Tucked away within the Nantahala National Forest, at the convergence of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, Highlands, NC, is a picturesque retreat. This charming mountain town, perched at an elevation of 4,118 feet, is a sanctuary for those seeking outdoor adventures amidst spectacular waterfalls and trails. Beyond its natural allure, Highlands boasts luxurious inns, top-tier spas, and exquisite dining options, blending rustic charm with sophistication. It’s a perfect retreat, promising relaxation and adventure to all visiting.

Places to EAT & SLEEP in Highlands, NC where to eat and sleep highlands

Things To Do In Highlands, North Carolina

  1. Explore Cliffside Lake for hiking and swimming: Cliffside Lake offers serene waters that are ideal for swimming and picnic areas for family gatherings. Surrounding hiking trails provide scenic views and connect with more extensive trail networks for those seeking adventure.
  2. Visit the Highlands Nature Center and Highlands Recreation Park: These centers offer educational programs about local wildlife and ecosystems and recreational facilities for sports and family fun, promoting learning and physical activity.
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  3. Discover The Bascom: A center for the visual arts located in Highlands, offering exhibitions, workshops, and educational programs. The Bascom promotes the visual arts, providing a space for artists, students, and visitors to engage with and appreciate art. It’s a cultural gem in the heart of the mountains, perfect for those looking to explore the artistic side of Highlands.
  4. Hike to School House Falls and Panthertown: Known as the “Yosemite of the East,” Panthertown Valley houses School House Falls, a picturesque waterfall accessible through a network of trails offering stunning natural beauty and diverse ecosystems.
  5. Admire Whitewater Falls: As one of the tallest waterfalls in the eastern U.S., Whitewater Falls presents a breathtaking spectacle with accessible viewing platforms for an unforgettable experience.
  6. Highlands Botanical Gardens: A serene spot for plant lovers featuring native plants of the Southern Appalachians in a beautifully maintained setting. Ideal for leisurely walks and educational opportunities, the gardens offer a peaceful retreat into nature.
  7. Explore Gorges State Park: This park features rugged terrain, river gorges, and waterfalls, offering visitors a chance to connect with nature through hiking, camping, and picnicking.
  8. Highland Excursion: Offers sightseeing tours and hikes in the Nantahala Rainforest, NC, providing an immersive experience in one of the most stunning natural environments. These excursions are designed to showcase the beauty and diversity of the rainforest, making it an ideal adventure for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. For more details, visit their website at Highland Excursion.
  9. Visit The Village Green in Cashiers: This community park is a hub for arts, culture, and recreation, hosting events, outdoor concerts, and art shows amidst beautifully landscaped grounds.
  10. Nearby Gem Mining Adventures: As the “Gem Capital of the World,” Franklin boasts numerous gem mines where families can dig for rubies, sapphires, and other precious stones. Popular mines include the Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine and Gold City Gem Mine.
    • Mason Mountain Mine & Cowee Gift Shop: This mine offers a hands-on gem mining experience and the opportunity to turn your finds into jewelry. Mason Mtn Mine is known for its unique Rhodolite garnets.
    • Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine: This mine offers a chance to find rubies and sapphires in their native form.
    • Gold City Gem Mine: Here, you can find a variety of gems and also enjoy the facilities they offer.
    • Highlands Road Gem Mine: A family-friendly mine where you can sift for various gems.
    • Rose Creek Mine & Rock Shop: Offers a family-friendly mining experience with various digging options.
    • Sheffield Mine: Known for star rubies and sapphires.
  11. Chill Out With Local Brews: Enjoy local brews and casual dining at Highland’s Satulah Mountain Brewing Co, or Cashiers’ Whiteside Brewery. Each offers a unique taste of local cuisine alongside a selection of crafted beers, providing a delightful dining experience that reflects the region’s flavors. For more variety, head down the mountain about 30 minutes to Franklin, NC, where Currahee Brewing and Lazy Hiker Brewing await with their own selections of locally brewed beers and a welcoming atmosphere for visitors.
  12. Nearby Family-Friendly Attractions: Enjoy attractions like the Fun Factory in the Smokies in Franklin and the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad in Bryson City
  13. Hiking Trails: Each trail, from Whiteside Mountain with its expansive views to the secluded beauty of Secret Falls, offers unique experiences. Glen Falls, Dry Falls, and Ranger Falls trails lead to stunning waterfalls, while Bartram Trail and Scaly Mountain via Bartram Trail provide challenging hikes through diverse terrains and elevations, showcasing the area’s natural beauty.

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More Details About Those Awesome Highlands’ Hikes:

  • Whiteside Mountain Trail: A moderate loop trail offering stunning views of sheer cliffs and deep valleys, popular for bird watching and wildflowers.
  • Glen Falls Trail: A scenic trail leading to multiple cascades, with viewpoints along the way. It’s moderately challenging with a rewarding waterfall view.
  • Dry Falls Trail: A unique trail where you can walk behind the waterfall, offering a different perspective and a cool mist on warm days.
  • Secret Falls Trail: A less crowded path leading to a beautiful secluded waterfall, ideal for a peaceful retreat.
  • Ranger Falls Trail: A quieter, more serene trail within the Nantahala National Forest, leading to a picturesque waterfall.
  • Bartram Trail: This trail offers diverse scenery, including mountain vistas and waterways, and is part of a longer, historic trail system.
  • Scaly Mountain via Bartram Trail: A hike that combines challenging terrains with panoramic views, especially beautiful in the fall.

For a comprehensive guide to the wonders and activities in Western North Carolina’s small towns, including the serene and beautiful North Carolina Smoky Mountains, take some time to poke around this 828Vibes travel guide. If this visitor guide has been helpful, please share our website on your social media and with friends and family. Additionally, join our newsletter to stay updated on everything happening in this quieter side of the Smokies, ensuring you don’t miss out on any hidden gems or exciting events.


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