything you've had, I'm sure. Check out the Yelp reviews.
So there you have it- our idea of a wonderful day in Highlands, NC suitable for the entire family. Feel free to reach out with questions about this and other exciting mountain adventures!