Highlands and Cashiers are located in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, known for their beautiful fall foliage. Many tourists and nature enthusiasts visit the area during the fall season to enjoy the colorful leaves, and there is a specific shadow phenomenon that catches people’s attention – the “Shadow of the Bear.”

The Shadow of the Bear is one of the most famous and unique natural phenomena in the Highlands and Cashiers area. This phenomenon occurs when the sun sets behind Whiteside Mountain, casting a shadow that resembles a bear over the landscape. However, perceptions of natural wonders like this can be highly subjective, and different people might see other things when looking at the same shadow.

While the shadow is most commonly associated with the shape of a bear, some people might see a resemblance to a mouse, depending on their perspective, imagination, and the specific conditions on the day they view it. Shadows can appear to morph and change as the sun sets, leading to different interpretations of their shapes.

Highlands / Cashier’s Shadow Resembles A Fighter Aircraft

bear shadow resembles a f-117 nighhawkThough I can see how the shadow can form a bear shape, I think the shadow resembles the F-117 Nighthawk. The F-117 is a retired US Air Force stealth aircraft known for its distinctive angular shape designed to deflect radar signals, making it less visible to enemy radar. It is a product of advanced engineering and design, whereas the Shadow of the Bear is a beautiful example of a natural phenomenon.

It’s like looking at clouds in the sky; people often interpret the shapes differently based on their imaginations and perspectives. So, while the “Shadow of the Bear” is most famous for resembling a bear, someone else might see a resemblance to a mouse or another creature in its contours and outlines.

Today, the “Shadow of the Bear” is a well-known local attraction, and it draws visitors from all over during the fall season when the phenomenon is visible. Despite its popularity today, the exact origins of when it was first “discovered” or became widely recognized remain somewhat of a mystery, woven into the rich tapestry of local lore and history in the Highlands and Cashiers area.

Best Time and Date:

Time of Year: Mid-October to early November.
Time of Day: Around 5:30 PM to 6:00 PM, but this can vary slightly depending on the specific day and weather conditions.

Best Viewing Locations:

Rhodes Big View Overlook: Located on Highway 64 between Highlands and Cashiers. This is the most popular and accessible location to view the Shadow of the Bear. There is a parking area and an overlook where visitors can set up cameras and enjoy the view.

Tips for Viewing:

Arrive Early: The phenomenon only lasts for about 20 minutes, and it can be quite popular, especially on weekends and during peak foliage season. Arriving early ensures you get a good spot and are ready when the shadow begins to form.
Check the Weather: Clear skies are ideal for viewing the Shadow of the Bear. Overcast conditions can obscure the view, so it’s a good idea to check the weather forecast before heading out.
Bring the Right Equipment: If you’re hoping to capture the moment, make sure you bring a camera with a good zoom lens, as the shadow can appear quite distant depending on your vantage point. A tripod can also be helpful to keep your camera steady.

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