Highlander Guide

Trout-packed streams and excellent guides– without the typical summertime crowds. Pristine lakes and secret waterfalls. Mountain peaks with panoramic views. 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 is 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. Enjoy the tranquility of these streams during wintertide, uninhabited by the typical summer crowds. Or, let us pack you a picnic lunch or a tumbler of coffee for a respite at Secret Falls: this secluded stunner tumbles fifty feet into a serene pool flanked by a quiet sandy beach.

Winter Pastimes: Immerse yourself in the Highlands’ winter wonderland at the Founder’s Park Ice Rink, open through early March. After a few laps, warm up with the coffee and hot chocolate available on-site. Located just a few blocks from the Mountain House, this seasonal activity makes a memorable date night or an entertaining experience for the whole family. When Jack Frost makes his arrival, hop over to the Sapphire Valley for skiing, snowtubing, and more. 

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 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. If you want to explore other options, come on down to the front desk and we will be glad to help you select the hike that suits your preferences. 

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

CULTURE

Get Your Arts & Culture Fix: Book a sculpture or ceramics workshop with the in-residence artist at the Bascom. Wander the exhibition or visit their shop to take a curated piece of art home. 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: Band Of Horses, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, and Trampled By Turtles headline Highlands’ annual spring music festival, Bear Shadow. In the past we have served as the de facto musicians’ hangout after the shows. Join us (and them) April 29- May 1, 2022.

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.