5 best hiking trails in Highlands NC

5 Best Hiking trails in Highlands NC

Highlands NC, is a charming mountain town known for its stunning natural beauty, quaint downtown area, and abundance of outdoor activities.  Included in this area is the town of Cashiers.  We spent two weeks hiking and eating are way thru the area. This is an area that we will defiantly return to year after year. I think the defining thing that makes this area a bit different is that it is a little bit upscale. It tends to have nicer places to stay and to eat than most Smoky Mountain resort areas.

While there are some inns and hotels in the area we opted for a VERBO property. We feel for an extended stay that this is the best option. We have been renting VERBO property’s in the Smokeys for many years. We have never been disappointed. The key is to book well in advance when you have your choice of properties.

To view videos of the area Highlands

One of the highlights of our visit to Highlands/Cashiers  was exploring the areas many hiking trails. Here are my top five picks:

  1. Whiteside Mountain Trail – a challenging but rewarding hike that offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
  2. Schoolhouse falls, Little green Mountain. This is almost like two separate trails. The school house falls are on the Panthertown Valley trail. To make the trail different you cut off part of the loop and cross over Little Green Mountain. While this is a lot of work on the way up the payoff at the top is very good. You get a great view of Big Green Mountain and the Panther Town Velley. There is a great place to sit on the rock at the top and have lunch.
  3. Glen Falls Trail – an easy hike that takes you past three beautiful waterfalls. It is a little steep on the return.
  4. Rainbow Falls and Turtleback falls trail – a moderately challenging route with views of four waterfalls. In addition to Turtleback and Rainbow you will see Drift Falls and with a short spur you can see Stairway Falls.
  5. Stairway Falls – a shorter hike to a nice payoff. This 2.4 mile out and back trail is considered a moderately challenging route. This trail is in Gorges State Park which is an excellent facility. The last quarter mile includes steep trail sections.

I would have to say that our most memorable hike in Highlands NC was the Whiteside Mountain Trail. It is not a particularly long or difficult trail. At just shy of 5,000 feet It does have some of the most stunning views of any trail we have been on in the Smokeys. The trail is only 1.9 miles in a loop and is considered moderately challenging. It takes just over an hour to complete. It is a very popular tail and there is limited parking so go early and avoid weekends. There is a self service fee. The two-mile loop trail climbs above the sheer 750-foot high cliffs and offers outstanding views to the east, south, and west. Whiteside Mountain Trail is rated more difficult because of its steepness. I would consider this a peninsula. You get views of about 270 degrees.

After a day of hiking in Highlands NC, We were ready to indulge in some local cuisine. Here are our top picks for places to eat in the area:

  1. Wolfgang’s Restaurant and Wine Bistro – an upscale eatery known for its excellent wine selection and delicious European-inspired cuisine.
  2. Wild Thyme Gourmet – a casual restaurant serving up locally-sourced ingredients in creative dishes.
  3. Slab Town Pizza – Excellent Pizza, ate there twice.
  4. Cashiers Valley Smokehouse –  best BBQ in the area
  5. Los Vaqueros Mexican – great atmosphere and amazing staff.

We are Pizza lovers. We made the trip into Cashiers twice to eat at the Slab Town Pizza. The Pizza here is very good, however I think it was the atmosphere of the restaurant that had us returning for a second meal. It is a nice clean space with plenty of room and there was someone singing and playing the guitar. Of course it did not hurt anything that Crossroads Custard is in the same complex. Second to Pizza for us might be BBQ. We think we tried all of the BBQ restaurants in the area and we felt that the Cashiers Valley Smokehouse was the best of the bunch. We made the trip into Highlands NC to eat at Los Vaqueros Mexican a couple of times. The food here was good and the service was outstanding.

Overall, my experience in the Highlands area was one of relaxation, adventure, and culinary delight. The areas natural beauty and friendly locals make it a must-visit destination for travelers looking to escape the city and immerse themselves in nature.  Check out my photos of our trip to the Highlands area

Pics of Highlands NC

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