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Tips for exploring Jocassee Gorges with your kids

Whether you’re the outdoorsy type or city dweller, Jocassee Gorges, North Carolina, is worth the short ride to the state line. (Even if you’ve been a dozen times, I’ll bet you haven’t discovered my “secret tip”).

At 411 feet, Upper Whitewater Falls is the highest waterfall East of the Rockies, according to the United States Department of Agriculture website. Its twin, Lower Whitewater Falls, is 400 feet, but less easily accessed. Both falls are located near the state line just south of Gorges State Park in North Carolina. Unfortunately, the waterfalls and surrounding area are closed to the public indefinitely due to the historic wildfires in Western North Carolina last fall, but that doesn't mean the area isn't worth a visit.

“Secret Tip”: If you drive to the falls from South Carolina through Oconee on Highway 130, you’ll pass Duke Energy’s Bad Creek site. The imposing fenced entrance doesn’t appear welcoming, however, visitors are allowed. Admission to the Bad Creek Visitor Overlook is free.

Check with the guard before entering the gate. Continue down to the road to the Visitor’s Overlook parking lot for an incredible view of Lake Jocassee and the surrounding mountains. Look to the far left, and you’ll see the parking area for Upper Whitewater Falls and glimpse the falls from a distance.

Nearby Gorges State Park offers additional, more rustic hiking opportunities to places like Bear Wallow Falls. Or just a stop at the Visitor’s Center offers panoramic views and educational opportunities.

Or continue to Cashiers, North Carolina, for restaurants, shopping and a cool playground near the town square. Cashiers is known for antiques, but those shops aren’t kid-friendly. The toy store is a better choice. Note that many businesses close on Sundays, especially during the winter off-season.