Highlands North Carolina Visitor Guide

Highlands, NC

Highlands has been a mountain respite for over a century, allowing our visitors to unwind while being treated to the finest amenities. Highlands is one of the highest towns east of the Mississippi River, with an elevation at 4,118 feet. It's also located in one of the few temperate rainforests in North America. While this mountain resort town along scenic drive Highway 64 only has a year-round population of 3,200, it swells to over 18,000 in the summer. It's located only ten miles from Cashiers.

Highlands, NC

In addition to a multitude of outdoor activities in the surrounding Nantahala National Forest, Highlands boasts exquisite restaurants, fabulous shopping and a great cultural arts scene. The "postcard" downtown offers plenty of art galleries, antique stores and upscale boutiques. Five of the restaurants have been awarded the coveted Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. In the middle of downtown Highlands is Old Edwards Inn and Spa, a resort consisting of the historic main building, a full-service European–style spa, Madison’s Restaurant and Wine Garden.

If you are looking for a cultural experience, they have professional summer stock theater at the Highlands Playhouse, the Highlands Cashiers Chamber Music concerts, the American Museum of Cut and Engraved Glass, improvisation at the Instant Theater and varied other productions. The Center for Life Enrichment offers several classes each week on varied topics. Enjoy the auction at Scudders or shows at various art galleries.

Highlands, NC

Highlands Heritage Trail is a walking tour of the historic downtown area. There are two options: a three block walk and a 20-block walk (3.5 miles) with 51 historic spots along the way.

The Bascom's visual arts center offers more than 60 classes and workshops between June and October. Fourteen artists-in-residence offer classes as well as lectures to the public. Their gallery always has a wonderful show. It's a must see. And we love riding through their covered bridge entrance.

Arts: For the latest performing arts events, check out the Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival, Highlands Playhouse and Highlands Cashiers Players.

Waterfalls: There are beautiful waterfalls to see, and many of them required little walking to enjoy. Walk behind Dry Falls! Drive behind Bridal Veil Falls. See Cullasaja Falls from the Mountain Waters Scenic Highway. Hike to Glen Falls. For more, see our Highlands Waterfall Guide

Hiking: See our Whiteside Mountain Guide for the area's best hike. Cliffside Lake has an easy 3/4-mile walk around the lake and the Vista Trail with a good bit of climbing. Sunset Rock (take Main Street 1/2 mile east to Nature Center) is a 1/2-mile walk to the top for beautiful sunset views seen over the town while you sit on slabs of granite. Adjacent Highlands Botanical Gardens has garden paths for strolling.

Fishing: Fly fish for Brown, Rainbow and Wild Brook Trout with local guides on many rivers in the area: the Nantahala, Tuckasegee, Cullasaja, Chattooga, White Water and Panther Town Valley. May-October are the prime fishing months.

Golf: There are many private courses in the area. Sky Valley Resort and Country Club is a public course in Sky Valley, Georgia, just 15 minutes from Highlands, with elevations up to 4,000 ft. and stunning vistas.

Shadow of the Bear: See this unique image emerge from behind Whiteside Mountain several weeks each year. Read more about the Shadow of the Bear.

See more of our 25 Coolest NC Mountain Small Towns.

Highlands Directions from Asheville: I-26 to exit 40/Highway 280/Airport exit to Brevard. Then follow US Highway 64 to Cashiers. Very scenic drive, but many curves between Brevard and Cashiers. Highlands is 10 miles past Cashiers. Allow two hours. 73 miles. 

Faster Route: Take I-40 West to route 23/74 W towards Waynesville. Take 23/74W to 23/441 towards Dillsboro, Sylva and Franklin. At Franklin stay on the bypass and take U.S. Highway 64 East to Highlands. 85 miles, 1.5 hour drive.

Highlands Highlights

High Hampton Inn
This historic mountain inn is reminiscent of the great summer resorts of the Adirondacks. Located on 1,400 acres, it offers golf and tennis, spa, hiking trails and lake for swimming, boating and fishing. Big news! High Hampton is undergoing a big makeover December 2018 through May 2020 - adding more lakeside... read more
Bridal Veil Falls, Highlands
Bridal Veil Falls, Highlands
Located on the Waterfall Byway, stop to walk behind this roadside cascade. It's located near Highlands. Just a mile away, walk behind a much bigger Dry Falls, along US Highway 64.
Cullasaja Falls
Cullasaja Falls
See this 250-ft. waterfall from along US 64 (Mountain Waters Scenic Byway) in the Cullasaja River Gorge, located between Highlands and Franklin. It's just 5.5 miles from Dry Falls.
Whiteside Mountain
Whiteside Mountain
(2-mile loop hike, moderate) A landmark in the Nantahala National Forest, located between Cashiers and Highlands, Whiteside rises to an elevation of 4,930 ft.. A loop trail takes you to the top of sheer 750-ft. high cliffs (plenty of railings for safety) with outstanding views.
Dry Falls
Dry Falls
This spectacular 75-ft. waterfall has two great features: it's roadside and you can walk behind it! It's located in the Nantahala National Forest along US Highway 64 near Highlands.
Secret Falls, NC
Secret Falls
Located near Highlands, this 50-ft. waterfall cascades into an idyllic pool perfect for wading and swimming. It's a short hike in Nantahala National Forest.
Bust Your Butt Falls
Bust Your Butt Falls
This popular swimming hole is on the Cullasaja River along US Highway 64 between Highlands and Franklin. It's roadside, so it's easy for all to enjoy the natural slide and pool for swimming.
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