Where the Foothills end and the Blue Ridge begins, Saluda has the highest elevation of our four towns. We offer history, adventure, and charm with an air of sophistication. The terminus of the Saluda Grade, we honor our railroad heritage with a new Railroad Museum. A hub for outdoor adventures we have a zip line, hiking and many water adventures at nearby Green River. Our downtown is bustling but maintains a unique quaintness with several small boutiques and eateries inclusive of, Historic Thompson’s Store, the oldest family grocery store in North Carolina.
Saluda, NC originally called “Pace’s Gap” was incorporated in 1881. The name Saluda is of Indian origin meaning “Corn River” and was named after a Cherokee Chief. Saluda came into existence when the railroad came up the Saluda Grade connecting Tryon with Saluda. Situated at the top of the grade, Saluda is a gracious community of 575 year-round residents and is filled with art, crafts, galleries, and restaurants. The downtown area of Saluda hasn’t changed much since its inception and in 1996 was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Saluda Grade is the steepest main-line standard gauge grade in the United States. There are over 50 curves and the gradient ranges from 3.7 to 5.59%. It took over 8 years to build with many unfortunate lives lost. The first westbound train came through in 1878 originating in Charleston, SC and going all the way to Ohio. Many Charlestonians came up to Saluda that summer to escape the heat and built permanent seasonal homes around Saluda and Lake Summit.
The train also carried freight of cotton, grain, timber, coal and textiles. By 1927 the track was at its busiest carrying 30 freight trains and 8 passenger trains a day.
Today one can take the scenic drive up 176 from Tryon to Saluda stopping by Pearson’s fall on the way. The falls were purchased in 1931 by the Tryon Garden Club and is made up of 268 acres of virgin forest, spring fed streams and a 90-foot waterfall. The hike to the falls is only a mile and definatantly worth the trip. More than 200 species of fern, flowering plants, algae and moss flourish in the wildflower preserve.