The sparkling white cliffs of Whiteside Mountain, in the Nantahala National Forest near Highlands, North Carolina, have long been a landmark along the eastern continental divide. The 750 feet tall cliffs are the highest shear cliffs in the eastern United States.
Geologists estimate the mountain to be more than four hundred million years old. Traces of ancient hunting camps have been found in the area. According to Cherokee legend, the monster Spearfinger made her home here, and the exposed cliffs were created when a large rock bridge to her dwelling place sheared off.
Hikers can enjoy the moderate two-mile loop trail that leads around Whiteside Mountain to its summit at 4,930 feet. The high ridgetop above the steep south-facing cliffs offers spectacular views of other mountains in the area. An old-growth forest of northern red oaks, with trunks twisted by strong winds and ice storms, is found at the summit.
A special treat during spring and summer may be a glimpse of a peregrine falcon soaring overhead or perched on rocky outcrops. Biologists reintroduced the falcon to Whiteside Mountain in 1985 as part of the endangered species program. During nesting season, the cliff face is closed to rappelling and climbing.
A profusion of wildflowers, including speckled wood-lily and white snakeroot, bloom in the mountainside forests while others such as dwarf dandelion and gray beard-tongue carpet the mountain face.
Hours of Operation
A fee is charged for parking and for season passes.
Whiteside Mountain is located south of US 64 between Highlands and Cashiers. From Highlands, take US 64E about 5 miles. Turn right on SR 1680 and follow signs.
For more information, contact:
US Forest Service/National Forest in North Carolina
Nantahala Ranger District
90 Sloan Road
Franklin, NC 28734
Highlands Visitors Center