Paradise has been found…..at least for this Waterfalls hiker. In an effort to treat my fiancé to a special weekend getaway, my searches led me to the Greystone Inn. The reviews alone were amazing. The price, well, it is certainly out of my range most times of the year. Thanks to modern, mobile coupon sites, I was able to come across a deal that was essentially buy one night, get the second night free. Even that hurts the wallet, but if you ever have wanted to experience a weekend like those considered “wealthy”, then this is the ticket. My advice…..watch Groupon & Living Social for the Greystone promotions. We arrived on a Friday afternoon, the weekend before Halloween. We were experiencing our first real cold snap of the year and lows that night were forecast to be in the low 20’s…brrrr. We had just enough time to unpack and attend what turned out to be one of my favorite activities of the weekend….the Champagne Cruise on Lake Toxaway. Ironically featured on the cover of “Our State” magazine for October, this event is special. A replica boat like the one used many years ago, heads out for a one hour trip around Lake Toxaway, the largest all-private lake in NC. I had seen this lake and river in previous hikes, but never like this. The boat is named the “Miss Lucy” …..and the trip is led by the general manager whose father is responsible for the restoration of the Greystone Inn back in the 1980’s. It suffered many years of inactivity. Lake Toxaway was even destroyed by historic floods from a hurricane. If you want more history, it is best to come here and take the cruise and experience it for yourself. The boat was a smooth ride. It was also fully closed in with plexiglass so the 45 degree temperature was not an issue. Fall colors were in peak this weekend and this was a beautiful ride. We were also blessed with seeing 2 white squirrels, a very special creature in the Brevard, NC area and surrounding communities. I also mentioned that it was a champagne cruise, and having a couple glasses of champagne was a wonderful touch. Here are some photos from the Greystone..
As you can tell, the lake was beautiful. The Halloween decorations were very nice, and there is a beautiful golf course there for your enjoyment. I left my clubs at home on purpose…lol All things considered, I really feel we picked probably the best time of the year to experience this. Another note worth mentioning is that breakfast and fine dinners are included in the package. The full 6 course dinners alone were something that I had never experienced. Plan to dress nice for these, men are required to wear dinner jackets. For me, this was text book “fish out of water”. I survived just fine though…lol
This place is special, very special. There is something that really puts it up there for me though. The Greystone Inn is in the heart of NC waterfall country. It could not be more centrally located. I do not have an exact # but there has to be over 100 waterfalls with a half hour drive any direction from here, many within minutes. Unfortunately I did not have the time to visit all of these, as it wasn’t my
primary reason for this weekend. I did take my fiancé on a short hike Saturday morning. You see, this location is 5 minutes from the Waterfall/Hiking Paradise known as Panthertown Valley. I have a waterproof map for this place and have made it it 7 of the 20 or so waterfalls here. I still have much work to do. I was to choose one, and that would be Schoolhouse Falls. It is a moderate 2-3 mile round trip hike along trails and old logging roads to one of my favorite NC waterfalls along Greenland Creek. Just downstream a little ways Greenland Creek merges with Panthertown Creek to form the Tuckasegee River. Schoolhouse Falls is only about a 20 foot waterfall, but what is lacks in size, it more than makes up in character, with a large pool, beautiful views from the side or front. It can also be enjoyed from behind, but not on this day as it was slowly recovering from a 23 degree morning low. There was ice…. already in a few places at this waterfall, in October. Here are some shots of Schoolhouse Falls and the hike to get there…
Notice, just a little ice at at the edge of the pool and at the waterfall a few small icicles coming off the rock. It was a chilly morning, but still beautiful. I was curious when we ran into several campers near Schoolhouse Falls. How did they survive that night without freezing? It goes to show either how advanced today’s camping gear is….. orhow hardcore these crazy campers were, maybe some of both . Leaving Schoolhouse Falls, we encountered several Greystone Inn guests hiking towards the falls wearing pretty dress shoes and pretty slacks and sweaters. I also remember seeing this on my last visit to Schoolhouse Falls, prior to ever hearing about the Greystone Inn. I can remember thinking…..what were these people thinking, coming into the wilderness all dressed up like this?? Now I know….lol….because at the desk in the Greystone, they will print out the directions to Schoolhouse Falls for guests. They also printed up directions for me to follow the Toxaway River Trail upstream to Raven Rock Falls, still in my “Yet to see/Must see” list. These directions were long and strenuous. I know there is an easier way from Cold Mountain road way above, just haven’t gotten to it yet.
After lunch, I decided to treat my lady to an afternoon at the spa, with a facial and some kind of mud bath or something. The Greystone Inn has a very nice elegant spa with many options available. She loved it and it was probably one of her favorite times of our trip….ironically, without me….lol. What it did do for me is allow me some time to do some more hiking. I knew Gorges State Park was 10 minutes away, and that I had not been to Rainbow Falls in nearly 2 years. I had also always wanted to see it in peak leaf season. I did not hesitate. Once there, I was pleased by the changes I saw. The visitor center for one, was not open the last time I was there. It is very impressive . It is all about waterfalls, and educating visitors on them. They focus not only on waterfalls in their park, but also surrounding areas. I really liked this place. They tease however…..show many photos of the beautiful Lower Bearwallow Falls within the park boundaries, only to tell you that it is elusive, very hard to get to with no official trail. I have seen other photos….people are getting to it.
On to Rainbow Falls, the parking area for Rainbow Falls & Trailhead for the Rainbow Falls Trail are in Gorges State Park, while the water falls are not. Many, many thanks to Gorges Stare park for this, as the old way to get here is now private property. There are at least 5 named waterfalls on the Horsepasture River in a fairly concentrated area. I took the touristy route today to the main 3. Reaching these requires nearly a 5 mile round trip hike on some moderate to some cases strenuous conditions. I a very pleased to report that many new steps have been put in key places to make the hike more user friendly. It is still tiring though. There is also a new viewing deck at Rainbow Falls.
I love this waterfall..probably my favorite NC…at least the ones I have seen. I explored it from bottom to top. It was especially pretty on this day with the colors. I was about 5 hours late for the Rainbow, which is best seen in the morning when the sun hits the mist from the falls just right.
After the strenuous climb to the top of Rainbow, Turtleback Falls is just upstream. Only 10-15 feet, but a beautiful riverwide drop with a large water flow. This rivals Duponts Hooker Falls for best 10 foot waterfall. In warmer weather, you will see people sliding over the falls, not this day though. I have heard of some waterfall sliders here sliding right over the 150 foot Rainbow Falls. Think twice before doing this one….
After Turtleback Falls, there is one more waterfall of note upstream…Drift Falls. It is about 1/4 mile upstream and fairly easy to reach. If you get this far, you are nearly back to NC 281 and near the old much shorter trail people used to enjoy this. Thanks Mr Mcneeley. Drift Falls used to be known as Bust Yer Butt Falls for those crazy enough to slide down it. Now, the propery line is at the base of the pool and the waterfall can only legally be seen from there. At least we have that though.
Well, after reuniting with my wife to be, we had another special dinner and spent some of Sunday at the visitors center in Gorges State Park as well as some shops in Brevard celebrating the White Squirrel. It was a special weekend that I hated to see end. Here are a few additional shots: Shower Falls on Cold Mountain Road, and Toxaway Falls from the Restaurant overlooking the falls. We also stopped in Valdese on the way home and enjoyed McGalliard Falls, a 40 foot cascade with old mill remains and a city park built around it.