The communities are surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest, making it a natural playground for outdoors lovers. Waterfalls are perhaps the region’s biggest claim to fame, some easily viewed from roadside pull-offs or short walks to viewing platforms along waterfall driving circuits, with others hidden in the remote wilderness and accessible only to those willing to hike.
Highlands: Above it all
At 4,118 feet in elevation, Highlands is the second-highest incorporated town east of the Mississippi River.
Filled with upscale boutiques, spas, art galleries and antique shops, downtown is a vibrant, picturesque mountain community. When evening rolls around, residents and visitors enjoy fine dining, summer Appalachian and chamber music concert series, wine and craft beer tastings, artisan receptions and exhibits, and professional theatre troupes.
When venturing into the outdoor splendor of Western North Carolina, adventurists can tackle hiking and biking trails, whitewater rapids, sheer rock cliffs, tranquil lakes, and numerous country clubs and golf courses. The Highlands greenway network, with walking paths and trails radiating from downtown, is also a key feature of the town.
• The Bascom — An independent non-profit art center, the gallery offers a host of workshops, lectures and exhibits for adults and kids. Located at 323 Franklin Road. 828.526.4949.
• Martin-Lipscomb Performing Arts Center — The center offers professional arts performances and other theatric productions. Located at 507 Chestnut St. 828.526.9047.
• Highlands Nature Center and Botanical Garden — The Nature Center features exhibits, programs and lectures on environmental topics. The Botanical Garden offers 12 acres of native plants in natural habitats, from upland woods to cove forest and wetland. Located at 265 North Sixth St. 828.526.2602.
• The Highlands Playhouse — Professional theater offering live music, movies and other artistic productions. Season runs July to October. Located at 362 Oak St. 828.526.2695.
• Waterfalls — Driving U. S. 64 West will take you past Lower and Upper Cullasaja Falls, Dry Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, some of the area’s most popular waterfalls.
• Whiteside Mountain —The rocky face of the mountain is familiar to all who visit the region. The mountain is between Highlands and Cashiers and is accessible by a two-mile loop trail that begins off Whiteside Mountain Road.
• Visitor Center — Located at 108 Main St. 828.526.5841 or www.highlandschamber.org.
Cashiers: Crossroads of the plateau
The Village of Cashiers is a true crossroads community, with four roads coming in from each of the cardinal directions serving as the only arteries in or out.
While the town has its share of excellent golfing and country clubs, resorts and fine dining, you’ll find plenty of hikers and rock climbers amongst the permanent residents in the area.
The Village Green is one of the community’s best assets, a 12-acre park in the center of town featuring walking paths, a nationally judged dahlia garden, boardwalks over wetlands, a playground, rustic pavilions, a woodlands trail, and sculptures by internationally renowned artists. The parks gardens, with an emphasis on native plants, vary from wildflower beds, grassy fields, wetlands, and wooded areas while creating rooms with specific interests, like the native azalea garden and a fern room.
The Village Commons and the Village Green play host to programs, nature lectures, festivals, music and more throughout the year.
• Lake Glenville — This beautiful mountain lake is located between Cashiers and Sylva along N.C. 107. It’s an excellent place to get in some water recreation, and a marina rents boats of all types. There’s a county campground, Ralph J. Andrews Park, with 47 camp sites, full hook-ups, tent sites, primitive camp sites, picnic shelter, picnic facilities, fishing, boat ramp, hot showers and bathrooms on the far side of the lake on Pine Creek Road.
• Panthertown Valley — The “Yosemite of the East” is a 6,700-acre recreation area with towering rock cliffs rising up from the valley floor, cascading waterfalls, meandering streams, lush rhododendron tunnels, and hiking and biking trails. Note that some plants in the valley are rare, so please stay on the trails.
• Whiteside Community and Whiteside Cove Road — Here you’ll find Grimshawes Post Office, the smallest post office in the U.S. The post office was established 1903 and served the public until 1953. Nearby is Whiteside School, built in 1910. The school’s windows are all located on one side of the building, which was believed to prevent shadows on schoolwork.
• Whitewater Falls — This is the tallest waterfall in the east and is located about 10 miles from Cashiers. Head south on N.C. 107 along one of the most scenic drives in the region. Turn left just after crossing into South Carolina and follow the signs. A short paved trail leads to the falls. There are restrooms and lovely picnic facilities.
• Zachary-Tolbert House — An 1840 Greek Revival estate house on the National Register of Historic Places built by one of the founders of Cashiers. The home was never altered, never modernized and stands as a pristine example of the rural, antebellum South. Call for viewing. Located on N.C. 107 one mile south of Cashiers. 828.743.7710.
• Visitor Center — Located in a log cabin on U.S 64, just west of the town’s main intersection. 828.743.5191 or www.cashiersareachamber.com.