The North Carolina Waterfall Byway Scenic Drive winds 98 miles through Western North Carolina, and received its name from the more than 200 waterfalls along the route.
The Waterfall Byway follows Highway 64 from Rosman, NC to Murphy, NC, and takes you through Transylvania County, more commonly called "The Land of Waterfalls".
The full drive takes approximately 3.5 hours.
Highway 64 Map - Waterfalls Byway Map
Highway 64 Scenic Drive - Walkthrough
Hwy 64, The NC Waterfall Byway begins at the intersection of North Carolina 215 (part of the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway) and Highway 64, just outside of Rosman, NC. The drive along Highway 64 provides scenic views, waterfalls, and visits to some popular and unique small towns in Western NC. Be sure to take your time, and enjoy all the wonderful things this drive has to offer.
The views along this particular scenic byway are fantastic during the Fall Color season.
Here's the full walkthrough of the Waterfall Byway Scenic Drive along North Carolina's famous Highway 64:
Rosman NC - Official Starting point
You drive along Highway 64 NC begins in the small mountain town of Rosman NC, where you'll pick up Highway 64 and head west. You'll soon cross the famous French Broad River that goes through Asheville NC and Biltmore Estate.
We begin this drive in Brevard NC, but the official beginning isn't until Rosman NC. Brevard is just an easier starting point for us from Waynesville NC and for those starting from Asheville NC.
Toxaway Falls and Lake Toxaway
After about Go 7 miles, you'll cross the Toxaway River and the first waterfall, Toxaway Falls. The 150' tall Toxaway Falls will be on your left under the bridge, and Lake Toxaway on your right.
For a better view of Toxaway Falls, there are pull overs on the right side of the road heading west on hwy 64. You can park here, and carefully cross the road to see the falls. The view is Gorges State Park, home to many other waterfalls including Rainbow and Turtleback Falls.
Gorges State Park and Whitewater Falls NC
Three miles past Toxaway Falls is the small resort town of Sapphire NC. For a fun side excursion, head south on Highway 281 to Gorges State Park where you can hike to Rainbow and Turtleback Falls. Drive a little further down Highway 281 for Whitewater Falls, the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi.
Cashiers, NC is about 10 miles west of Toxaway Falls on Highway 64 West. Cashiers is a great small mountain town to stop, take a break, and explore.. Pronounced "Cashers" by locals, Cashiers is one of the oldest resort towns in Western North Carolina.
From Cashiers, continue West along Highway 64 for 12 very curvey miles to Highlands, NC. Highlands is the highest incorporated community on the East Coast, at 4,118 feet in elevation. Highlands is a neat town, plan to spend some time here shopping and looking around.
Lake Sequoyah and Sequoyah Falls
Continue West on Highway 64, and cross Lake Sequoyah at the outskirts of Highlands and see Sequoyah Falls, the waterfall caused by the Dam.
While it doesn't sound like much, it's a really pretty waterfall, even if it's not natural.
Bridal Veil Falls Highlands NC
Continue on Highway 64 West for two more miles to the popular Bridal Veil Falls, a 120 foot tall and roadside waterfall. Pull over, and walk under the falls for a refreshing natural shower.
In the past you could drive under this waterfall, but it is now closed to cars and motorcycles due to storm damage.
A little further down you'll pass by Dry Falls, one of the most popular and beautiful waterfalls in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Dry Falls has ample parking, bathrooms, and a handicap friendly upper viewing platform.
If you walk down to the Falls along the short paved trail, you can walk behind the waterfall. Dry Falls is named for the ability to walk behind it and remain dry ... well, for the most part.
Bust Your Butt Falls (Quarry Falls)
Bust Your Butt Falls, formally known as Quarry Falls, is a waterfall and very popular swimming hole located on the Cullasaja River near Highlands, North Carolina. You'll reach Bust Your Butt Falls about 6.5 miles after leaving Highlands NC.
The falls are a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and cliff jumping. There are several pull-offs along the highway where you can park and access the falls.
Cullasaja Gorge and Callasaja Falls
Continue West on Highway 64. Six miles past Dry Falls, you'll enter Cullasaja Gorge. The road here will narrow significantly, and cling to steep cliffs that form the gorge. This portion of the road is an "adventurous" mountain drive.
Four miles from Dry Falls, is Cullasaja Falls, which is viewable from the small and narrow parking area. The waterfall drops 310 feet into the gorge. While viewing the falls, watch for Falcons that inhabit this area.
The community of Gneiss is 2 miles past Cullasaja Falls. Gneiss is known for a the treaty council held here between Sir Alexander Cuming and the Cherokee Indians in 1730.
