22 Best Things to Do in Highlands, NC

Highlands, NC
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The town of Highlands is situated in Macon County in North Carolina.

This town lies on a plateau in the southern Appalachian Mountains and promises breathtaking natural beauty.

The sub-tropical cool climate adds to the beauty of the place.

If you're interested in visiting Highlands, NC, here are some things that you can do as a tourist.

Secret Falls

The entire Highlands has a lot of beautiful waterfalls, and one of them is the Secret Falls.

Although it is a bit tricky to locate the place, once you reach it, you will be totally mesmerized by the beauty of the place.

You need to walk less than a mile on a mountain trail to reach the top.

You will encounter two streams that require fording.

During the monsoons, these streams become a little bigger, and the trail often becomes muddy.

The medium-intensity hike is absolutely worth every bit as the view of the waterfalls in the woods is stunning, to say the least.

Dry Falls

Dry Falls
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If 'waterfalls' is your thing, then a visit to the Dry Falls should be included in your bucket list.

You can follow a paved walkway from the parking lot and reach right beneath the waterfall.

This waterfall is about seventy-five feet in height and offers a breathtaking view of natural beauty.

The very fact that you can walk underneath this waterfall makes this a unique experience.

Although you have to walk a bit through an uneven path, the abundance of natural beauty in the entire path more than makes up for it.

The gorgeous fall is also accessible by stairs; hence hiking is not required.

Mirror Lake Antiques

This is yet another beautiful shop when you are in Highlands.

This shop has a beautiful collection of eclectic jewelry that you can buy for yourself or as a souvenir.

They also have a small collection of books and vintage clothing that you can shop for.

One of the most interesting and attractive features of this shop is its convenient central location.

The owners are super friendly and will help you shop around.

The prices of the items on sale are quite fair and suit shoppers with different budget plans.

Glen Falls

Glen Falls
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Highlands offer yet another breathtakingly beautiful waterfall, the Glen Falls.

The trail is well-marked, and once you reach the falls, you will be in awe of the place's natural beauty.

The trip to Glen Falls will be an amazing and memorable way to spend a day with your family.

This hike is fairly easy and is not too muddy.

The easy and short drive out of the town towards this fall makes it a favorite among the tourists at Highlands.

Another must-visit stop for art-loving tourists in Highlands is the Carolina Gallery of Fine Art.

You can enjoy a relaxed exhibition of local artists in this gallery.

The gallery is large in size and quite well-lit, making it easy to view the exhibits.

You can mostly find paintings exhibited here; however, some sculpture and multi-media art can also be seen here.

The staff is super friendly and helpful.

In short, the Carolina Gallery of Fine Art is an art lover's paradise.

Osage Overlook

If you are driving by Highlands, park at the Osage Overlook parking area along NC 106/Dillard Road.

You can easily spot the trail and hike up to the top of the Scaly Mountain.

The trek is beautiful by itself.  

The scene of the surroundings from the top is breathtakingly beautiful.

Also, the road here is quite scenic, and the overlook is also stunning.

Cullasaja River Gorge

Cullasaja River Gorge
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The major attraction of the Cullasaja River Gorge is the magnificent drive through the Rt.1.

If you are driving from Highlands to Franklin, you cannot afford to miss this breathtaking drive and an even beautiful place.

You get to see rock cliffs, waterfalls, rushing rapids, and the deep gorge from this place.

The Cullasaja River Gorge is one of the most beautiful gorges that you may ever see.

You can even walk around at some places, but please be careful when you go near the rocks and the waterfalls.

The Cullasaja River Gorge offers lovely natural beauty, enough opportunities for family fun, and lots of photoshoots.

Sunset Rock and Ravenel Park

As the name suggests, this place offers a spectacular view of the sunset.

You must visit this park to get a beautiful view of the town of Highland and the valley from high above.

The way up is through a graveled track lined by beautiful blooms.

This trek offers stunning scenic beauty.

Both kids and adults will surely enjoy it.

The Sunset rock is absolutely stunning.

High up there, the weather is a bit cold and windy.

So, make sure to dress up accordingly.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls
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Another falls near Highlands is the Bridal Veil Falls, visible from the highway.

The waterfall is tall, about 120 feet in height.

A unique feature is that the falls sometimes display a beautiful rainbow in the afternoon light.

This creates a very picturesque scene.

The falls freeze during the winters, and that is another photo-worthy scene.

You can even walk behind this waterfall. Cool, isn't it?

The waterfall has a good parking place, so you can drive here and enjoy a quiet time with family and friends.

Cliffside Recreation Area

When you are in Highland, you should visit the Cliffside Recreation Area.

The walk around the lake is very relaxing and promises to fill you with happiness.

The trail around the lake is thoroughly enjoyable.

This is a good place to organize small picnics with friends and family.

The Reclamations

The Reclamations is an antique store located in Highlands.

If you like to explore antiques, especially architectural salvages, this is the right place.

The store has a huge collection of reclaimed articles and items for you to look around and marvel at.

There's a lot to see here, from lighting fixtures to architectural pieces, cement molds, etc.

