Whiteside Mountain Trail and Cliffs

Categories: Hiking & Backpacking, Picnic Areas, Easy Access/Roadside Picnics


  •  Whiteside Mountain - elevation 4,930 feet
  •  Gravel Parking Area ($2/ vehicle up to 7 persons, $1/person if more than 7 per vehicle) 
  •  Pit Toilets (men/women) 
  •  Picnic Tables (2) 
  •  Day Use Only (No Camping) 
  •  LOOP Trail (2 miles, Moderate Loop/Strenuous Loop) 
  •  Very Rocky and Generally Wet Trail 
  •  Excellent Views Northeast, East, Southeast, South, Southwest (Near 360 degree) 
  •  Sheer Rock Cilffs of up to 700 Ft (highest in Eastern North America) 
  •  Peregrine Faclcon Nesting Area (Endangered Species)

The Local Scoop

Whiteside Mountain is a very popular Hike in the Southern Nantahala National Forest, just outside of Highlands NC. This hike is family friendly, but you wiill need to have total control of your childern along the trail and make sure they can handle the two-mile journey. This area has sheer rock cliffs that are extremely dangerous if not given the proper amount of respect.
The trail makes a loop and can be hiked in two different directions and difficulties. After only a couple of minutes on the trail, from the parking area, you'll approach a prodiminant trail that splits off to the right and up the hill via rock steps. This way is much more difficult than staying straight and to the left. We have taken both directions and it just depends on the person, and what kind of hike/workout you desire. To the right you'll get your cardio in for the day for sure... and to the left is more of a gradual ascent and the route that most folks take (especially if you're going to "Devil's Courthouse", see "Devil's Courthouse Trail").
From the top, enjoy the southern views into South Carolina, the Chattooga River Valley and Whiteside Cove below. Keep an "eye out" for the Peregrine Falcon, an endangered species that makes it's home around the cliffs. Their nests on the cliffs have an affect on this populare place to Rock Climb.  Climbing is closed during their nesting season for approx. 8 months, starting in January and running through August.
We recommend Whiteside Mountain Trail due to its magnificent views, convenient location to Highlands and Cashiers NC and sheer rock cliffs of up to 700 feet of vertical climb, some of the highest in Eastern North America.  Make sure you wear proper shoes for this hike, something with a nice sturdy sole and plenty of support would be perfect (see our Outdoor Outfitters).
Also, try to dress in layers. You might work up a sweat and need to cool off once you reach the summit. It can be breezy at the top and sudden storms have been known to pop up in the summer months, watch for weather changes and dress accordingly. Bring your camera and binoculars to take in the tremendous views.

The Local Directions

From the intersection of U.S. Hwy-64 East and U.S. Hwy-23/441 North in Franklin take Hwy-64 East towards Highlands, NC for 16.9 miles. Go through the first redlight in Highlands and continue up the gradual hill into town and through main street. Stay straight until you reach the next redlight and the intersection of U.S. Hwy-64 and N.C. Hwy-28. Take a left, continueing on Hwy-64 East for approx. 5.7 miles to "Whiteside Mountain Road" on your right (It will also be the second entrance off of Hwy-64 to "Wildcat Cliffs C. C."). Continue on Whiteside Mtn Rd. for exactly 1.0 mile to the entrance of the parking area for "Whiteside Mountain" on your left.

Back to top

Difficulty Levels

  • Hike7 (Left) 11 (Right)What's this?
Trailhead:  35.080428,-83.144086
Summit:  35.080891,-83.138534
Hike Distance
2-miles (loop trail) 
Easy via U.S. Hwy-64 & Whiteside Mountain Road
(Wildcat Cliffs C.C. entrance)
Nearest City
Macon County
Distance From
Highlands, 6.7 miles 
Franklin, 22.9 miles