Highlander Guide

Trout-packed streams—and excellent guides. Pristine lakes. Secret waterfalls and swimming holes. Trails for all types of hikers—plus, knowledgeable outfitters for gear and guidebooks. Farm-fresh produce. Local beers. Great live music. Not to mention, the kind of world-class art and cultural institutions you’d expect to find in a much bigger city. With all that and more just beyond our doorstep, it’s our staff’s privilege to play tour guide.Here you’ll find a few of our top Highlands area activities and excursions, but keep in mind, this only the start. Our list of favorites is long and robust, so come see us at the front desk for more information or additional recommendations.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS

Go Fish: To hook a native brook trout or net a fat rainbow, enlist one of the seventeen fly-fishing guides at Brookings Anglers, including Simons Weller, one of the sport’s few female guides.Secret Swimming Hole: Cool off come summer at Secret Falls. This secluded stunner tumbles fifty feet into a serene pool flanked by a quiet sandy beach. Let us pack you a picnic lunch.

Nature’s Water Park: For summertime thrills and chills, cart the whole family to Sliding Rock, where kids (and kids at heart) shoot down the smooth, sloping 60-foot rock face before plunging into the clear cold waters of Looking Glass Creek.

Natural Wonder: The eponymous music festival might be new, but each fall, generations of travelers have sought out Rhodes Big View Overlook, on U.S. 64 between Highlands and Cashiers, to witness the Shadow of the Bear, which emerges as the sun dips behind Whiteside Mountain.

If You Only Do One Hike: You have two iconic choices within 5 miles! Whiteside Mountain IS the iconic mountain vista hike of the Nantahala. The moderate (but steep) two mile loop looks out over 750-foot cliffs, offering panoramic views—particularly stunning at sunrise and sunset. We’ll happily pack you a thermos of coffee or a chilled bottle of wine. Glen Falls is the must-do hike for the waterfall enthusiast. Check the box on 3 waterfalls ranging from 20-70’ in height as well as mountain vistas overlooking the Blue Valley.

Your One-Stop Shop: Head to the Highland Hiker for hike recommendations as well as guided day hikes, fly-fishing excursions, and gear for both your in-town and outdoor mountain adventures.

Fall Flowers: Until autumn’s first frost, you can scoop up dahlias by the “ginormous bucket” at Bob and Judy McLean’s three-acre flower farm, Poppins Posies. They’re located just a few miles from the Asheville airport.

CULTURE

Get Your Arts & Culture Fix: Book a private ceramics workshop with the resident artist at The Bascom. The acclaimed visual art center’s six-acre campus is just a ten minute walk from our front door. Or road-trip to nearby Asheville to visit the Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center. The pioneering school, established in 1933, produced some of the 20th century’s most prominent artists.

The Live Music Event Worth a Special Trip: Mandolin Orange and St. Paul and the Broken Bones headline Highlands’ brand new spring music festival, Bear Shadow. Mark your calendars for April 23-25, 2021.

For Community and Coffee: Equal parts social hub, grocery store, all-day restaurant, and specialty food shop, Mountain Fresh Grocery anchors the south end of Main Street. Go for a fortifying pre-hike cup of coffee and chat with the locals or reward yourself with a post-hike craft beer and a slice of pizza.

Brewery Hopping: Pick a designated driver or book a car service (we can help you there) and drink your way down North Carolina’s brewery trail—hiking boots not required. Stay local and visit Whiteside Brewing Co. (Cashiers), Satulah Mountain Brewing Company (Highlands), and Sapphire Mountain Brewing Company (Sapphire). Or make a day of it and head to the heart of the state’s craft beer community, Asheville, where we’d recommend starting at Pisgah Brewing with a pint of certified organic pale ale.

Art History: A tribute to the work of traditional Cherokee artists, Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual is the oldest Native American collective in the country. The woven baskets are particularly beautiful. Map your route before you go to include the petroglyphs at Judaculla Rock, considered sacred among the Cherokee people.

CULTURE

Get Your Arts & Culture Fix: Book a private ceramics workshop with the resident artist at The Bascom. The acclaimed visual art center’s six-acre campus is just a ten minute walk from our front door. Or road-trip to nearby Asheville to visit the Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center. The pioneering school, established in 1933, produced some of the 20th century’s most prominent artists.

The Live Music Event Worth a Special Trip: Mandolin Orange and St. Paul and the Broken Bones headline Highlands’ brand new spring music festival, Bear Shadow. Mark your calendars for April 23-25, 2021.

For Community and Coffee: Equal parts social hub, grocery store, all-day restaurant, and specialty food shop, Mountain Fresh Grocery anchors the south end of Main Street. Go for a fortifying pre-hike cup of coffee and chat with the locals or reward yourself with a post-hike craft beer and a slice of pizza.

Brewery Hopping: Pick a designated driver or book a car service (we can help you there) and drink your way down North Carolina’s brewery trail—hiking boots not required. Stay local and visit Whiteside Brewing Co. (Cashiers), Satulah Mountain Brewing Company (Highlands), and Sapphire Mountain Brewing Company (Sapphire). Or make a day of it and head to the heart of the state’s craft beer community, Asheville, where we’d recommend starting at Pisgah Brewing with a pint of certified organic pale ale.

Art History: A tribute to the work of traditional Cherokee artists, Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual is the oldest Native American collective in the country. The woven baskets are particularly beautiful. Map your route before you go to include the petroglyphs at Judaculla Rock, considered sacred among the Cherokee people.