Black bears, waterfalls, and pastrami: 14 stops on a Highlands-Cashiers Plateau freeway journey

The mountain communities of Highlands, Cashiers, Lake Sapphire, and Lake Toxaway give an escape for city dwellers from Atlanta and Charlotte. However there may be way more to do under than simply keep for a weekend getaway. Discovered about 1.5 a number of hours from the Fantastic Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park’s Oconaluftee Customer Centre and fewer than 2 hours from Asheville, this a part of North Carolina is a perfect property base for working day journeys to nationwide forests and essentially the most frequented nationwide park within the U.S.

From quaint Main Streets to scenic drives and epic foliage come fall, right here’s through which to devour, relaxation, and hike across the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau. 

Factors to do

Nantahala Nationwide Forest

The Highlands-Cashiers Plateau is located in essentially the most important of the state’s 4 nationwide forests within the southern Appalachians. There are much more than 600 miles of trails that give you a lot of roadside waterfalls and fast hikes, like Bridal Veil Falls, Dry Falls, Silver Function Falls, and Whitewater Falls. For some factor a bit way more cheap, consider trails like Glen Falls, Excessive Falls Waterfall at Lake Glenville, Resolution Falls, or Whiteside Mountain.   

View of waterfall amongst leaves changing color for fall
Take a look at of Dry Falls | Images: Ashley Rossi
Rushing water from the backside of a waterfall

Gorges State Park

Discovered within the neighborhood of Cashiers is 1 of North Carolina’s most up-to-date state parks. The three-mile spherical trip hike to Rainbow Falls is a well known day hike possibility—or thrust your boundaries on the park’s space of the Foothills Path, which features a lengthy suspension bridge and primitive campsites. 

The American Museum of the Dwelling Cat

For one factor quirky, finish on the American Museum of the Family Cat in your method from the plateau to the countrywide park. The museum homes a private choice of way over 5,000 cat collectibles. Take observe that because of pandemic-related limits, the museum is barely giving curated excursions by appointment (created via cellphone at 828-476-9376).  

Visitor center at national park
The Oconaluftee Customer Coronary heart at Good Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park | Photograph: Ashley Rossi

Terrific Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park

There isn’t a shortage of working day hikes and scenic drives to get in Glorious Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park, however in case you’re coming from the plateau, you’ll want to enter on the park’s Cherokee entrance. From right here, journey the Newfound Gap Freeway, climb Clingmans Dome, or pick a average day hike, like Alum Cave Path. 

Related: An insider’s data to hidden gems in Terrific Smoky Mountains Countrywide Park

Blue Ridge Parkway 

This fashionable route is at its only seem drop, however is pleasing to push at any time of 12 months. It connects Fantastic Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah countrywide parks, spanning 469 miles. In case you are searching for to generate side of the route on a day journey from the plateau, you may enter on the southernmost level, Courthouse Valley Neglect, about 1 hour absent from Cashiers at milepost 423.5. From right here, generate northwest to Glorious Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park or northeast towards Asheville. 

Related: RV campgrounds close to the Blue Ridge Parkway

Sign showing the elevation and points at mountain outlook
A lookout level on the Pisgah Inn | Picture: Ashley Rossi

Pisgah Countrywide Forest

A special action-filled nationwide forest abuts the plateau to the northeast, presenting even way more choices for working day hikes and waterfalls. Make stops at Looking Glass Falls, a well known, roadside waterfall Pisgah Inn, a Nationwide Park Supplier concessionaire-managed lodge with a restaurant, reward retailer, and lookout (open seasonally) and the Cradle of Forestry in The usa, a heritage web page with tutorial programming (additionally open up seasonally). 

The place to absorb

Blue Bike Cafe

Get breakfast at this no-nonsense diner in downtown Highlands. Espresso is served out of mugs donated by shoppers and the pastrami is smoked in-house. 

Mountain Contemporary Grocery

From espresso to pizzas constructed freshly in an 800-degree wooden-fire oven, this specialty grocery retail retailer is a should-halt for people needing to stock a household trip rental or campsite, or looking out for a roadside pit stop. 


This bustling lunch (and Sunday brunch) cafe delivers counter service in an expansive cottage in Cashiers. It’s a crowd-satisfying place in its forty third interval and it surprises with mouth watering and up to date each day specials. 

Highlands Smokehouse

Don’t miss out on this roadside BBQ joint with the largest underground pit within the U.S. Enjoyment of your ribs, or different meat of possibility, on the expansive deck area. Don’t miss out on out on the perimeters—they may probably be simply as improbable because the smoked meats. 

The place to remain 

Outdated Edwards Inn & Spa

The historic inn at Aged Edwards appears like you’ve traveled to the English countryside. With a spa, pool, conditioning middle, and onsite consuming picks, you gained’t wish to go away this mountain retreat. However in case you do decide to enterprise out, the property’s Volvo Check out Journey Technique permits you to to amass a brand new car for a complimentary spin to close by hikes and waterfalls. 

Highlander Mountain Dwelling

This 18-space boutique lodge charms with Victorian-period taxidermy, wood-burning fireplaces, and an all-working day tavern serving regional comfort meals. The again once more bunkhouse can also be pet-pleasant for these bringing their pup alongside. 

Hotel keycard "Skyline Lodge" held up in front of courtyard entrance
The courtyard at Skyline Lodge | Photograph: Ashley Rossi

Skyline Lodge

Developed by Arthur J. Kelsey, a former faculty scholar of Frank Lloyd Wright, this just lately renovated lodge has 40 rooms and an onsite steak home. It’s a bit taken out from downtown Highlands, however surrounded by h2o traits, climbing trails, and naturally, some black bears. 

Highlands Hidden Creek

For RVers, splurge with a preserve on the secluded Highlands Hidden Creek RV trip resort. Facilities include full hookups, WiFi, laundry, and a communal hearth pit and outdoor kitchen space, all in simply strolling distance to downtown. Glampers can e book a preserve at one of many two stationary Airstreams that come totally stocked.   

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