Explore the Mountains of Highlands, North Carolina
Geographers, for our sake, divide the mountains into three large regions: northern, central and southern Appalachia. We at The Park on Main rest almost nonchalantly in the southern end.
The Formation of the Mountains
Archeologists believe the Appalachians were formed 680 million years ago following earthen plate collisions that created the supercontinent Pangaea. When the North America and Africa were joined as one continent, the Appalachians were connected to Atlas Mountains of Morocco and Algeria.
Erosion had eventually flattened the Appalachians some 65 million years ago. The continental shifts lifted the terrain during the Cenozoic Era, which rejuvenated streams and created the unique and beautiful mountainous ranges. The era is the most recent of the three major subdivisions in animal development and concluded about 23 million years ago, according to the University of California’s Museum of Paleontology.
Heavy deposits of anthracite and bituminous coal are found in the Appalachian Mountains. Some mountain plateaus contain iron and zinc.
Hiking Whiteside Mountain is one of the most popular activities in the area, and the trail parking lot for the mountain is just seven miles northwest of the hotel. The two-mile hike is described as being easy to moderately difficult, but well worth the incredible sights available from multiple viewpoints at the top.
Other notable sights include the winding trail going down, the staircase path headed up and the straight drop-down viewpoint from the sheet rock cliffs.
Let’s start our tour by making our way to Whiteside Mountain between Highlands and Cashiers on U.S. Highway 64. The highway that runs along the Jackson-Macon county line is known as the “big view” overlook, according to Highland Hiker. Turn onto Whiteside Mountain Road and go one mile to the parking area on the left. The fee to take the mountain trail is $2. Trekking along the trail gives hikers a panoramic view of the entire area, but Shortoff and Yellow Mountain rise to the north and Chimneytop Mountain appears on the eastern horizon.
Look south to the foothills and Piedmont (and Lake Keowee). Direct your line of sight to the west to the Nantahala Mountains and views of the Appalachian Trail. The mountain’s summit climbs to 4,900 feet, which is about 2,000 feet higher than Whiteside Cover to the south.
The 2-mile trail takes about an hour and loops around the back and north side of the mountain and to the right, rising about 500 feet.
Now to The Courthouse
It’s called Devil’s Courthouse, but only by name. To reach this trail, follow the Whiteside Mountain trail to the left to the old jeep trail then to the clearing. The Whiteside Mountain trail veers to the right; Devil’s Courthouse goes to the left, across the clearing.
This trail is rugged and less traveled, winding down the side of the mountain. Keep going straight; avoid the spur trail on the right. The trail opens into a clearing and descends to the left and to the right. Keep going straight along the ridge until the trail begins to rise and veers to the right, moving along the left side of the ridge. The trail ends at the Devil’s Courthouse. This is the view, the awe – with three sheer cliffs on three sides.
Top Leaf-Peeping Locations in Highlands
North Carolina’s mountains are home to some amazing scenery. During the autumn months, these landscapes are full of beautiful changing leaves. This fall foliage draws visitors from far and wide. We present some of the top places to see fall foliage in Highlands in the fall. But first let’s explore why the colors change.
Why Do Leaves Change Color?
During the spring and summer months, chlorophyll in leaves produces energy for trees. When the temperature and level of sunlight change in the autumn, that compound breaks down. As this happens, the green color disappears. The carotenes and xanthophyll pigments now become visible. These oranges and yellows are known for their beauty.
Any area at an elevation of 3,500 feet or more will have heightened color. This is why the mountainous terrain in North Carolina is such a good place to see them. Leaf peeping season in North Carolina lasts from October to mid November.
Where to See Foliage
Highlands, NC is a small town with a sophisticated feel. Nestled within the Southern Appalachian Mountains, this is a great area for hiking and spending time in nature. The fall foliage in and around Highlands – with an elevation of 4,118 feet – is stunning. Some of our top picks for enjoying the fall foliage include:
Don’t miss North Carolina’s fall foliage. Make sure to make reservations at The Park on Main®, which offers 24 luxury suites and abundant natural scenery.