A landmark in the Nantahala National Forest, Whiteside Mountain rises to an elevation of 4,930 feet. It's located between Cashiers and Highlands, North Carolina. The mountain’s cliffs look like sheets of ice draped across the mountain. This magnificent rock is about 390 to 460 million years old. A "moderate" two mile loop trail takes you on top of sheer 750-foot high cliffs (plenty of railings for safety) with outstanding views to the east, south, and west. Along your journey to the top, you can spot a variety of wildflowers—including false Solomonsseal, white snakeroot, dwarf dandelion, speckled wood-lily, and wood betony.
The trail begins as an old logger trail that was also once used as a road for a shuttle bus that would carry people up to the top of the lookout point. Follow this road uphill about a mile to the top. At the top, you will see the first of several overlooks breathtaking vistas. The trail continues about 1/2 long the ridge of the mountain, plenty of places to enjoy the views from the rock face. There are quite a few "educational" signs along the way to add interest. Be sure to read about the daring 1911 rescue by Charles Wright at Fool's Rock. The last 1/2 mile part of the trail is a steep downhill section that leads you back to the logging road near the parking area.
Toward to end of the walk along the mountaintop, look for the highest point with the rock carved "Alt. 4,930 ft."
The trail to the top. For a more gentle hike to the top, take the wider path (old road) to the left and return via the steeper trail to the right. It's a loop trail, so you can go either way!
Some of the interesting rock formations along the
There are plenty of railings along the trail for safety.
During the spring and summer, you may see peregrine falcons flying above or sitting on rock outcrops. Through the endangered species program, the falcon was reintroduced in 1985 to Whiteside Mountain, part of the bird’s native range. From January until summer, peregrines—one of the world’s fastest and most beautiful birds— return annually to nest on rock ledges. Because peregrines are nervous parents, climbing routes near nesting sites are closed during nesting. Please see maps on display at parking lot for current closures.
View of fall color on Whiteside Mountain from Highway 64 at the Rhodes Big View overlook.
See our Fall Color Guide.
Millions of years ago and before North America existed, Whiteside Mountain began as a huge mass of molten rock deep in the earth. The rock cooled, and then heat, pressure, and uplifting metamorphosed the granite rock into a granitic gneiss (pronounced “nice”). In the following ages, the overlying material eroded to expose this majestic rock. You can best see the solid rock foundation of this mountain on the south-facing cliffs, where wind and drier conditions limit plant growth. White streaks of quartz and feldspar line the face.
Directions From Asheville
(53 miles - allow 1.5 hours to drive the curvy roads).
Take I-26E to exit 40 (Asheville Airport). Turn right on NC 280W. NC 280W becomes US Highway 64W in Pisgah Forest. Stay on U.S. 64W through Cashiers, and go another five miles. Turn left on SR 1600 at Whiteside Mountain sign. Turn left into Whiteside Mountain entrance. Parking is $2 per car, pay on the honor system.
See hikes to nearby waterfalls.
Download the Whiteside Mountain Brochure (PDF).
See the Shadow of Bear from the Rhodes Big View overlook on US 64.
History of Whiteside Mountain
Prior to the Seventh Cherokee Treaty of 1819, the mountain was part of the Cherokee Nation. During the mid-1800s, the State of North Carolina issued more than 20 separate land grants to early settlers along the eastern slope of Whiteside. Following the Civil War, Macon County Land Company purchased the rest of Whiteside Mountain for about 7 cents an acre. In the early 1900s, the land became part of the enormous estate of the Ravenel family, who summered in the Highlands area. Later, a private corporation bought the land and used it as a tourist attraction. Shuttle buses carried people to the mountain’s peak over a road built for this purpose. In 1947, the mountain was purchased for its timber and logged. The U.S. Forest Service then acquired the land in 1970s, and it became part of the Nantahala National Forest.
Whiteside Mountain from Holly Berry Lake near Cashiers