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Whiteside Mountain in Cashiers, NC, is a true destination for nature lovers. The stark white cliffs just above the surrounding forest-covered mountains, making Whiteside one of Mother Earth’s true spectacles.

There are many reasons to visit Whiteside Mountain in Cashiers, NC:

  • You’ll find beautiful flora and fauna
  • There are trails for hiking
  • The geologic history is rich.
  • You can take home photos of stunning mountain vistas.
  • You can even experience living history by learning about the area’s past.

And perhaps most importantly, Whiteside Mountain is just a 15-minute drive from downtown Cashiers and Highlands. Let’s go deeper into these 5 reasons to visit Whiteside Mountain so you can start planning your next adventure in the Nantahala National Forest.

5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Whiteside Mountain in Cashiers, NC

5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Whiteside Mountain in Cashiers, NC

Whiteside Mountain in Cashiers, N.C. is home to breathtaking cliffs and offers endless opportunities to explore and enjoy. The high cliffs of Whiteside Mountain are located in the heart of the Nantahala National Forest. Nantahala is one of the wettest forests in North Carolina and features more than half a million acres covered in beautiful wilderness and old-growth forests.

There is so much beauty to behold in western North Carolina, especially right here in Jackson County. This part of the Tar Heel State is a perfect destination for your next vacation. Do you still need convincing? We’ve put together a list of 5 reasons to visit Whiteside Mountain in Cashiers, NC.

1. Whiteside Mountain Has Unique Flora and Fauna

Anyone who is familiar with Highlands and Cashiers knows the area is rich with plants, flowers, and wildlife. Whiteside Mountain is no exception. The mountain and surrounding forests are teeming with flora and fauna.

Some of the unique flowers and plants you’ll find around Whiteside Mountain in Cashiers, NC, in the Spring and Summer include:

  • Catesby’s trillium
  • Thyme-leafed bluet
  • One-flowered cancer root
  • Catawaba rhodedendrum
  • Rosebay rhododendron
  • Flame azalea
  • Ferns, including cinnamon, fiddleheads, and New York ferns

You’ll also find wildflowers including false lily-of-the-valley, as well as white snakeroot, dwarf dandelion, speckled wood lily, and wood betony.

There is also a wide range of animals and wildlife to be seen around Whiteside Mountain. See white-tail deer bounding through the forest. Watch river otters splash and play. You might even see top predators like black bears, coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions in action. 

Whiteside Mountain is a top destination for birdwatchers. The peregrine falcon was reintroduced to the area in 1985 as part of an endangered species program. Since then, the falcon population has soared. Other birds to see include ruffed grouse, black-throated blue warbler, rose-breasted grosbeak, red-breasted nuthatch, winter wren, ovenbird, and golden-crowned kinglet.

2. Whiteside Mountain Trail Will Get Your Heart Pumping

Ready for an adventure? Whiteside Mountain National Recreation Trail is a moderate, 2-mile loop and a perfect hiking destination for the entire family. Even Fido can hike Whiteside Mountain Trail, as leashed dogs are welcome.

Hikers who set out on Whiteside Mountain Trail will reach a top elevation of more than 4,930 feet. The trail climbs above the sheer 750-foot cliffs and will let you take in outstanding views to the east, south, and west when you reach the summit.

The trail is rated as “moderate” as it can be quite steep at times. Be sure to keep children within view if you’re hiking with the family.  Some hikers say the trail is harder on the way down, so make sure to rest and rehydrate when you reach the top. The trail is a loop, so you can choose which way to go first.

You’ll find the Whiteside Mountain Trailhead and its parking area just east of Highlands off Highway 64. The trail is accessible year-round.

Looking for a longer hiking adventure? Learn more with the Overnight Hiking in North Carolina Guide we recently published.


3. Whiteside Mountain’s Geologic History is Rich

3. Whiteside Mountain’s Geologic History is Rich

Whiteside Mountain’s geologic history is rich and spans many, many millennia.

Just how old is Whiteside Mountain? Geologists believe the mountain was formed 390 million years ago. This means Whiteside Mountain existed more than 100 million years before dinosaurs ruled the earth. 

According to geologists, Whiteside Mountain is a pluton. This body of igneous rock was formed when melted rock, called magma, cooled beneath the Earth’s surface and solidified. Over millions of years, erosion exposed the pluton’s rock body and the mountain became was formed.

Whiteside Mountain’s famous cliffs get their bright color from their mineral composition. The cliffs are formed from granite gneiss, which gets its nice, white color by reflecting sunlight. 

4. Whiteside Mountain is a Photographer’s Dream

No matter whether you’re shooting with a fancy DSLR or just your iPhone, you’ll find that breathtaking photos can come from Whiteside Mountain. 

No matter whether you want to capture flora and fauna on film or snap a shot of a summit sunset, photographing Whiteside Mountain in Cashiers, NC, is a great way to take home lasting memories of your drive down Whiteside Mountain Road or your hike up the trail. 

Ready to shoot some photos of Whiteside Mountain? Consider the following tips:

  • Consider the rule of thirds: Pretend your image is divided into 3 rows of 3. The eye usually falls where the lines intersect. Use this rule to frame your photo subject.
  • Keep your distance: Animals frighten easily. Stay a safe distance away when trying to shoot wildlife.
  • Plan ahead: Make sure your boots are comfy and your clothes are appropriate for the weather before you head out for a day of shooting photos. Also, keep in mind that overcast or partly sunny weather might make for better photos than bright sunlight.

5. Experience Living History by Learning About Whiteside Mountain’s Past

Whiteside Mountain in Cashiers, NC, has been part of the landscape for millions of years. The inhabited history of the mountain is a bit more modern but still very significant.

Western North Carolina was originally inhabited by the Cherokee people. There are many theories on how this group settled in the area. Some anthropologists believe the Cherokee stemmed from a group that migrated southeast from the Great Lakes region during prehistoric times. Another theory is that the Cherokee people have been in the southeast for thousands of years prior. 

Regardless of how they got there, we do know the Cherokee have been in western North Carolina since 200-600 C.E. 

The Cherokee people who inhabited the area around what is now Cashiers called Whiteside Mountain “Sanigilâ’gĭ.” The mountain is rich in Cherokee lore. Cherokee tales about Whiteside Mountain include the Legend of Spearfinger.

According to the old Cherokee legend, Whiteside Mountain was once inhabited by a shapeshifter named Spearfinger. Spearfinger’s skin was as hard as stone, which made her resistant to any weapon. She used her stone finger like a spear and attacked anyone who threatened her. 

Spearfinger isn’t the only Cherokee legend coming from Whiteside Mountain. The Shadow of the Bear is another rich tradition. You can see the Shadow of the Bear in the fall. Learn more about How to See the Shadow of the Bear with our post!


Plan a Visit to Whiteside Mountain in Cashiers, NC

Plan a Visit to Whiteside Mountain in Cashiers, NC

Are you ready to start planning your next visit to Whiteside Mountain in Cashiers, NC? No matter your reason for visiting, you’ll find that Whiteside Mountain is a perfect destination for nature lovers, hikers, photographers, history buffs, geology nerds, and everyone else.

Cashiers and Highlands are great home bases for your Western North Carolina adventure. You’ll find all kinds of lodging options and cabin rentals available in the region. From cozy cabins for a romantic getaway for two to expansive mountain retreats with multiple bedrooms for the whole family, you’ll find that Landmark Real Estate and Vacation Rentals has the property you need.

Browse listings of cabins and homes and get the information you need to plan your next mountain escape. Contact us today for additional information!