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Hike Whiteside Mountain near Highlands, NC, climbing to exceptional summit views from the mountain’s sheer, 750-foot, towering rock walls.

georgia hiking trails: 2-4 miles 2 miles
(round trip)
? Your mileage may vary! Accuracy of your GPS device, weather conditions, and stops along your route will affect your own recorded distance.
georgia hiking trails: moderaterelatively
moderate
?Our difficulty estimate, based on distance, terrain, elevation change, & ease of wayfinding. May vary daily due to weather, trail reroutes, downed trees, etc.
georgia hiking trails: dog-friendly Dog-
friendly
?Leashed dogs are allowed on this trail. We’ve loved hiking this route with our trail-loving Labrador Retrievers! Check out more of our favorite dog-friendly trails near Asheville for a great hike with your pup.

LOCATION:near Highlands, NC in the Nantahala National Forest

GEAR & WEAR: our hiking gear list and our locally-made Asheville Trails shirts & hats

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 785 Trails Illustrated Map

RATED: 4.4/5 (7 reviews)

Whiteside Mountain’s enormous, sheer rock faces rise high above the nearby town of Highlands. The mountain’s massive, exposed cliffs rise nearly 750 feet from the tree line, the highest perpendicular bare rock face east of the Rocky Mountains. Endangered peregrine falcons nest in the mountain’s towering cliffs, and soar in the thermal uplifts beside the mountain, searching for prey. Summit vistas stretch far and wide in some of the most incredible panoramas in western North Carolina.

Whiteside Mountain in Highlands, NC

This hike 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 beautiful, golden colors of autumn paint the surrounding hardwood forest . The hike’s stunning beauty, 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 on the mountain, visit on early morning weekdays for the best chance for some silent summit bliss.

Hike Whiteside Mountain near Highlands, NC, climbing to exceptional summit views from the mountain's sheer, 750-foot, towering rock walls. #hiking #trailrunning #asheville #nc #northcarolina #travel #outdoors #adventure

Whiteside Mountain: the hike

The adventure begins at a 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 trail loops around the mountain’s summit; this hike takes the steeper, faster route to the summit, 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 climbing 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 principal overlook at just under a half mile, catching exceptional views from a weathered gray rock outcrop.

Whiteside Mountain in Highlands, NC

The trail veers to the northeast, following the mountain’s elongated ridge, continuing the climb. As the elevation rises, the drop-offs from the overlooks become sheerer, 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 vast 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.

Whiteside Mountain in Highlands, NC

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 the nearby, craggy prominence at Devils Courthouse.

The trail arcs southwest, following a gravel roadbed framed by large rock outcrops and broad-trunked rhododendron. The hike descends steadily along the roadbed, passing an enormous, blocky outcropping covered in vibrant green moss at 1.75 miles. The hike completes the loop, and follows the gravel road back to the trailhead, finishing the adventure 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 Map, Directions & Details

Trails and routes may change – so please refer to official trail maps for the latest route.

Trail Rating

RATED: 4.4/5 (7 reviews)

Love the trail?

This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the National Forest Foundation. Please support them by making a donation or joining a volunteer day. Let's work together to keep these fantastic trails maintained and open for use!

Updates

Did you have trouble accessing the trail, or notice some recent trail updates or storm damage? We'd love to know! Contact us here, and thanks for helping us keep this site updated!

Driving Directions



Parking

$2 per vehicle (cash) at the trailhead east of Highlands. Before you go, check for seasonal trail and road closures on the USFS Nantahala National Forest site.


GPS Coordinates

35.080417, -83.144033     //     N35 04.825 W83 08.642

Elevation Profile

Whiteside Mountain Trail Elevation Profile
 
 
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Eric Champlin
Author

Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails, and Trailful, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures and top Southern-worthy outdoor gear. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.