Winter Waterfalls / by Catherine Kim

Amidst this polar vortex, I am trying to see the bright side of winter. It’s cold. Freezing at the moment… But over the holidays I enjoyed some winter hiking in Sapphire Valley, North Carolina. I don’t know about your family, but our holidays are more of the last-minute variety where are the popular places are already booked. So we went on a road trip to the area with the southern most ski resort on the east coast. It turned out to be a great perfect vacation in exploring a new place with zero expectations. The region is a perfect storm of elevation and plentiful rain which means there are waterfalls abound.

Rainbowfalls

Rainbow Falls. A constant mist makes for rainbows and a very muddy trail.

Whitewater Falls. The tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi.

Whitewater Falls. The tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi.

The mismatch between the number of people out and about and the size of the parking lots seemed to indicate this area is more popular as summer vacation spot. The trails, views, and waterfalls were still beautiful in the winter with no shortage of waterfalls nestled in the rolling mountains.

Glen Falls

Glen Falls

These waterfalls were split between two different parks: Gorges State Park and Nantahala National Forest. Nantahala comes from Cherokee meaning “noonday sun” which speaks to the steepness of the mountains and gorges. Gorges State Park has a lovely visitors center with exhibits explaining the features of the area. Whitewater and Dry falls were easily viewed via short paved paths and the other two required some hiking, but nothing too strenuous. We managed to see multiple waterfalls each day.

Dry Falls

Dry Falls

Sometimes the unplanned vacation exploring a new area is just what you need.