Whiteside Mountain Trail
Hike Whiteside Mountain near Highlands, NC, climbing to exceptional summit views from the mountain's sheer, 750-foot, towering rock walls.
The Whiteside Mountain Trail climbs this impressive mountaintop, looping two miles to incredible overlook after incredible overlook. The trail is a gorgeous hike in any season, but particularly beautiful in fall, when the surrounding hardwood forest is painted in the beautiful, golden colors of autumn. The hike’s stunning beauty, close proximity to the towns of Highlands and Cashiers, relatively short length and moderate elevation gains contribute to its immense popularity. If you’re seeking solitude at Whiteside, visit on early morning weekdays for the best chance for some silent summit bliss.
Whiteside Mountain Trail: the hike
The hike departs from the Whiteside Mountain trailhead, northeast of downtown Highlands (view maps and driving directions), hiking eastbound. The trail begins a nearly unrelenting hike to the mountain’s summit, following a wide gravel roadbed, reaching a trail intersection at .1 mile. From here, the Whiteside Mountain Trail loops around the mountain’s summit; this hike takes the steeper route to the summit (and the fastest route to the summit’s views), turning right and following blue trail blazes.
The hike quickly gains elevation, switching back through dense thickets of rhododendron and ascending rustic metal stairs. The hike reaches a side trail after ascending the stairs at .3 mile, catching limited views from an angular, open rock outcrop before continuing the ascent to the summit. The trail reaches the first major overlook at just under a half mile, catching exceptional views from a weathered gray rock outcrop.
The trail veers to the northeast, following Whiteside’s elongated ridge, continuing the climb. As the elevation rises, the drop offs from the overlooks become more sheer, and the views become even more breathtaking. Cables offer some edge protection at the steepest of the overlooks.
The trail peaks at .75 miles, reaching Whiteside Mountain’s summit of 4,930 feet. Views extend in wide panoramas, reaching down the mountain’s towering spine, and stretching far and wide. After cresting the mountain’s summit, the trail rolls elevation, making its last ascent at 1 mile. Views are abundant, available from a series of cabled overlooks.
From the hike’s midpoint, it’s a steady and continuous downhill back to the trailhead. The hike passes a side trail to an overlook platform just before rounding a sharp curve, catching the last of the trail’s incredible views at an overlook at 1.2 miles. Views from the overlook extend northward, reaching to the headwaters of the Chattooga River and Whiteside Mountain’s nearby, craggy prominence, Devil’s Courthouse.
The trail arcs southwest, following a gravel roadbed framed in large rock outcrops and broad-trunked rhododendron.
The trail descends steadily along the roadbed, passing an enormous, blocky outcrop covered in vibrant green moss at 1.75 miles. Completing the loop, the hike follows the gravel road back to the trailhead, completing the hike at just over 2 miles.
More hiking adventures near Highlands and Cashiers
In the area, and up for some more adventure? Check out the list of our favorite hikes near Highlands and Cashiers for more can’t-miss hikes, including the beautiful Rainbow Falls in Gorges State Park and the High Falls Trail at Lake Glenville.
Whiteside Mountain Trail: Directions & Details
35.080417, -83.144033 // N35 04.825 W83 08.642