Height: 45 feet
Trail Type: Dirt
Hike Distance: 1.5 miles round trip
Whoever named Secret Falls did a terrible job of keeping it a secret because it’s now a well-known spot among the locals in Highlands. The falls drop diagonally down several ledges before attempting to squeeze into a chute before the base and plunging into a deep pool.
From the intersection of US 64 and NC highway 28 in downtown Highlands, turn right onto Main Street. The road becomes Horse Cove Road after a couple of miles. Drive 3.7 miles and turn right onto the gravel Walkingstick Road. Drive another 2.9 miles and turn right onto FR 4567. Drive up the ridge for about a quarter mile to the parking area on the left. I do not recommend this road for cars, but there’s a parking area at the gate where FR 4567 splits from Walkingstick Road, so you can add a half-mile to your total hike if you park here.
The hike starts level before heading down into the forest and crossing a couple of streams. As you get closer to the falls, the trail descends down a steep series of steps cut into the earth. There are a couple of spots to view the falls along the left side of the creek. On a warm day, you’ll probably see several people swimming in the pool at the base. There is a smaller, sliding falls just downstream (you can see the brink from the end of the trail). I would guess it’s at least 20 feet high but there’s no way to get down to see it.