Many visitors end their drive on the Hwy 64 Scenic Byway in the town of Franklin NC, due to the number of options available here to loop back to their starting point. But you can continue down Highway 64 to Murphy NC.
Franklin NC, is a charming town located in the southwestern part of the state. Franklin offers visitors a mix of natural beauty, small-town charm, and a rich cultural heritage. There are lots of restaurant options, shopping, and out door activities. The Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum is a must-visit for those interested in geology and gemology.
Our friends at Nurture & Nature Glamping are also here if you're looking for a cool place to stay while visiting.
Franklin to Cartoogechaye Township
Take U.S. 64 West/U.S. 23/441 South for 7.5 miles to Cartoogechaye, then another 4 miles to Winding Stair Gap, one of the earliest western passages along the famous Appalachian Trail.
The next 10 miles will take you along along the ridge lines of the Chunky Gal Mountains. There are numerous scenic views and overlooks here.
Four miles east of Hayesville, you'll pass Lake Chatuge, and TDA lake, that is now part of the Hiawasee River. Hayesville contains Fort Hembree, a gathering place for Cherokee Indians before they were forced to leave for Oklahoma along the "Trail of Tears".
Murphy, North Carolina, is a picturesque town nestled in the western part of the state. Murphy has a wonderful downtown to explore, and was the southern terminus for the Murphy Branch of the Southern Railroad that begins in Asheville NC.
Murphy offers residents and visitors a blend of natural beauty, outdoor activities, and a welcoming community. For those seeking entertainment and excitement, Murphy is home to Harrah's Cherokee Valley River Casino. The casino offers a variety of gaming options, live entertainment, and dining experiences.
Find more North Carolina Scenic Byways in the NC DOT Scenic Byway Guide.
Tips for traveling the Highway 64 Waterfall Byway Scenic Drive
Driving the Highway 64 Waterfall Byway Scenic Drive can be a very memorable experience, showcasing the beauty of North Carolina's waterfalls and landscapes. The byway is really a great scenic drive, and one of our favorites that we have done many times.
While on our adventures, we've picked up a few tips that will help you drive be more enjoyable for you:
- Allow Ample Time - The scenic drive offers numerous opportunities for sightseeing and exploring. Plan for extra time to fully enjoy each waterfall, take photos, explore the small towns and all they have to offer, and immerse yourself in the beautiful scenery and surrounding mountains.
- Plan Your Route - Before setting off, familiarize yourself with the route and identify the waterfalls you would like to visit. Make a list of the waterfalls and towns you don't want to miss and plan accordingly.
- Drive Safely - The scenic drive includes winding roads and varying terrains. Observe posted speed limits, and drive cautiously, especially around curves and steep sections. Highway 64 has many of these. Be mindful of other vehicles, pedestrians, and wildlife along the route.
- Bring a Map or GPS - While cell phone reception may be limited in some areas, it is recommended to have a physical map or a GPS device as a backup. This will help you navigate the route and ensure you don't miss any turnoffs or attractions. Our experience is that cell service is pretty good, but you just never know in the mountains.
- Pack Essentials - Bring essentials such as water, snacks, sunscreen, insect repellent, and comfortable walking shoes. Some waterfalls may require short hikes, so be prepared with appropriate footwear, attire and extra water.
- Respect Nature and Follow Rules - When visiting waterfalls, be respectful of the environment and follow any posted rules or regulations. Stay on designated paths, avoid littering, and leave no trace behind.
- Capture Memories - The waterfalls along the scenic drive provide excellent photo opportunities. Bring your camera or smartphone to capture the beauty of the cascades and surrounding landscapes. Remember to use caution when taking photos near waterfalls and cliffs.
Wrapping up Highway 64 Waterfall Byway Scenic Drive
The Highway 64 Waterfall Byway Scenic Drive is a wonderful and memorable scenic drive. Hwy 64 that not only immerses you in the beauty of North Carolina's mountains, but allows you explore some of the best waterfalls in western NC as well!
As you travel the winding mountain roads of Highway 64, each turn reveals something new to see and explore. From the powerful rush of water to the serene cascades tumbling into crystal-clear pools, the waterfalls along this scenic drive are stunning to see and explore.
Beyond the waterfalls themselves, the drive offers an opportunity to connect with nature. The lush forests, majestic mountains, and fresh mountain air create a backdrop that will rejuvenate you.
You also get a chance to explore some of the top small mountain towns in Western NC, which just adds to the adventure. The Highway 64 Waterfall Byway Scenic Drive has something to offer for everyone.
Hwy 64 North Carolina is drive you'll want to do over and over again, and each time you do, you'll discover something new! We do!