North Carolina: The Land of Waterfalls
Along with my passion for traveling, I also love photography. I find that both of my passions fit together perfectly, which is great! Waterfalls have always been one of my favorite topics to photograph; following animals and other natural landscapes. Waterfalls are a tricky subject to photograph primarily due to the need for perfect weather conditions. The best timing would be either during the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is not directly overhead and the best days would be either overcast or cloudy. The reasoning for this is in order to obtain the silky smooth effect created by long exposure, the harsh sunlight needs to be as minimal as possible. Having a polarizer lens or a neutral density filter for the camera along with a tripod helps wonders!
After already exploring the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, I turned my sights further down south to the area of the Pisgah National Forest and the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina. It is about a 6-hour drive from where I live in Virginia. The couple days I went down in December were perfectly overcast. My first stop was at Crabtree Falls, north of Asheville, North Carolina (there is also a Crabtree Falls in Virginia near Lynchburg).
When I arrived, there was very dense morning fog. I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t get a clear shot of the waterfall if the mist covered it. The hiking trail is about 3 miles round trip. You start off by going through a campground area (in the dense fog it looked like something out of The Walking Dead) and then proceed to descend into the woods towards the falls. The further downward I went, the better the visibility became, so I was definitely thankful that I had still decided to hike. The trail isn’t too difficult, although some areas were muddier and slicker than others. The waterfall is gorgeous and quite tall. The water slides down a rock front at a slight angle. It can be seen nicely from the wooden bridge.
The second waterfall I traveled to was in the Panthertown Valley in the Nantahala National Forest. Schoolhouse Falls isn’t as tall as Crabtree falls; however it is quite a beautiful waterfall! Another relatively short hike is required to reach it. It is about 2.5 miles round trip and the hike is mostly downhill. The waterfall drops down into a small and pristine pool below.
What makes this waterfall unique is that you can actually go behind it! There are two small paths that lead up to the cascades. I would take caution, as it is a bit tricky to maneuver along the paths, but once you get there, it is really neat to sit and relax behind the waterfall.
The next couple of waterfalls I visited were primarily roadside along US Highway 64, in the Nantahala National Forest. The first stop was at Cullasaja Falls. There isn’t any sign detailing where the waterfall is and there isn’t a parking area for it, but there is a small pull off where a couple of cars could fit. It is a powerful waterfall along the Cullasaja River Gorge. I think the best time to visit would be in the winter when there is less shrubbery blocking the view. I was able to get a decently good shot even with foliage still in the picture. This waterfall is pretty open to sunlight, so I would suggest photographing the falls in the early morning or late afternoon on cloudy days.
East of Cullasaja Falls is another spectacular waterfall called Dry Falls. Contrary to its name, the falls were flowing quite well when I visited. Again the falls are along US Highway 64 and it is a short walk down to reach them. There is the possibility to walk behind the waterfall as it flows off an overhanging rock, however when I went, a metal gate blocked off the path. I am not certain if people are unable to go behind the falls anymore or if it was just because of the time of year I went.
Continuing my adventure into the Pisgah National Forest near Brevard, North Carolina, I got to visit one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state: Looking Glass Falls. The falls are a short distance from the parking lot along US Highway 276 and there are a lot of good photo spots. I tried hopping on stones to get into the middle of the river; however the spray from the waterfall was strong enough to get my lens wet. I decided to back track to drier conditions at the viewing platform.
I also visited Soco Falls in Maggie Valley near the Tennessee/North Carolina border, however the morning fog was so thick that I could not get a good shot of the falls. Gorgeous waterfalls heavily populate North Carolina. These are just some of the ones that I saw on my trip. I hope to go back to visit more in the future. I also liked that a lot of the waterfalls were roadside or a short hike, compared to some strenuous hikes I did in the Shenandoah National Park. I do enjoy hiking, however I am not the most athletic person in the world and carrying around all my camera equipment can become annoying at times.Photographing waterfalls is truly a passion of mine and I hope to travel all around to find more beautiful waterfalls!