Make sure you give yourself adequate time to look around and make the most of your visit.

Cullasaja Falls

Cullasaja Falls
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This is another very popular waterfall loved by tourists and locals alike.

This waterfall is situated at the Cullasaja River Gorge and offers a beautiful sight.

There are guardrails; you can take their support and walk up to the river.

It is indeed a wonderful experience.

However, be aware that the parking is less.

So, please try to avoid visiting on holidays.

Tourists love this waterfall and visit this place often, experiencing the natural beauty of the place.

The Bascom

If you're now tired of seeing waterfalls, you can pay a visit to The Bascom.

This art center is situated high up on the plateau and offers something for visitors of all ages.

The center hosts exhibitions, studio art instructions, and other cultural experiences.

You can expect to learn ceramics, pottery, and other such art forms from qualified instructors here.

You can also shop around for souvenirs.

The building itself and the huge expanse of grounds are also very gorgeous and worth visiting and marveling at.

Highlands Playhouse

If you are interested in performing arts, you must visit the Highlands Playhouse.

It features annual live performances in summer for the crowds.

You can watch movies here.

The staff here are friendly and will give you a very informative tour of the theater.

You can learn about the history of the Playhouse theater also.

When you are around Highlands, check out a play at the Playhouse with a glass of wine.

Highlands Biological Station, Nature Center, and Botanical Gardens

Organic field in Highlands Biological Station
Praisaeng / Shutterstock.com

As a nature lover, another place to visit in Highlands, NC is the Highlands Biological Station, Nature Center, and Botanical Gardens.

This nature center has a palette of natural attractions, including a botanical garden.

There are about 450 species of flowers, ferns, and trees.

Pitcher plant in Highlands Biological Station
Michael Sundberg / Shutterstock.com

The boardwalk along the meadows is beautiful and is a good enjoyable experience with family.

The plants here are well-marked.

As a result, these walks are quite educational.

You can also see stuffed animals and information about them in the visitor's area.

Another major attraction here is the cute Lilly pond.

Be prepared to enjoy two to three pleasant hours in the afternoon in this wonderful place.

Jackson Hole Gem Mine

Located 9 miles from Highlands and 9 miles from Franklin, the family-owned Jackson Hole Gem Mine is another popular tourist destination.

It is near the Cullasaja Falls and the Dry Falls.

So you can easily club them together in a single trip.

Guests can enjoy mining gem rocks here.

This is an experience that kids and adults will enjoy.

There are several priced options available for you to enjoy alone or with friends and family.

You can also enjoy a breathtaking view of the Cullasaja River from this property.

Bust Your Butt Falls

Bust Your Butt Falls
Kenneth Keifer / Shutterstock.com

This is yet another waterfall that is located in the area.

You may have a quick stopover here and soak in the natural beauty.

If you are an art lover and have about an hour to spare, pay a visit to the Highlands Art Gallery.

You can explore artwork by the local artists.

You also have the option to buy some of the displayed art pieces.

All in all, it is a good experience to spend some time marveling at the artistic creations of the local artisans of the Highlands.

You can also see artisans at work at the pottery studio here.

It is indeed a memorable experience to see something being built from scratch into a beautiful piece of art.

The art pieces here are fairly priced.

You can shop for souvenirs here too.

In fact, the entire building is a piece of art by itself.

It is made from an Amish barn from Pennsylvania.

Lower Satulah Falls

Another paradise for those who love waterfalls - the Lower Satulah Falls.

The trail is uphill the entire way and a bit challenging.

However, it is totally worth it and thoroughly enjoyable.

The neighborhood is quite scenic too.

Since Lower Satulah Falls is private property, it is advised to carry binoculars or telephoto lenses for a more memorable and enriching experience.

The Whiteside Mountain

Whiteside Mountain
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

If you want to do some hiking, do visit Whiteside Mountain.

It is about 2 miles, round trip.

This hike is relatively easy and is absolutely worth it.

The long-range view is stunning.

You can climb and reach the top in about half an hour and enjoy the breathtaking view of nature.

View from Whiteside Mountain
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Although some parts of the descent are quite steep, those areas are covered by stairs.

So, traveling up and down won't be an issue.

You can thoroughly enjoy your hike up and down in addition to the natural beauty of the place.

After finishing the hike, you may also carry a picnic lunch or enjoy a meal at the Dillard House and reward yourself.

The Highlands Civic Center

Visit the Highlands Civic Center when you are in town, especially if you love swimming.

This Civic Center has a six-lane Olympic size heated pool.

You can also socialize around the pool.

The charges are quite pocket-friendly, and the whole family can engage in swimming by paying a nominal fee for a day.

Highlands Wine Shoppe

After many hikes and treks, when you feel thirsty for a good glass of wine, do head out to the Highlands Wine Shoppe.

This shop is open on all days of the week and serves some of the finest qualities of wine.

You can enjoy your wine with chocolate, cheese, and so many other things.

The outdoor seating is beautiful.

The free WiFi helps you stay connected.

If you have some important work to finish, you can do it in peace here.

The selection of wines here is superb, and the staff is friendly.

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