Driving distance/direction from downtown Highlands, NC:
To access the trail from Cliffside Lake: Follow Hwy. 64 west 4 miles from Highlands, NC. Turn right into Cliffside Lake Recreation Area. The trailhead is 1.4 miles down this road on the left. Watch for the sign for the Clifftop Vista Trail. Park in this area.
To access the trail from Flat Mountain Road: Follow Hwy. 64 east 2.5 miles from Highlands. Turn left onto Flat Mountain Road and drive approximately 2 miles to the old ranger station on the left. The trail starts from the west side of the large parking lot.
Parking: Park in parking lot.
Hiking distance: 2 mile loop
Description: This relatively new interpretive trail can be started from either the Cliffside Lake Recreation Area or the former Highlands ranger station on Flat Mountain Road. The trail follows Skitty Creek and leads to its namesake Ranger Falls, approximately 25 feet high. The trail was built by a group of local volunteers. From the Cliffside Lake Recreation Area, the trail begins 10 feet to the right of the Clifftop Vista trail. About 0.3 miles from the parking area, the trail splits to make a loop. Take the trail to the left. In approximately 0.6 miles, the trail comes to a junction, and the Ranger Falls Trail turns right. In approximately 0.1 miles, the Ranger Falls Trail turns left. Shortly after turning left, the trail arrives at the falls. Continue past the falls and uphill to a four-way intersection. Turn right at this intersection and continue 0.2 miles to a road. Turn right on the road. Follow the road 0.25 miles to a clearing, and the trail turns left and leaves the road just after the clearing. The trail passes a spring then turns right and enters the woods then starts to descend toward Cliffside Lake.
Hike descriptions adapted from the Highland Hiker’s Guide to Day Hikes.