Accessibility – Moderate
Height: Approx 30′
Distance – 2.5 miles (out and back)
Beauty – 6
Photo rating – 4
Solitude – 4
GPS Info: LAT 35.08789 LONG -83.22452
Last updated – 08-11-2018
Ranger Falls is a 30+ foot high waterfall on Skitty Creek, upstream of where the creek empties into Cliffside Lake. The falls is on a trail that can be done as an out and back or as a lollipop type loop. The falls is nice and the trail is easy to follow but it is steep for long stretches so be prepared for a workout. The falls is nice and the lower levels are low enough that you
Starting in Highlands from the intersection of US64 and NC106, follow US64 West for 4.2 miles and make a right into the Cliffside Lake Recreation Area. Follow the access road into the recreation area for 1.35 to reach the parking area on the left. There is a pay station along the way where you do have to pay a daily use fee to park. When you get to the parking area, it loops around past the bathroom. You can also reach the trailhead by camping at the Van Hook Glade Campground (also accessed off of US64) and taking the trail from the campground to the access road and walking about half a mile to the trailhead. This is the way I visited the falls on my second go-round and it made for a nice hike.
The trailhead for Ranger Falls is at the upper end of the parking lot and immediately it heads uphill. Be sure to take the correct trail as the Clifftop Vista trail heads to the left from the same trailhead. After a steady uphill ascent of 0.4 miles the trail forks. You want to stay to the left at this intersection. The next segment is downhill for about a third of a mile as you drew even with the creek. After another third of got, the trail will split again with a branch crossing the creek. Don’t cross but follow the trail for another 0.2 of a mile to the base of the falls. The falls is tucked off to the right as you emerge onto river left. It’s a pretty setting that you will be lucky to have to yourself.
On my first visit the light was awful but I managed to take a few decent shots in the few minutes I had before the masses arrived. You can shoot from the big rock on river left or from the creek on river right.