Nature Hiking & Waterfalls

Highlands Area Hiking Trails

Sunset Rock

Located just one half mile out Horse Cove Road. Parking is available across from the Highlands Nature Center, but limited. This moderately difficult hike is just 1.2 miles round trip.

Description: Walk up Sunset Park Road from trailhead to turnaround at the top of this graveled road. The granite overlook to the right has a wonderful view overlooking the Town of Highlands. To the left through a narrow path of rhododendrons leads to Sunrise Rock and a great view of Horse Cove.

Satulah Mountain

Located right in town, Satulah Mountain offers nice views from rock outcroppings in several directions. It is best to park on one of the streets in town and walk “up the 4th Street hill” from downtown. This hike is about 3.5 miles round trip and has a 700 foot elevation gain.

Follow Satulah Road to its intersection with Worley Road, which is less than half a mile. Bear right on road until it turns into a graveled lane. At the end of the lane, follow the hiking trails to the summit. Part of this hike is on paved roads and the remainder on graveled roads. Do not be alarmed as you pass private properties, as the public hiking access is guaranteed by covenants with the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust.

Whiteside Mountain

Head east on Highway 64 towards Cashiers about 6 and a half miles. Turn right on Whiteside Mountain Road (if you get to the overlook you have gone too far). Stay on Whiteside Mountain Road about one mile to the parking area on the left. There is a $2 per vehicle parking fee to the Forest Service. There are two ways to the top – one goes up at about a 45 degree incline and is moderately difficult. A lot of hikers take their dogs with them on this trail. The other trail goes up at a much steeper pace. They both end up at the granite summit. The loop is about 2 miles. Exercise some caution with children and pets along the top.

This is an old favorite for visitors and residents. The summit is a ridge with many overlooks to the south with spectacular views of the Blue Ridge as well as to the north and east looking towards Cashiers and down into Whiteside Cove.

There is a side trail to an adjacent outcropping called Devil’s Courthouse which is great for experienced hikers.

Old Iron Bridge and Chattooga River Loop

Not only is the hike beautiful, but the drive to get there is also interesting. Follow the many twists and turns of Horse Cove Road down to the T-intersection of Bull Pen and Whiteside Cove Road. Bear right on Bull Pen, a very rough and graveled Forest Service road, to the bridge. The parking is limited. The hiking distance is only 2 miles round trip and is moderately difficult.

The trail proceeds upriver before switching back to the left and returning through a hemlock forest to a campsite. There are great places to picnic slong the river above the bridge. A more experienced hiker may want to follow the Chattooga River Trail upriver.

Granite City

While in Horse Cove, at the T-intersection of Bull Pen and Whiteside Cove Road, bear left on Whiteside Cove Road. Go 1.2 miles to a steep trail on the left. Parking is only available along the shoulder of the road to this moderately difficult hike.

The trail leads to large granite outcroppings and big boulders with many caverns and ledges along the way. Wear boots and long pants for this one.

Yellow Mountain

From Highlands go east about 3 miles on Highway 64 towards Cashiers. Turn left on Buck Creek Road, go just over 2 miles. Parking is on the left and the trailhead is on the right. There is good signage. This hike is almost 10 miles round trip and is fairly strenuous with approximately 2,000 foot of elevation gain.

This long hike which goes up Cole Mountain, Shortoff Mountain, aroung Goat Mountain and up Yellow Mountain is definitely worth the trip. The views from the old fire tower at the summit are spectacular. The trail is well marked, but bring plenty of water and wear sturdy shoes.

Hiking Safety

Before you begin a hike or visit a waterfall……A word to the wise concerning personal safety While more and more people visit and enjoy our area, please remember these places are still considered wild and potential dangers do exist. Numerous injuries and deaths have occurred because of poor planning and bad behavior.

General Safety Tips:

  1. Remember to obey all posted warnings when hiking in the National Forest.
  2. Be respectful of others on the trails, and respectful of the National Forest.
  3. The saying “take only photos and leave only footprints” has great merit here especially when hiking with children and/or pets. There are fines and penalties for removing or destroy anything in the National Forest.
  4. Do not go onto private property.
  5. Make a plan and tell someone where you are going and what time you plan to return, and if possible don’t hike alone.
  6. If you get lost, always stay on the trail- you will be easier to rescue.
  7. The weather here changes quickly be prepared for a sudden downpour, summer thunderstorm or drop in temperature and be prepared to take cover. If possible, carry a first aid kit, with some type of flashlight.
  8. Be content to view the waterfalls on the safety platforms or at the base of the falls. There have been many injuries and deaths due to people climbing over barriers and walking too close to the edge. If there is no platform or sign, always remember how fragile the mountain terrain can be, and the ground can give way on the edge of a cliff or waterfall.

The best safety tip is to get as many details about where you are going before setting out and be careful and prepared for anything when venturing outdoors. If you don’t have accurate up to date maps, please give us a call. We can advise you on the best places to get the information you need.

The Nantahala Hiking Club

If you been hiking in Highlands and conquered the hikes above, remember that there are plenty of others and you don’t have to find them on your own.

The Nantahala Hiking Club offers many year round hiking trips with experienced guides to show you the way. Formed in 1968, the clubs primary function is to maintain about 60 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

Many of the hikes originate in Highlands and Cashiers and are rated by the club to be moderate or strenuous. While most hikes are within 10 to 20 miles of the meeting site, hikers usually carpool to locations throughout the area. Led by club members, most hikes are on Saturdays and Sundays with reservations required. Guests are always welcomed on these organized hikes, but you cannot bring your pets.

A schedule of hikes is regularly printed in The Highlander Newspaper and on the club’s website. All hikers should bring a lunch or snack plus a drink and wear sturdy comfortable shoes.

Membership in the club is $10 for families or single members and a newsletter is mailed to members every other month detailing events and hiking schedules.