Whiteside Mountain TrailThings To Do In The Smoky Mountains
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A Moderate, Two-Mile Hike to Overlook the 750-foot High Cliffs
Whiteside Mountain Trail, nestled in the Nantahala National Forest between Highlands and Cashiers in North Carolina, offers a stunning hiking experience with its remarkable natural features and fascinating history. The mountain, known for its striking appearance resembling sheets of ice draped across its cliffs, stands at an elevation of 4,930 feet, making it a prominent landmark in the region. Geologists estimate Whiteside Mountain to be one of the oldest in the world, with an age ranging from 360 to 490 million years.
The trail itself is a moderate, two-mile loop that leads hikers to the top of sheer 750-foot high cliffs, offering extraordinary views to the east, south, and west. Along the way, hikers can observe a variety of wildflowers and learn about the area’s history through educational signs. One notable historical event featured on the trail is the daring 1911 rescue at Fool’s Rock by Charles Wright. The highest point on the trail is marked with a rock-carved “Alt. 4,930 ft.,” providing a memorable photo opportunity.
In addition to its geological and historical significance, Whiteside Mountain is also an ecological haven. It’s particularly known for its population of peregrine falcons. These birds, once endangered, were reintroduced to the mountain in 1985 and return annually to nest on the rock ledges. To protect these birds, certain climbing routes near nesting sites are closed during nesting season. The mountain’s southern-facing cliffs reveal its solid rock foundation, featuring white streaks of quartz and feldspar, further adding to its unique visual appeal.
For those planning a visit, directions from Asheville include a 53-mile journey through scenic, curvy roads, taking about 1.5 hours. Parking is available at the trailhead for a small fee, which is paid on an honor system.
This trail, with its combination of natural beauty, geological wonder, and rich history, offers an enriching outdoor experience for hikers of all levels.