Hike: Whiteside Mountain
Nearby Town: Highlands, NC
Elevation (Max): 4,930'
Elevation Gained: ~550'
Trailhead: From Highlands, follow US-64 E/N out of town. Continue to follow until turning right on Whiteside Mountain Rd after about 5 or 5.5 miles. Turn left into the parking area. The trail leaves near the middle of the parking lot.
Web Site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiteside_Mountain
While spending a fantastic weekend in Highlands at the incredible Old Edwards Inn and Spa, E and I knew we had to take advantage of being this far out in Western North Carolina by getting in a hike. After doing a little research, we figured out Whiteside Mountain would meet our needs. It is close to Highlands, about 15 minutes away, it is a relatively short hike and not very strenuous, and it is exceptionally scenic. About one half of the loop trail takes hikers along the top of some of the tallest cliffs in the Eastern United States.
I enjoy when she does this
The hike is a pretty simple and obvious loop. We began the loop by going left up the double track path that made the ascent quite gentle. We did this hike in February, so it was pretty cold, but the winds were light and the sun was bright so it was still a very pleasant hike. Along the way up the trail, there were many interesting ice formations including some growing on exposed rock on the side of the mountain and also large chunks of ice that had tumbled down the peak onto the trail.
The trail leaving the parking area
Ice coming out of the rocks
Balls of ice that tumbled down the mountain
When the trail begins to curve to form the loop, the view opens up dramatically to the north, east, and south. We spent a little time here just enjoying the long views of the dramatic landscape. Then we began the cliff-top portion of the hike. There is a cable fence along much of this section of the trail, and it is definitely important to be cautious because it is a very long way down. The views stretch into South Carolina and probably Georgia, too. We also enjoyed watching several birds soaring on the updrafts created by the cliff. After the cliff-top walk, the trail turns back towards the parking area and descends pretty quickly to complete the loop.
Oh, hello, South Carolina
Walking along the cliff
A little bit of the cliff
Keeping it safe on the cables
E and I definitely plan to return to Highlands some day--ideally for a longer stay during the summer so we can explore more of the numerous outdoor activities around the Highlands area. Check out the GPS-generated map below.