The weather has been stunning of late, even though it is 'false fall' and we will get a warm spell again before real autumn is here. Still, we're not hating it!
We took a scenic drive to scope out sights for autumn photo ops and I wanted to share with you the detailed directions so that you may enjoy it too. This drive is approximately 2.5 hours each way and includes a nice segment along the Blue Ridge Parkway, my favorite road EVER. There are many overlooks and you'll traverse the highest point on the parkway at over 6000 feet. Be sure to stop for a photo op with the sign, and of course, to enjoy the view.
Be aware, there are no services on the Parkway so make sure your tank is full, pack a picnic lunch and beverages, and enjoy! There are rest rooms occasionally, and exits at major interchanges.
Travel to Murphy, NC by leaving the mountain, and making right-hand turns at all stop signs until you reach the 4-lane (Highway 515).
Make a right and proceed to the next major intersection/traffic light at 515 and Hwy 60. Turn right onto Highway 60 and proceed to the 4-way intersection in Mineral Bluff. The will be a Dollar General diagonally to your left. Make a right onto Spur 60 and stay on this road until it becomes NC 60 when you cross the border into North Carolina. Proceed on NC 60 to the stop sign at 64/74. Make a right and stay on this road through Murphy, Andrews and into the Nantahala Gorge. The gorge is stunning and there are pull offs for photo ops. Be aware that this narrow, winding two lane road will be very busy on weekends with kayakers and leaf peepers, so I recommend doing this trip mid-week if you are available to do so.
Exit the gorge and just keep on driving. You'll be heading toward Bryson City, NC and there will be an exit for the Parkway at that point. I do not recommend going this way as you miss a lot plus it is not a direct "leave here get on the Parkway immediately" kind of exit and is very confusing."
Continue driving toward Cherokee, NC. Exit at Highway 441 toward Cherokee and proceed 5.2 miles to a stoplight. Make a right toward Cherokee. Go 0.40 miles and make a left at the light continuing on 441 North. You will pass the Above the Beyond Factory Outlet. Proceed 2.6 miles. Make a right onto the parkway.
**NOTE: There is a lot to see and do in Cherokee so you may want to stop and do some shopping, etc., but that will make this a very long day. Also, be watching for the free roaming elk that have been reintroduced into the area; they are magnificent.
Enter the Parkway at the sign. We ran into this guy right in the middle of the road. He proceeded to cross in a leisurely fashion and walked right past my window. Please never try to touch or interfere with the wildlife you may encounter.
Once on the Parkway, it is 45.3 miles to Highway 215, which will be your destination for the waterfalls I'd like you to see. On the way you'll enjoy scenery, wildlife, scenic overlooks, stone tunnels, and so much more. Take your time – it's not a race. Enjoy the cool temps at that altitude and the relaxation of the drive.
At 45.3 miles, make a left onto Highway 215. This is a GORGEOUS road so enjoy the drive.It is 3.2 miles to the first stone bridge.Just after the bridge on the right is a place to park and you can hike down to the creek if you need to stretch your legs and get some great pictures.
At 4.2 miles you will come to Sunburst Falls, which is the second stone bridge, and literally right beside the road. Pull your care safely off the road and get out to enjoy and take pictures. There is a steep hike down on the left side behind the guard rail if you are feeling adventurous and brave.
At 5.7 miles there is a pull off on the right, which is big enough for a few cars, but you may have to go down the road a bit to park. This is the entrance to Little Bird Falls. From the direction you approach, there is a trail that starts on the opposite side of the road at the far left side of the guard rail. If you have to park farther down the road and walk back, it will be on your right side, closest to you as you approach the guard rail.
It's a sharp scramble up behind the rhododendrons, but once you get past that it is a flat, short (0.30 miles) walk to the falls. I beg of you to stay on the trail and not disturb the beautiful and delicate moss on the large rocks by the falls. While not a particularly high or wide waterfall, the sound is lovely and all that green moss is mesmerizing. I could have stayed out there all day just soaking it all in.
Return either via the way you came, or by continuing on Hwy 215. You'll pass a gorgeous lake, some beautiful barns and come out just outside of Waynesville, NC. You can enter 1662 My Mountain Road, Morganton, GA into your GPS and head back to the mountain via the 64/74 which will take you back through the gorge.
There are many nice restaurants in both Waynesville and Sylva if you want to stop and check out either of these adorable mountain towns.